Brice Sensabaugh

Northwest Notes: Zanik, Sensabaugh, Gobert, Jokic

Jazz general manager Justin Zanik underwent a physical last fall that revealed he’s suffering from kidney failure, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Doctors diagnosed Zanik with Polycystic Kidney Disease and determined that he only had 14% of his kidney left. PKD causes cysts to grow on the kidney, eventually leaving it unable to function. Zanik went through the process of finding a donor and will undergo a transplant on Tuesday.

“I’m a fixer by nature,” he said. “My job with the Jazz, my role with my family — I mean, I was a [player] agent for 15 years. I fixed a lot of s–t. I’m the one who’s supposed to help. I’m the one who’s supposed to take care of everything. I really didn’t know how to ask for help, but I had to get over it. I knew I had to get over it.”

Zanik will remain in the University of Utah’s hospital for several days once the procedure is complete, and doctors will need a few weeks to monitor how his body adjusts to the new kidney. He’ll recuperate for most of April, but he has told friends that he expects to be fully running the team again in time for draft day in June and the start of free agency in July.

The Jazz released a statement as Zanik prepares for Tuesday’s operation: “The Utah Jazz send our love and support to General Manager Justin Zanik, his wife Gina, and their family as Justin prepares for a kidney transplant to address polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder that affects kidney function. JZ is an instrumental part of our organization, and we look forward to his return in the coming weeks.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz rookie Brice Sensabaugh had been struggling with his three-point shooting before going 5-of-10 from beyond the arc Sunday night, notes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Sensabaugh said it’s been an adjustment getting used to the NBA’s longer three-point line. “It’s not crazy, but during the flow of the game, it’s not even the distance, but the line can mess with your head sometimes. It’s just like kind of a mental thing a little bit,” he said.
  • Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was upset after battling for a rebound with Chicago’s Alex Caruso on Sunday, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I had a knee injury a couple years ago on the same play and missed a month because someone ran into my knee,” Gobert said. “I hope they look at this, because if they don’t hold people accountable, I’m gonna hold them accountable myself.”
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic isn’t concerned about the inflammation that’s forcing him to play with tape on his right wrist, per Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. “I don’t know if rest can help me. In my opinion, it is an injury that I can play with,” Jokic said Sunday after posting 26 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists in Sunday’s win over Cleveland. “I feel it, but I can play with it. It kind of bothers me. So, I am kind of used to it.”

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Jokic, Murray, George, Giddey

The battle for control among Timberwolves‘ ownership isn’t affecting the team’s performance, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. While majority owner Glen Taylor and minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez fight things out in the media and probably in the court system, Minnesota picked up one of its biggest wins of the season Friday night at Denver. The Wolves are now tied with Oklahoma City for the top spot in the West with just nine games remaining.

“I don’t think it affects the players as much,” Mike Conley said of the ownership situation. “Maybe it affects the image of the team, the aura of the team around a little bit. But as far as the players are concerned, I think we just are like, ‘Damn, that’s crazy.’ Then we go back to watching film and worrying about (Nikola) Jokic, Jamal Murray and (Michael) Porter and those guys. It’s a unique situation and it’s something we don’t have any control over. We’re trying to do our job.”

Rudy Gobert didn’t mention Taylor, Lore or Rodriguez by name, but he said ownership in general has improved since he was traded to Minnesota nearly two years ago, creating a better atmosphere for the players.

“Whether it’s nutrition, recovery, facility, family room, how our family is being treated — it’s a lot of things,” Gobert said. “This organization is becoming really a top-notch organization and I think it’s come a long way.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets may need to prioritize health over chasing the No. 1 seed, contends Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. Jokic played with his right wrist taped Friday night, and Durando observes that it was clearly bothering him even though he finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds. “His wrist has been giving him a lot of trouble,” coach Michael Malone said. “But as we know, Nikola plays through things that most guys won’t.” Murray missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury, but Malone said he’s expected to return before the start of the playoffs.
  • The Jazz dropped their eighth straight game Friday night as they deal with the realities of starting three rookies, notes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh are struggling with efficiency as they get accustomed to playing big minutes at the NBA level, but the organization is committed to all three players, with coach Will Hardy complimenting George on his mental approach to the game. “Keyonte is really, really smart. He’s really, really smart in general, and that applies to basketball,” Hardy said. “He watches a lot on his own, which is very rare these days. He’s at home watching League Pass, watching games. So with that he has pretty quick recognition of things. He has an ability to learn things fast. He has really good recall. He can remember plays that we ran three weeks ago that we haven’t scripted in a while.”
  • Thunder swingman Josh Giddey said he used to hate it when teams dared him to shoot from the outside, but he’s learned to use it as a weapon, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. “Now I’ve changed my mindset going into games,” Giddey said, “where it’s like, ‘If he’s gonna leave me open, I’m gonna punish them. I’m gonna make them pay and change their defensive scheme.’”

Northwest Notes: Hayward, Morris, Jazz, Strawther

Gordon Hayward has battled injuries for the past several seasons and is no longer playing at the same level as he was back in 2017 when he made his first and only All-Star game. But Hayward is the sort of big wing who has real value on a playoff roster, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who notes that the price the Thunder paid to acquire the veteran forward – three matching salaries and a pair of second-round picks – was relatively modest.

Hayward may end up being no more than an insurance policy for the Thunder, Mussatto acknowledges, but in a best-case scenario, he’ll become a regular rotation piece and perhaps even a player who could be part of closing lineups. And, as Mussatto points out, the three players Oklahoma City gave up for Hayward (Davis Bertans, Tre Mann, and Vasilije Micic) almost certainly wouldn’t have been playoff contributors.

Hayward, who has been sidelined since December 26 due to a calf injury, appeared to be nearing a return for the Hornets, but he won’t play until after the All-Star break for Oklahoma City, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman.

As Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder notes (via Twitter), head coach Mark Daigneault suggested Hayward is probably healthy enough to play today, but the Thunder want to put him through their return-to-play protocol and let him adjust to his new surroundings before he takes the court.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch is enthusiastic about having the opportunity to add newly acquired guard Monte Morris to his rotation, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. “He’s a winner. He just kind of makes the right play. Super solid, low-turnover guy,” Finch said. “He’s used to playing off of a lot of star players really well. I think it’s a fairly seamless partnership with Mike (Conley). It’s not like this other type of guard that you have to adjust to. Just his high basketball IQ, you can’t have enough of those guys.”
  • Morris also expressed excitement about joining the Timberwolves and said on Friday that he’s still getting up to game speed after spending most of the season recovering from a quad injury, per Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “I was out for a long period of time,” Morris said. “Realistically, I’d say just ramp up my strength and conditioning running. I’ve played in games. I’m not dead tired, but I know there’s another notice I can get to, and I’ll get to it really, really soon.”
  • The Jazz‘s moves at the trade deadline signal that they continue to prioritize the long term over the short term, despite the fact that they currently hold a play-in spot, writes Andy Larsen of The Star Tribune. As Larsen observes, the departures of Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, and Simone Fontecchio should open up playing time for rookies Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh.
  • Nuggets forward Julian Strawther, who was sidelined for over a month due to a knee injury, played on Friday for the first time since January 4, scoring seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes. According to Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (subscription required), head coach Michael Malone said prior to Friday’s game that Strawther wouldn’t necessarily be assured of a consistent rotation role going forward.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Sensabaugh, Billups, Holmgren

After defeating Portland over the weekend, the Jazz took a significant step back on Wednesday, as they lost to Dallas by 50 points. Head coach Will Hardy didn’t mince words about Utah’s abysmal showing, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.

That was an absolutely horrendous performance from start to finish,” Hardy said. “That was a masterpiece of dogs–t.”

In order to slow the Mavs’ high-powered offense, the Jazz planned to be “as physical and intense on defense as possible,” Todd notes. Instead, they gave up 147 points — including a historic 29-point triple-double to Luka Doncic in the first half.

I was most disappointed with our defensive intensity to start the game,” Hardy said. “I think defensively it was poor the entire night.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • After primarily playing power forward in college at Ohio State, Jazz first-round pick Brice Sensabaugh has been adjusting to playing on the wing at the professional level, and he hopes it will lead to NBA minutes, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (subscription required). The 20-year-old was selected 28th overall in June, but he has only played two minutes for Utah to this point, having spent most of his time in the G League. “Yeah, obviously, times change and roles change, especially coming to the NBA with the best players in the world,” he said. “… I kind of played the 4 in college, to be honest, so I was in more of those back-to-the-basket situations. But now, being a 2, maybe a 3, [I’m] just trying to come off pin-downs and come off screens sometimes, just trying to see the game better, and learn. And it’s way different — this game is way different than college, even the G League [is way different than college]. The floor has more space, there’s just more stuff to work with, better players.”
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at Chauncey Billups‘ impact on the Trail Blazers, as well his personal growth as head coach. Portland is just 6-14, and Billups has been hard on the group at times, but the team has responded to his criticisms and has become unusually selfless and connected, Quick writes. “With Chauncey, it’s never personal. And he makes that very clear,” Matisse Thybulle said. “I think some coaches may say that, just so they can get those little personal jabs in there to disguise it, but Chauncey is straight up. He’s really honest.”
  • Chet Holmgren — the Western Conference’s reigning Rookie of the Month — has exceeded expectations and is changing the Thunder‘s trajectory, according to Rylan Stiles of, who says the 21-year-old’s dynamic two-way game could make Oklahoma City a contender sooner rather than later.

Northwest Notes: Hendricks, Sensabaugh, George, Williams, Nuggets

Neither Taylor Hendricks nor Brice Sensabaugh, the Nos. 9 and 28 overall picks in the 2023 draft, are in the Jazz rotation to begin the season. Instead, the duo will begin the year by practicing with Utah’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, in training camp, according to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Larsen points out that fellow rookie Keyonte George, drafted after Hendricks with the No. 16 overall pick, has been a regular contributor. While Larsen notes that several former rookies who didn’t play much early in their careers went on to find success, it’s clear the Jazz don’t believe Hendricks is ready to contribute at the NBA level right now. Participating in G League training camp will give both rookies ample practice time.

You want young players to get reps, and live reps against good players. Once our season gets going, the amount of practice time shrinks considerably,” head coach Will Hardy said. “They practiced today for two and a half hours. We did not have a two-and-a-half-hour live shootaround this morning.

For what it’s worth, both Hendricks and Sensabaugh are appreciating the opportunity for more practice time, according to Larsen.

We’re seeing younger and younger players come into the NBA,” Hardy said. “Eight years ago, it wasn’t like you were drafting three 19-year-olds in the same draft. We’re just trying to get those guys as many reps as we can until they’re in a position to play enough minutes with our group every night that it would be overkill to send them there. Both those guys understand that this is the opposite of punishment.

We have more Northwest Division notes:

  • The Jazz are also taking a patient approach with fellow rookie George, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones, and he partially holds the keys to Utah’s future. The guard had a dominant Summer League and training camp, but Utah is being cautious and won’t put too much on his plate too soon. Jones writes that George has the highest natural instincts for the point guard position of anyone on the roster and that it’s difficult to envision a scenario where he isn’t the starting point guard by next season.
  • The Thunder assigned Jaylin Williams to their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, on Wednesday, according to Rylan Stiles (Twitter link). This was part of Williams’ ramp-up to play, as he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury. Oklahoma City recalled Williams later on Wednesday (Twitter link).
  • The transition from last season to this one has been seamless for the Nuggets‘ bench so far despite losing players like Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, according to The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando. Denver’s bench, consisting primarily of Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson and Zeke Nnaji, outscored opposing bench players 132-105 through its first four games, shooting 50.5% from the field and holding opponents to 38.3% shooting from the floor. That group, along with Jamal Murray, boasts a defensive rating of 83.6. “Anyone can go off any night,” Nnaji said.

Western Notes: Mavs, Wembanyama, Hendricks, Rockets

Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison has expressed that he may be done with offseason moves, though The Dallas Morning News’ Brad Townsend has his doubts. Harrison feels “good” about how the roster looks now.

“I feel like we accomplished the goals that we set out to do, every step of the way,” he said. “So in that regard, on paper, it feels good. So we’ll see how it turns out.”

Townsend notes that JaVale McGee is still on the roster, though he doesn’t appear to be in the team’s plans. The Mavs are also in need of an upgrade at center and are only marginally improved at the forward spots compared to last offseason.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The league’s broadcast partners are showcasing top pick Victor Wembanyama during the in-season tournament, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps notes. The Spurs will have three of their four group play contests shown by either TNT or ESPN. They are the only team that has more than two of its four group play games on ESPN and TNT.
  • Jazz lottery pick Taylor Hendricks, who sat out Summer League due to a right hamstring strain, has been cleared to participate in all on court activities, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Another Jazz rookie, Brice Sensabaugh, continues to make progress after undergoing left knee surgery in March.
  • Forward Jae’Sean Tate believes the Rockets will be vastly improved defensively, he told Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “We can be very problematic for teams,” he said. “When you have guys with length, guys who can match the physicality of the opposing team, it’s hard for them to get an advantage. You have guys on the team who can guard multiple positions at once. It makes it hard for them to score.”

Jazz Sign All Three First-Round Picks

The Jazz have signed their three first-round picks — forward Taylor Hendricks, guard Keyonte George, and forward Brice Sensabaugh — to rookie scale contracts, according to a team press release.

Hendricks, the No. 9 overall pick, will make $5,569,920 in his first season. He’ll bank $25,351,580 over the life of the four-year contract. The UCF product averaged 15.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 34.7 minutes during his only college season.

George will receive $3,889,800 in his first season. The four-year contract is worth $18,816,885.

The No. 16 pick started 33 games for Baylor in his lone collegiate season and averaged 15.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 steals in 28.7 minutes per game. He was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Sensabaugh, taken with the 28th pick out of Ohio State, will bring in $2,448,600 as a rookie. The four-year deal is worth $12,576,077. He appeared in 33 games last season and averaged 16.3 points. 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 24.5 minutes per game.

First-round picks virtually always sign contracts worth 120% of their rookie scale amount and the above figures represent those amounts. Rookie scale contracts are guaranteed for the first two years, with team options on the third and fourth years.

Northwest Notes: Reid, Timberwolves, Johnson, Jazz Rookies

Naz Reid will have a player option in the final year of the three-year extension he agreed to sign with the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. The cap hits on his new deal will be $12.95MM next season, $13.98MM for the 2024/25 season and $15.02MM in 2025/26, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • While many Timberwolves fans may be frustrated by the way this past season unfolded and some of the moves the team made, Joe Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune lists 10 reasons why the franchise is better off than it was a year ago. The addition of Mike Conley and subtraction of D’Angelo Russell are two of the positive developments that made Souhan’s list.
  • The Thunder were comfortable drafting Keyontae Johnson with the No. 50 pick in the second round on Thursday despite a prior sexual assault allegation, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman reports. A woman accused Johnson of sexual assault at an off-campus party in 2022 when he played for Florida. Four months later, charges against Johnson were dismissed. “We reviewed the dismissal of the charges from 2022 as part of our normal due diligence process applied to all prospects,” a Thunder spokesperson said.
  • The Jazz’s first-round selections — Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh — were also connected in some way prior to the draft, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. Florida natives Hendricks and Sensabaugh played AAU ball together. As seniors in high school, they faced each other in the state semifinals with Hendricks’ school winning by two points. Sensabaugh and George have been working out together for the past month and chose to be represented by the same agency, Wasserman.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, McDaniels, Jazz, K. Johnson

Having traded away so many first-round picks a year ago to acquire Rudy Gobert, the Timberwolves know they have to get “creative” if they hope to add young talent to their roster, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told reporters during his post-draft press conference, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Minnesota entered Thursday night with a single second-round pick and acquired a second one that was used to draft Leonard Miller.

“We’re out a bunch of first-round picks, so we’re probably a bit more aggressive trying to find guys that are maybe a year early, or guys that have slipped for an injury, for example, like (No. 53 pick) Jaylen (Clark),” Connelly said. “I don’t think we can just follow too many trends. We’ve got to be creative and kind of cross our fingers.”

Clark, who injured his Achilles earlier this year and underwent surgery after the season, isn’t expected to be ready for the start of his rookie year. However, the Wolves are optimistic about what he’ll be able to bring to the team once he’s healthy, with Connelly referring to him as “the best perimeter defender in the draft,” according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“We’re going to be very patient with him,” Connelly said. “Prior to the injury we thought the guy was an easy first-round pick.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves received “a ton” of trade interest in forward Jaden McDaniels this week, league sources tell Krawczynski. Minnesota rebuffed inquiries from teams “all over the draft board,” Krawczynski adds.
  • Armed with first-round picks at No. 9, No. 16, and No. 28, the Jazz were a candidate to make a consolidation trade on Thursday. Instead, they hung onto all three picks and were thrilled to land Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George, and Brice Sensabaugh, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “The way the draft board fell took a really fortunate turn for us,” general manager Justin Zanik said. “We got two of the guys that we had in our top 10 — players that we were, frankly, debating out which one to take at 9, and we ended up getting both of them. And at 28, getting a player that we had in our top 18.”
  • Hendricks, George, and Sensabaugh are all 19 years old, so the fact that the Jazz were willing to add all three to their 2023/24 roster is a reflection that they’re not in any hurry to accelerate their timeline for contention. Still, Tony Jones of The Athletic believes all three first-rounders are capable of playing rotation roles as rookies, noting that none of them are projects. “It’s not like we’re leaning into youth, we’re leaning into talent,” Zanik said, per Walden.
  • The Thunder‘s plan is for former Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson, the 50th pick in Thursday’s draft, to sign a two-way contract, head of basketball operations Sam Presti said on Saturday (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman).

Draft Notes: Bufkin, Wizards, Nets, Jazz, Hornets, Hawks, More

The Wizards recently hosted Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin for a private workout, Michael Scotto reports in his latest aggregate mock draft for HoopsHype.

Bufkin hasn’t worked out for many teams, and his draft status has been somewhat mysterious because of that, though many seem to believe his stock is on the rise. He’s currently ranked No. 18 on ESPN’s best available list, while the Wizards control the No. 8 pick.

Here are a few more notes ahead of the 2023 NBA draft, which kicks off in less than three hours:

  • The Nets recently hosted several potential first-round picks for workouts, including Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh, South Carolina’s G.G. Jackson, France’s Sidy Cissoko, and Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper, league sources tell Scotto. Brooklyn currently controls the 21st and 22nd picks in the first round, but the team has reportedly discussed moving up as well.
  • The Jazz have had trade discussions involving packaging two of their three first-rounders (Nos. 9 and 16), according to Scotto, but they’ve also discussed the latter pick on its own in separate deals.
  • Scotto hears from sources who say the Hornets plan to prioritize retaining restricted free agents Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington as well as unrestricted free agent Dennis Smith Jr. Bridges missed all of last season after pleading no contest to felony domestic violence charges.
  • The Hawks have been active in trade discussions, but they’ve also been busy working out prospects. On Tuesday, Atlanta hosted Cason Wallace (Kentucky), Rayan Rupert (New Zealand Breakers), Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara), Mojave King (G League Ignite), Seth Lundy (Penn State) and Miles Norris (UC Santa Barbara), tweets Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. The Hawks control the Nos. 15 and 46 picks. Incidentally, Wallace is the top-ranked prospect of the group according to ESPN, currently ranked No. 15 on their board.
  • Wichita State guard Craig Porter Jr. recently spoke to Alex Kennedy of about a number of topics ahead of the draft.