Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Central Notes: LaVine, Pacers Workouts, White, Pistons Draft

Zach LaVine‘s decision to have knee surgery in the offseason shows his commitment to the game and the Bulls, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. LaVine’s decision to play through his knee injury this season with Chicago heading to the playoffs proved how much he wanted to experience the postseason for himself and give his teammates a chance to do the same. He’ll still get paid this summer in unrestricted free agency, likely a maximum deal, Johnson adds.

We have more on the Central Division:

Northwest Notes: Towns, McLaughlin, Dort, Gilgeous-Alexander

The Timberwolves overcame a foul-plagued outing by Karl-Anthony Towns to beat the Clippers in the play-in tournament. Towns says he’ll be just fine as the team prepares for its first-round series with the Grizzlies, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “I’m not tripping at all. In a good space,” Towns said. “Just good to get past the last two days and I’m ready to go.”

Towns says he’ll play smarter against Memphis. “I got a more clear role for what they want me to do in the playoffs,” he said. “So I’m very confident, feel very good.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves reserve guard Jordan McLaughlin never left the bench in the play-in game but he’ll have a role against the Grizzlies, coach Chris Finch told Hine in a separate story. McLaughlin will take any minutes he can get. “I’m a team player, so when my number is called, I’m going to be ready to go and do whatever I can to help my team win,” McLaughlin said. “If it’s not called, I’m still going to help my team win, cheering on the bench, talking to guys, telling them what I see and stuff like that. It’s never about me.”
  • Thunder guard Luguentz Dort anticipates he’ll be fully recovered from shoulder surgery by training camp, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Dort believes he’ll be back to 100% during the next two to three months. Dort is eligible for a contract extension and could become an unrestricted free agent next summer. “I’m going to let my agent handle it,” Dort said of a possible extension.
  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is pumped about the franchise’s future, Mussatto writes in a separate piece. He’ll enter the first year of his five-year max extension next season. “We have that trust in each other,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, referring to the front office and coaching staff. “I can’t go into details, but we’re excited for the future.” 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Will Miss Remainder Of Season

The Thunder have shut down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the remainder of the season, head coach Mark Daigneault told The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto (Twitter link) and other media members on Monday.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been bothered by right ankle soreness during portions of the season and hasn’t played since last Monday. The team’s star guard signed off on the decision to let the ankle heal.

He had another strong season statistically, though his 3-point shooting dropped dramatically (down from 41.8% last season to 30% this year). He averaged 24.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 5.0 RPG and 1.3 SPG in 34.7 MPG while appearing in 56 games.

Forward Darius Bazley was also ruled out for the remainder of the season on Monday due to a knee injury.

Gilgeous-Alexander remains a major piece in Oklahoma City’s rebuild. His five-year, maximum-salary extension that he signed last summer will kick in next season.

Josh Giddey Out For Rest Of Season

Thunder rookie Josh Giddey won’t play any more this season because of soreness in his hip, tweets Oklahoma City reporter Rylan Stiles.

Coach Mark Daigneault made the announcement during a session with reporters before tonight’s game. Giddey hasn’t played since February 24, and Daigneault said the “return-to-play portion” of his rehab process would last longer than the two weeks that are left in the regular season. Giddey told the team that he has never experienced problems with the hip before, Daigneault added.

“It’s a tricky injury,” Daigneault said. “A little unpredictable, whereas Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a bone, a break, it’s more predictable.”

Giddey, the sixth player selected in last year’s draft, will end his first season with averages of 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in 54 games. He was selected to participate in both the Rising Stars tournament and the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend and was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month four times.

Daigneault offered two other medical updates, saying Robinson-Earl will definitely be back this season (Twitter link), and he plans to talk to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander about his status. Gilgeous-Alexander has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury, and Daigneault said, “The game to game thing is not sustainable.” (Twitter link)

And-Ones: Young Point Guards, Henson, Holmgren, Draft

Rising Grizzlies star Ja Morant has enjoyed a breakout year in Memphis, but 11 of 15 scouts and executives polled by Tim Bontemps of ESPN would still take Mavericks star Luka Doncic over Morant if they were picking a young point guard to build around.

Bontemps asked those 15 scouts and execs to rank Doncic, Morant, Trae Young, LaMelo Ball, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Darius Garland, and got some interesting responses. Doncic was the overwhelming top pick, with Morant (who had the other four first-place votes) coming in second, followed by Young in third. Ball and Gilgeous-Alexander were neck and neck for the fourth spot, with Garland bringing up the rear.

The question engendered plenty of debate, according to Bontemps, who notes that the respondents’ evaluations of certain prospects varied significantly. For instance, one Eastern Conference executive believes that Gilgeous-Alexander could be “potentially be doing a lot of the same things” as Morant if their situations were flipped, while an East scout said SGA is “clearly last” of the six in his view, since the others are better at passing and making plays for teammates.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA lottery pick John Henson has signed with Mets de Guaynabo for the upcoming season in Puerto Rico, tweets agent Christian Santaella. Henson, who has appeared in 445 regular season NBA games, signed a 10-day contract with the Knicks last April, but hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2019/20 season.
  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz explore why Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren is such a polarizing player for NBA scouts. As ESPN’s duo explains, Holmgren is a one-of-a-kind prospect who can’t be easily compared to current or former NBA players, making it more difficult to evaluate both his potential upside and his potential risk.
  • Givony and Schmitz have also updated their top-100 prospect list for the 2022 NBA draft and discussed some of the players who have recently risen up that big board.
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com takes an in-depth look at Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, identical twins who are candidates to be drafted in the lottery in 2023. The Thompson twins, who are currently playing for Overtime Elite, both went in the top 10 of ESPN’s most recent 2023 mock draft.

Northwest Notes: Giddey, SGA, Cousins, House, Wright

Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are both more comfortable with the ball in their hands, but comments made by head coach Mark Daigneault after the two guards played together on Thursday strongly suggest the Thunder ultimately view Giddey as their primary initiator, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman.

As Mussatto details, Gilgeous-Alexander will be still be the Thunder’s primary scorer, but it sounds like the team wants to get him more comfortable playing off-ball, as he did earlier in his career when Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder were on the roster.

“(Giddey’s) a really good initiator, he’s a really good creator and we’ve gotta use that part of his game to unlock the potential of the team,” Daigneault said. “It’s gonna require Shai to make some plays off the ball a little bit, where he’s driving close-outs, where he’s shooting open shots — but it’s also gonna take some load off of Shai. He’s not gonna have to work as hard.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, who advocated for the signing of DeMarcus Cousins earlier this season, is thrilled to have the veteran big man under contract for the rest of the season, says Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “His personality is really important,” Malone said of Cousins. “He is a voice. He’s a personality, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. That can be refreshing at times because we have a locker room of great guys, but who are not always willing to police each other.”
  • Having been signed for the rest of the season following a series of 10-day deals, Danuel House is looking to repay the Jazz‘s investment in him with his play on the court, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “This is a good organization. And they believe so much in me, they’re pouring into me,” House said. “So my job is, if they’re pouring into me, to make sure that when the water hits the glass, make sure it’s purified enough for us to drink.”
  • Timberwolves two-way player McKinley Wright IV, who is dealing with a left UCL injury, is moving closer toward returning to action after getting his splint taken off, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Wolfson estimates that Wright will be playing for the Iowa Wolves – Minnesota’s G League affiliate – in another week or two. The rookie guard has appeared in just three NBA games this season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Set To Return For Thunder

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will return to action on Thursday after missing the team’s last 10 games due to a right ankle sprain, head coach Mark Daigneault said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Gilgeous-Alexander suffered the injury on January 28.

The 18-40 Thunder are 6.5 games back of the No. 10 seed and aren’t expected to prioritize making the playoffs this season, so it’s safe to assume they wouldn’t be bringing back Gilgeous-Alexander if he weren’t feeling 100% healthy.

The star point guard had been averaging 22.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, and 4.7 RPG shooting in 43 games (34.6 MPG) before going down with his ankle injury. He has struggled to score efficiently this season, however, posting career-low shooting percentages of 42.4% from the floor and 27.8% on threes.

Rookie guard Josh Giddey has been thriving with Gilgeous-Alexander out of the lineup, having recorded three consecutive triple-doubles in the games leading up to the All-Star break. He likely won’t have the ball in his hands as much with SGA on the court, so Daigneault may have to get creative with his lineups and his rotation to ensure Giddey doesn’t lose that momentum.

According to Daigneault, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (foot), Mike Muscala (ankle), Ty Jerome (hip), Luguentz Dort (shoulder), and Kenrich Williams (knee) are still sidelined. Daigneault didn’t offer any guarantees when asked if Muscala, who is considering offseason ankle surgery, will be back this season (Twitter links via Mussatto).

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander To Miss Multiple Weeks With Ankle Sprain

Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will miss multiple weeks after suffering a right ankle sprain on Friday against the Pacers, the team announced today. Gilgeous-Alexander will be reevaluated after the All-Star break, which lasts from February 18-23.

In 43 games this season, the Thunder’s point guard averaged 22.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per contest, shooting 42% from the floor and 28% from three-point range. Each of those averages (with the exception of rebounding) are down from last season, but the 23-year-old remains the go-to option on his team.

The Thunder are 0-5 in games that Gilgeous-Alexander hasn’t played this season. One of those losses came against Memphis in a record-setting fashion — OKC was outscored by 73 points, the largest margin of defeat in NBA history. That contest was played in early December on the road.

With Gilgeous-Alexander on the shelf, expect guards Ty Jerome and Theo Maledon to receive more playing time. Oklahoma City owns the second-worst record in the West at 14-34, leading the Rockets by half a game.

COVID-19 Updates: Porzingis, SGA, Garland, Valanciunas, More

Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and has been ruled out for Monday’s game vs. Denver, the team announced today (via Twitter).

The Mavericks got good news over the weekend, as Luka Doncic was cleared to play for the first time since December 10 and led the team to a win in Oklahoma City on Sunday. But now Porzingis is at risk of missing a few games due to the health and safety protocols, and he’s not the only Mav affected — the club still has four other players in the protocols too.

Here’s more COVID-related news from around the NBA:

  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is no longer in the health and safety protocols, acting head coach Mike Wilks said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Gilgeous-Alexander only entered the protocols on Saturday, so he may have registered a false positive test.
  • Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, who had been in the COVID-19 protocols since last Tuesday, was able to practice today, per head coach J.B. Bickerstaff (Twitter link via Kelsey Russo of The Athletic).
  • Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has cleared the protocols and will be available for Monday’s game against Utah, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • Damion Lee and James Wiseman have exited the protocols for the Warriors, per the NBA’s injury report. Wiseman remains sidelined while he recovers from right knee surgery, but Lee is no longer on the injury report at all, and Golden State doesn’t have any players in the protocols.
  • After briefly clearing the protocols, Hornets forward P.J. Washington reentered them on Sunday, according to the team (Twitter link). He’ll miss Monday’s game vs. Washington (Twitter link).
  • Lonzo Ball and Alfonzo McKinnie of the Bulls have both exited the health and safety protocols and will be available to play on Monday vs. Orlando, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Nets rookie Kessler Edwards is no longer in the COVID-19 protocols, according to the NBA’s injury report. Brooklyn was hit hard by an outbreak in December but currently has no players affected.
  • Lakers assistant David Fizdale, who briefly served as the club’s acting head coach during Frank Vogel‘s stint in the protocols, has now entered the protocols himself, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

COVID-19 Updates: Doncic, SGA, Robinson, Hawks, Nuggets, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Doncic, who hasn’t played since December 10, missed a combined 10 games due to a left ankle injury and his time in the protocols. He’s expected to meet his teammates in Oklahoma City and may return to the court on Sunday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber may also be able to exit the protocols in time for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas, which has five other players still in protocols, managed to go 5-5 without Doncic and is holding onto eighth place in the Western Conference.

Here are more updates on players entering and exiting the protocols: