Alex Abrines

Alex Abrines Talks About Possible NBA Return

In an interview with Georgios Kyriakidis of TalkBasket, former Thunder guard Alex Abrines says he hasn’t given up on a potential return to the NBA.

Abrines, 26, spent two and a half years with Oklahoma City before being waived last February in a mutual agreement with the team so he could focus on his battle with depression. Abrines was a regular part of the rotation during his first two years in OKC, but was limited to 31 games last season as he struggled with mental health issues.

Abrines returned to Spain after being released and signed with Barcelona in July. He picked up a high-profile teammate in former NBA forward Nikola Mirotic, and the team is cruising through the EuroLeague with a 19-6 record.

“I think I needed a change, although I had some great times in Oklahoma,” Abrines said. “After what happened with my depression, it was tough. I needed a change, to come back home and I think FC Barcelona was the best team. I knew the club, I have friends in Barcelona and it’s pretty close to my hometown. I needed a change of air.”

Abrines describes European basketball as more intense than the NBA because the schedule is shorter and each game is more important. He also “missed playing for so many trophies,” with the King’s Cup, the Spanish League title and the Euroleague all at stake, rather than just the NBA championship.

Still, Abrines enjoyed the chance to compete against the best players in the world and would consider an NBA return in 2021 once he hits free agency again. He signed with Barcelona for two years, along with a third-year option.

“I haven’t closed the door on the NBA,” he said. “Right now, I’m focused on FC Barcelona. I’ve got one more year with them, but you never know what’s going to happen in the future. If I got the chance to go back, maybe I would take it. But it’s not an answer that I have right now.”

Thunder Notes: Roster, Paul, Diallo, Abrines

A challenging early-season schedule may determine whether the Thunder decide to push for the playoffs or sell off their assets and start rebuilding, observes Brett Dawson of The Athletic. Oklahoma City will begin the season with 10 of its first 16 games against teams ranked in the top 10 by That will take the club into late November, close to the unofficial start of trade season when most free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be dealt on December 15.

OKC’s obvious trade candidates are Danilo Gallinari, who has an expiring deal worth $22.6MM, and Chris Paul, whom the organization tried to move shortly after acquiring him from the Rockets. Dawson also points toward Dennis Schroder, who has two seasons left at $15.5MM each, along with Nerlens Noel and Mike Muscala as other rotation players who could be on the move.

“Obviously the most important season is (this) season, and we want to maximize that season the best that we can,” GM Sam Presti said. “But not at the expense of continually and aggressively making sure that we’re repositioning and replenishing the team so that we have a platform and a runway for the next great Thunder team to take shape. I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive.”

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Regardless of how long Paul stays, the Thunder can count on his competitive nature to drive the team, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Not only does Paul want to extend his streak of 50-win seasons, but the better he plays, the more he will drive up his trade value. “Obviously Russell (Westbrook) was an unbelievable competitor — I think Chris is an incredible competitor, too,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The biggest thing I’ve always tried to do with all these guys is to try to always be open and be honest and try to communicate. And I think that’s the way Chris is.”
  • Hamidou Diallo showed in Summer League that he is fully recovered after having arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in mid-April, notes Nick Gallo of Diallo was an important part of the rotation early in the season, but got into just six games after the All-Star break. He looked good in July, averaging 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals in four Summer League games. “In this league you’ve got to be ready for anything at any given time, and sometimes you face adversity, but you still have to learn how to fight through and learn how to push through,” Diallo said.
  • In an interview with Basket en Movistar+ (Twitter link), Alex Abrines speaks out about the mental health issues that drove him out of the NBA and credits Westbrook for trying to be a calming influence.

Alex Abrines To Play In Spain

After spending two and a half seasons with the Thunder, shooting guard Alex Abrines is returning home to Spain, having reached an agreement on a two-year deal with Barcelona that features a third-year option, according to an announcement from the team.

Abrines, who turns 26 next month, played from Barcelona from 2012-16 before arriving stateside for the 2016/17 season. The 32nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, Abrines appeared in 174 total regular season games for the Thunder after being stashed overseas for three years. He recorded 5.3 PPG and 1.4 RPG with a .368 3PT% in 16.0 minutes per contest.

While he provided Oklahoma City with much-needed floor spacing during his time with the club, Abrines’ stint in the NBA came to an abrupt end in February, when he and the Thunder “amicably” parted ways due to unspecified personal matters. Abrines addressed his departure and announced his return to basketball earlier this month.

In returning home to Spain, Abrines will be joining a Barcelona club that added another NBA veteran already this offseason, having signed Nikola Mirotic to a three-year contract with a fourth-year option.

Northwest Notes: Hezonja, Abrines, Jazz, Tolliver

New Trail Blazers guard Mario Hezonja has apologized to players and employees of the team for choosing to sign with the Knicks last summer instead of Portland, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes.

Hezonja, who was courted by a number of teams last year due to his overall potential and scoring ability, ultimately chose to sign with a New York team that failed to offer him a concrete role. He started in 24 of his 58 games this season, with the team accruing the league’s worst record at 17-65.

“I kind of rushed,” Hezonja said. “But I made my mind up quick; I wanted to experience New York.”

Hezonja reached agreement on a two-year, minimum-salary deal with Portland on the first day of free agency, committing to a franchise that’s focused on competing for an NBA title. He put pen to paper and inked his contract on Wednesday.

“I just have to fit in,” Hezonja said. “This team was in the Western Conference finals. I’m here to help. My individual goal is to push them even further. I want to be on a successful team and surround myself with players better than myself, because that will help me. That will help me be even better and become that top-tier player eventually.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Former Thunder guard Alex Abrines took to social media to discuss the personal issues he’s faced this year, as relayed by Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Abrines left the team in February after three seasons due to these unspecified personal matters. In the video, Abrines also announced his intentions to return to the game of basketball, with the 25-year-old currently an unrestricted free agent.
  • The Jazz — along with the rest of the league — will have a much different feel entering the 2019/20 season, Doug Robinson of The Deseret News writes. Utah will acquire star guard Mike Conley, lose longtime Jazz forward Derrick Favors, and add scoring wing Bojan Bogdanovic, reshaping and improving their roster over the span of a couple weeks.
  • New Trail Blazers forward Anthony Tolliver recalled watching the team’s lack of three-point shooting during the postseason this spring, especially while players such as Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum were double teamed, Jason Quick writes in a separate article for The Athletic. “Watching the playoffs last year, they got double-teamed a lot, and that’s literally how guys like myself can excel,” Tolliver said. “I was like, ‘Wow! I could really help them out.’” Like Hezonja, Tolliver signed his minimum-salary contract with the team on Wednesday.

And-Ones: NBL, Abrines, Africa, NBA Finals

Top 2020 draft prospect R.J. Hampton confirmed today that he’ll pass on the opportunity to play college basketball, heading overseas instead to join the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. While it’s not the first time an elite prospect has bypassed college, just about every player who has done so in the past has had eligibility concerns — Hampton doesn’t.

In a follow-up story on Hampton’s decision, Jonathan Givony of (Insider link) explores the potential upsides and downsides of the youngster’s new path, and examines whether there are other candidates to follow suit.

Outside of perhaps LaMelo Ball, Givony doesn’t expect any other one-and-done candidates to head to the NBL for the 2019/20 season, but he notes that potential fallout from ongoing NCAA corruption investigations could change that. If certain programs are hit by sanctions or head coaching firings, that may cause top prospects to rethink their plans for next season, and the NBL could look to recruit those players.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Before he joined the Thunder in 2016, swingman Alex Abrines played for Barcelona for several seasons. Now, according to a report from Barcelona-based L’Esportiu Catalunya (via Sportando), the Spanish club has interest in bringing him back. Abrines parted ways with Oklahoma City this season for personal reasons, so it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to return to action – whether in the NBA or EuroLeague – for the 2019/20 campaign.
  • Amadou Gallo Fall, the NBA’s vice president and managing director for Africa, has been named the president of the new Basketball Africa League, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The new 12-team African league is on track to begin play in 2020.
  • Besides featuring a new matchup for the first time since 2014, this year’s NBA Finals will also have a significant ripple effect on the upcoming NBA offseason, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. As Reynolds observes, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard will all be free agents this summer, and it’s not inconceivable that their decisions will be affected by what happens in the series.

Thunder Notes: George, Abrines, Matthews, Donovan

Thunder All-Star forward Paul George will soon have his right shoulder re-evaluated by a specialist, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman reports. GM Sam Presti told the media during his annual post-season press conference that George will see a specialist outside of Oklahoma City but Thunder staff members will be present.

George saw action in 77 regular-season games but took four games off to rest his aching shoulder. He was effective in the playoffs despite the discomfort, posting averages on 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG during the Thunder’s 4-1 opening-round series loss to Portland. Presti declared that George “was at no risk of any type of future injury” this season and labelled the possibility of George undergoing surgery as “speculation.”

We have more from Presti’s press conference:

  • He took the blame for not having enough sharpshooting wings on the roster, Lee notes in a separate story. Presti thought Alex Abrines would have a “breakout year” but the swingman missed 17 games for personal reasons and was ultimately waived. The Thunder pursued Wesley Matthews after the Knicks bought him out and waived him but Matthews chose Indiana. “Once Wes Matthews went to Indiana there really wasn’t a lot of other options out there, and that put some stress on us offensively, and you never want to be in that position,” he said.
  • Billy Donovan is expected to return as head coach despite the latest postseason flameout. Presti said he has yet to meet with Donovan on the subject because he wanted to give his coach more time to “reflect and decompress,” Brett Dawson of The Athletic tweets. “I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him,” Presti said. “If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation.

Thunder Notes: Ferguson, Felton, Abrines

Despite Andre Roberson missing the entire season to this point, the Thunder have continued to thrive as Paul George has developed into a serious MVP candidate and other role players have stepped up in their respective roles. The main example of such improvement is Terrance Ferguson, who has maintained his hold on a starting role past the halfway point of the season.

As Maddie Lee details for The Oklahoman, the Thunder put the ball in Ferguson’s hands more during Summer League, which he believes has translated to his improvement and confidence so far this season.

While his statistics suffered during the Summer League experiment, Ferguson is finding open teammates more often and is playing with a confidence that has unlocked more components of his game.

There’s more for the Thunder:

Thunder Waive Alex Abrines

7:34pm: Abrines agreed to give back almost all of the $1.8MM he was still owed, according to Charania (Twitter link), who adds that he and the team “parted ways amicably.”

4:20pm: Oklahoma City has placed Alex Abrines on waivers, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Thunder will still be responsible for the remainder of his $5,455,236 salary, which will continue to count against the team’s cap.

The third-year guard has appeared in just 31 games this season, averaging 5.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 19 minutes per night. Abrines was a second-round draft choice in 2013, but didn’t come to the NBA until three years later.

The 25-year-old has only appeared in two games over the past six weeks and is dealing with an undisclosed personal situation, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Abrines and team officials came to a mutual decision that he needed time away from basketball to work on those issues, adds ESPN’s Royce Young.

“He’s still battling through some things and wasn’t able to be here tonight,” coach Billy Donovan said after Tuesday’s game. “Honestly, we go day-by-day with him and continue to be supportive with him. He’s around the team, we always talk and communicate.”

The Thunder were already one player short of the roster minimum of 14 after the deadline, so OKC will have to make at least two additions. They will have two weeks from today to replace Abrines.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Exum, Wittman, Abrines

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and members of the organization are furious over his All-Star snub. Gobert told Aaron Falk of the team’s website and other media members that he can’t understand how coaches can preach defense and then leave him off their ballots. “It’s disrespectful not only toward me but toward the team, the organization and toward the game,” said Gobert, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Jazz coach Quin Snyder echoed Gobert’s gripe, ESPN’s Tim McMahon tweets. “We talk about defense being valued, but when we have a chance to reward it, we reward scoring again and again.” Jazz president Steve Starks tweeted that there should be more transparency in the voting. The coaches select the reserves. “Complete nonsense and we need more integrity and accountability. If the coaches vote than their ballots should be made public.”

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Reserve Jazz guard Dante Exum will not return to action until sometime after the All-Star break, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News reports. Exum hasn’t played since suffering a left ankle sprain against Detroit on January 5th. He has been participating in on-court work but won’t even be re-evaluated until after the break. Exum signed a three-year, $33MM contract last summer.
  • The Timberwolves have hired former head coach Randy Wittman as an advisor to first-year coach Ryan Saunders, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Saunders was on the Wizards’ staff when Wittman was the head coach there. “He’s an ear for me,” Saunders told Hine. “Another basketball mind to bounce things off of. I’m comfortable with him, known him for a long time.”
  • Thunder shooting guard Alex Abrines has returned to action but he’ll have to work his way back into the rotation, according to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Abrines played six minutes against Orlando on Tuesday after missing 17 games due to an illness and a personal matter. During his absence, Abdel Nader seized a rotation spot. Abrines will have battle Nader and Terrance Ferguson for minutes.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets’ D, Rose, Thunder

Despite scoring being at a near-all-time high early on this NBA season, one team has still been able to hold every one of its opponents to less than 100 points in each game played thus far – the Nuggets.  And while one may not think of the up-and-coming Nuggets as a defensive juggernaut just yet, head coach Michael Malone is a defensive guy at his core, writes Christopher Dempsey of

Yes, it’s awfully early to make any long lasting conclusions about a team’s defensive prowess this season, but Malone is excited about the potential for this year’s team to be one of the best defensive teams to come along in Denver in a while. This is the defense I dream about,” Malone said. “Ever since I got here.”

Asked why exactly it is his team is playing so well on the defensive side of the ball so far during the 2018/19 campaign, Malone lauded his team’s effort and want-to. “I would say just an overall buy-in and commitment. You can talk game plan and you can talk strategy but at the end of the day, for me, defense comes down to pride. Do you want to go out there and give it everything you have to defend?

Additionally, Dempsey opines that adding defensive-minded players like Torrey Craig, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee has helped the mentality around the team morph into a more defensive-oriented group.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves’ head coach Tom Thibodeau evidently thinks backup guard Derrick Rose still has a lot of gas left in the tank, despite a bevy of evidence to the contrary, telling Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press that “as long as (Rose is) healthy, he’ll be one of the best players in the league.”
  • The Thunder, praised as one of the best teams in the deep Western Conference to begin the season, have gotten off to a rocky, 0-3 start. Yet, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes, there exists reason for optimism, with rookie Hamidou Diallo and newcomer Nerlens Noel both providing a spark off the bench in Sunday’s loss to the lowly Kings.
  • In other Thunder news, Brett Dawson of The Athletic is reporting that guard Alex Abrines, who left Sunday’s game in the first half with a mouth contusion, and who will compete for Diallo and Terrance Ferguson for minutes until the return of Andre Roberson, is not expected to miss any additional time.