Aleksej Pokusevski

Thunder’s Pokusevski Sprains Ankle, Will Be Reevaluated In Six Weeks

Thunder forward/center Aleksej Pokusevski is expected to miss training camp, the preseason, and the start of the regular season after spraining his right ankle during a workout on Tuesday.

According to an announcement from the team, Pokusevski will be reevaluated in approximately six weeks. That means he likely won’t suit up for Oklahoma City before November.

It’s a tough break for the 21-year-old, who is entering an important year. He’s eligible to sign a rookie scale extension up until the day before the regular season begins and would be on an expiring contract if he doesn’t get a new deal prior to opening night. In that scenario, the Thunder would have the ability to make him a restricted free agent in 2024.

The No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Pokusevski has flashed tantalizing upside in his first three NBA seasons and posted a career-best .365 3PT% last season. However, he has been snake-bitten by injuries as of late. He was limited to just 34 games (25 starts) in 2022/23 due largely to a leg fracture that sidelined him for about three months, then broke his arm during a workout in the spring.

With Chet Holmgren poised to enter the rotation this fall and Pokusevksi off to a late start due to his ankle injury, it’s unclear what the Serbian’s role might look like once he gets healthy.

Western Notes: Jackson, Smart, Hughes, Pokusevski, Thunder

Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, says he’s excited to team up with Marcus Smart, who won the award in 2022, writes Jerry Jiang of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Smart was acquired from the Celtics last month in a three-team trade, and Jackson reached out to him when the news broke.

That doesn’t happen pretty often or ever,” Jackson said, referring to a team having two DPOY winners at the same time. “I just know what he brings to Boston. I’ve seen it before I was in the league and it’s crazy.”

Here’s more from the West:

  • The Mavericks intend to hire Eric Hughes as an assistant coach, sources tell Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). Hughes got his NBA start as an assistant with Toronto and previously worked under head coach Jason Kidd with the Nets and Bucks, MacMahon notes. He has been with the Sixers for the past four seasons.
  • Thunder big man Aleksej Pokusevski won’t be able to represent his native Serbia in the FIBA World Cup next month, according to The 17th pick of the 2020 draft, Pokusevski suffered a broken arm during an offseason workout at the end of May and won’t receive medical clearance to train with a basketball until late August, the report states. The World Cup starts August 25 and runs through September 10. The 21-year-old was hoping to secure a spot on the Serbian national team’s 12-man roster.
  • In a mailbag for The Oklahoman, Joe Mussatto predicts that Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Victor Oladipo, Jack White, Usman Garuba and TyTy Washington are the the most likely players to be on the chopping block due to the Thunder‘s roster crunch. However, Mussatto notes that OKC has a few months to figure things out and more trades could be in order rather than outright waiving all five players.

Thunder’s Pokusevski Breaks Arm In Offseason Workout

Aleksej Pokusevski sustained a small right humerus fracture during an offseason workout yesterday, the Thunder announced (via Twitter). The humerus is the bone that connects the shoulder to the elbow.

The third-year big man will be reevaluated in about four-to-six weeks, so he should be back in plenty of time for fall training camp if all goes well.

Pokusevski, 21, suffered a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture in his left leg in late December and missed extended time, which obviously affected his solid start to the season. At the time of the leg injury, he had played 31 games, including 25 starts (21.8 minutes), and averaged 8.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 blocks on .440/.376/.636 shooting; he only made three more appearances the rest of the way.

The young Serbian struggled with efficiency and defense in his first two seasons, but he had started to figure out the speed of the NBA game in 2022/23 prior to getting injured. He played almost exclusively center this season after previously floating between multiple frontcourt positions.

As a former first-round pick (17th overall in 2020) now in his third year, Pokusevski will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason.

Northwest Notes: Edwards, Gobert, Jokic, Thunder

To be competitive against Denver, the Timberwolves will need more production from star guard Anthony Edwards, whose numbers have been down since he missed three games with a sprained ankle last month, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. In 11 games since returning, Edwards is shooting just 41.5% from the field and 30% on three-pointers. That includes a rough 6-for-15 outing as Minnesota lost Game 1 of its playoff series by 29 points.

Since the injury, Edwards has also lacked the explosiveness that typically defines his game, Krawczynski adds, forcing him to settle for more jumpers due to a diminished ability to get to the rim. The Nuggets also contributed to his off night as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown made him work to get off his preferred shots.

Edwards, whose swagger defines the Wolves’ attitude on the court, says the team needs to get more aggressive to have a chance in the series.

“We’ve got to be more physical,” he said. “They was bumping us all over the floor. They really punked us Game 1, I would say, so we’ve got to come out, get some hard fouls or something, get the game going.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert said his back feels much better after spending two off days in Denver, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Gobert, who has been dealing with back spasms since late in the regular season, said there’s a “night and day” difference since Sunday’s game, although he’s still not 100%.
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is listed as questionable with a sprained right wrist, but coach Michael Malone is confident that the two-time MVP will be able to play tonight, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. In a pre-game meeting with reporters, Malone said he has “no concerns” about Jokic’s condition.
  • After a surprise season that included a spot in the play-in tournament, the Thunder have plenty of options to upgrade their roster this summer, per Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. Years of stockpiling draft assets have left Oklahoma City with 15 first-rounders over the next seven seasons. The Thunder also have nearly $30MM in cap space and could get close to $36MM by waiving Isaiah JoeJeremiah Robinson-EarlAaron Wiggins, and Lindy Waters III, who all have non-guaranteed contracts. Gozlan suggests that one offseason priority may be a rookie-scale extension with Aleksej Pokusevski, who was showing improvement before suffering a season-ending leg fracture.

Injury Notes: Sexton, Bucks, Pokusevski, Celtics

Jazz guard Collin Sexton, who strained his left hamstring in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, still hasn’t played since participating in the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday in Salt Lake City.

According to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link), Sexton will be reevaluated next Monday, as Utah continues to rule him out one week at a time. He has missed the Jazz’s last five games and will be sidelined for at least three more, with the team playing in Dallas (on Tuesday), Orlando (Thursday), and Charlotte (Saturday) this week.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • The Bucks will be without All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (non-COVID illness) and Jrue Holiday (neck soreness) when they visit Orlando on Tuesday, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. However, there has been no indication that either ailment should be a long-term issue.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski was briefly assigned to the Oklahoma City Blue to practice with the G League team as he recovers from the left leg fracture that has kept him on the shelf since late December, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter links). Pokusevski will probably assigned and recalled for practice purposes a few more times, Mussatto adds, noting that the 21-year-old’s return isn’t imminent quite yet.
  • Jayson Tatum (left knee contusion) and Al Horford (low back stiffness) both missed the Celtics‘ double overtime loss to Cleveland on Monday. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN observes (via Twitter), Horford played 45 minutes on Sunday and still hasn’t played both ends of a back-to-back set this season, so his absence came as no surprise. Tatum sustained his injury in a collision on Sunday.

Thunder’s Pokusevski Out At Least 6-8 Weeks With Leg Fracture

Thunder big man Aleksej Pokusevski has suffered a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture in his left leg and will be reevaluated in six-to-eight weeks, the team announced.

Pokusevski, who just turned 21 on Monday, sustained the injury in Tuesday’s victory over San Antonio. Through 31 games, including 25 starts (21.8 minutes), he’s averaging 8.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 blocks on .440/.376/.636 shooting.

The young Serbian struggled with efficiency and defense in his first two seasons, but he had started to figure out the speed of the NBA game in 2022/23 prior to getting injured. He has played almost exclusively center this season after previously floating between multiple frontcourt positions.

As a former first-round pick (17th overall in 2020) now in his third year, Pokusevski will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason.

With Pokusevski and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (ankle) sidelined, Darius Bazley and Mike Muscala should see an uptick in minutes for the Thunder.

Northwest Notes: Markkanen, Porter, Cancar, Pokusevski, Dort

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen hasn’t missed a game during his breakout season. That could change on Monday. Markkanen is listed as questionable to play against Chicago due to a right knee contusion.

Markkanen has been a find for the Jazz, averaging 21.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game after being acquired in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster with Cleveland.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is listed as doubtful to play on Monday due to a left heel contusion, the team tweets. “Right now it’s just real painful for Michael, so he’ll come back and he’ll play when he feels like he’s able to go out there and do his job effectively,” coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Porter has already missed the last two games.
  • Vlatko Cancar is making a case for a Nuggets rotation spot with his play at both ends of the floor, Singer writes in a separate story. Cancar is averaging 11.8 points in 18.5 minutes over the past four games. “Sometimes I can score 20 points, sometimes I can score two points,” he said. “As long as I’m doing the right things on the court to help my team win, I think that’s most important.”
  • Starters Aleksej Pokusevski and Luguentz Dort felt the wrath of Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault in the team’s loss to Houston on Saturday. Pokusevski played just nine minutes and Dort saw a season-low 14 minutes of action, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. “I just thought our overall team energy wasn’t where it needed to be, especially to start the game,” Daigneault said. “When that happens, we have a lot of guys that we want to play. I use those opportunities to try to get different guys out there.”

Northwest Notes: Murray, Nnaji, Pokusevski, Jazz

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is the team’s second star player to enter the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, reports Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link).

The 6’3″ point guard has been playing solidly since his return from an ACL tear that kept him unavailable throughout the 2021/22 season. Through 13 games, Murray is averaging 16.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 3.9 RPG on .429/.355/.767 shooting splits.

Two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic, who entered the league’s coronavirus protocols earlier this week, remains sidelined, and both he and Murray will miss tomorrow’s contest against the Mavericks, Wind adds.

The league’s updated coronavirus policy this season dictates that vaccinated players only need to test for COVID-19 if they exhibit symptoms of the virus. Unvaccinated players are now tested just once a week.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Third-year Nuggets power forward Zeke Nnaji would love more rotation minutes for Denver, and expects to make the most of whatever playing time he gets, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Given the COVID-19 absence of Jokic, the 6’9″ big man has been able to get a bit more run in the short term. “A lot of the coaches said I had a great camp and made some huge jumps, so I’m just looking to apply that out on the court in an actual game,” Nnaji said. “I have to stay ready. I want to make it hard for them to put me back on the bench… I’m also a relentless rebounder and somebody who plays physical inside as well. I can promise that I will bring energy to the court.” Nnaji is averaging a career-low 6.3 MPG on a deep Denver club this year.
  • Third-year Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski seems to be turning a corner in his development this year, writes Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. The 20-year-old is averaging a career-best 9.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. Fuller adds that Pokusevski has also improved as a more efficient scorer and that the seven-footer seems to noticeably more assertive.
  • Jazz forward Rudy Gay continues to rehabilitate from a third finger MCP joint sprain in his left hand, Utah announced in a press release. The Jazz add that the 6’8″ vet will have his injured finger reevaluated in two weeks. In 12 games this season, Gay is averaging 4.5 PPG and 3.4 RPG across 15.8 MPG.

Thunder Exercise Options For Giddey, Mann, Pokusevski

The Thunder have picked up third-year options for guards Josh Giddey and Tre Mann and a fourth-year option for forward Aleksej Pokusevski, the team announced in a press release.

Giddey, the sixth pick in last year’s draft, is now locked into a $6,587,040 salary for the 2023/24 season. He was a member of the All-Rookie Second Team last season and was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month four times. He averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in 54 games before a hip issue ended his season in February.

Mann, a part-time starter last season, will earn $3,191,400 in 2023/24. He averaged 10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists and ranked among the top 10 rookies in three-point percentage, free throw percentage and points scored.

Pokusevski will make $5,009,633 for the 2023/24 season and will be eligible for restricted free agency that summer. The 17th pick in the 2020 draft, Pokusevski averaged 7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season.

International Notes: Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Yurtseven, Pokusevski, Jovic

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is looking forward to representing Serbia on the basketball court for the first time in three years, writes Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops. The two-time MVP will join the national team for a pair of 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifying games, hosting Greece August 25 and traveling to Turkey August 28.

“I feel great, similar to every time I reunite with these guys. I just met some of them,” Jokic said in advance of the Serbian team’s training camp. “We are preparing, we just started and we will see how far we can go. Up first are the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and the goal of helping Serbia qualify to the World Cup.”

Jokic also plans to participate in EuroBasket next month, and he could return for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics if Serbia qualifies. Jokic cited a special pride in being able to play for his home nation.

“It means a lot, I talked with my family, it’s a totally different feeling when you play for the national team,” Jokic said. “I felt different when I came here than when I go to Denver.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Another MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his brother and Bucks teammate, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, are in Athens waiting to join the Greek team for training camp, per Aris Barkas of EuroHoops. An agreement limits NBA players to 28 days of preparation before major FIBA tournaments and 14 days before the Olympics. The other Antetokounmpo brothers, Alex and Kostas, are already training with Greece. New Mavericks signee Tyler Dorsey is under the same restrictions as Giannis and Thanasis and can’t start training until Thursday.
  • Heat center Omer Yurtseven elected not to join the Turkish national team’s training camp in Italy, but he didn’t inform team officials of his decision or seek permission in advance, according to a EuroHoops report. The decision was made by Yurtseven rather than the Heat, the story adds, as the rookie center chose to stay in Miami and focus on preparing for training camp. The report notes that Yurtseven was suspended for eight games in 2018 for skipping national team activities without providing notice.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski and Heat rookie Nikola Jovic were denied permission by their respective teams to join Serbia for EuroBasket and the World Cup qualifiers, Askounis states in a separate story. Hawks forward Bogdan Bogdanovic is also unavailable because he’s recovering from knee surgery.