Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Thunder Notes: SGA, Giddey, Bazley, Micic

The backcourt pairing of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey has looked much smoother in its second season together, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The Thunder‘s young guards were still working out ball-handling responsibilities when Giddey suffered a season-ending hip injury last February. They’ve learned how to complement each other this year and are a major part of why OKC is in the playoff race at 23-24.

“When you’ve got two guys that really want to get it right, it’s less about their games, it’s less about their fit,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “It’s more about, do the players want to work to get right? And in this particular case we have an entire team, it’s not just limited to Josh and Shai, (of) guys that want to get it right. I think that’s what you’re seeing over time.” 

Giddey is averaging 16.0 PPG in his second NBA season and has become more dependable as an outside shooter, raising his three-point percentage from 26.3% to 32.8%. He’s also taking advantage of the opportunities created while defenses focus on Gilgeous-Alexander, who ranks fifth in the league in scoring.

Shai could have 40 points every night if he wanted to,” Giddey said, “but he’s unselfish, he gets off the ball, he makes players around him better.” 

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Although the Thunder look like legitimate playoff contenders, any moves that general manager Sam Presti makes before the trade deadline will be focused on the future rather than securing a postseason spot, Mussatto states in a mailbag column. Mussatto sees Darius Bazley as the most likely candidate for a trade because of his limited offensive game, and he speculates that the team won’t re-sign Bazley in free agency this summer even if he’s not dealt away.
  • Fans shouldn’t count on seeing Serbian guard Vasilije Micic in a Thunder uniform next season, Mussatto adds in the same piece. Although the 29-year-old continues to excel in Europe, it’s not clear if there’s a role for him in Oklahoma City. Micic wants a chance at regular playing time if he comes to the NBA, and Mussatto suggests that he might be more valuable to OKC as a trade chip.
  • The Thunder have a strong case to finish as one of the top six teams in the West, contends Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. Oklahoma City is 8-3 in January and just one game out of sixth place. The Thunder and Nuggets are the only teams that rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive ratings for the month.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Sharpe, SGA, Nowell, Edwards

Trail Blazers forward Justise Winslow has been out since December 21 after suffering a Grade 2 ankle sprain. He’s making progress in his recovery, but he’s out for at least two more weeks, Portland announced in a press release.

The Blazers also provided an injury update on forward Nassir Little, who has been sidelined since November 29 with a hip fracture. There’s no official timeline for his return, but he has begun on-court contact work, per the team.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Shaedon Sharpe‘s development is an exercise in patience, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. The No. 7 overall pick of the 2022 draft didn’t play any games in his one year at Kentucky, which makes him behind the curve in some regards. Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups says the 19-year-old won’t get minutes he doesn’t earn. “That’s going to be his year all year,” Billups said, per Fentress. “We as a staff have to have a level of patience with Shae and so do our veterans. But as I tell him, and our veterans tell him, ‘We’re trying to be the best team that we can be. We don’t have time to wait on you. You didn’t go to a team that is trying to lose and get the No. 1 pick. That’s not our situation. You have to catch up.’”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having a brilliant season for the Thunder and helped lead the team to back-to-back road victories over the Sixers and Bulls on Thursday and Friday. After Thursday’s victory, Gilgeous-Alexander expressed confidence about the team’s future, according to Thunder sideline reporter and digital editor Nick Gallo (Twitter link). “I think we’re gonna be a really good team a lot sooner than other people do,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “So I think it’s it’s pretty easy for me – I see the growth every day. I’ve seen the growth in the last five months, year, two years. And I’m super excited about it.” The Thunder are currently 20-23, the No. 11 seed in the West.
  • Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell is set to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer, but he’s not pleased with his season thus far, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “Not going well,” he said. Nowell, who shot 39.4% from deep last season, is shooting just 28.5% from behind the arc through 42 games. Head coach Chris Finch believes the 23-year-old is making things difficult on himself. “I think he’s trying to force himself into the game,” Finch said. “What it’s doing probably is bleeding over into the great looks that he’s getting. He’s trying to get himself going by taking some tough shots out there with a lot of hands in his face and then when the ball comes back, or a different situation where he’s shooting it open, particularly from three, he hasn’t seen that go in.”
  • In the same story from Hine, Finch said Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards is dealing with a “deep bruise” in his left hip, but the former No. 1 overall pick has been “cleared of all tests.” Veteran guard Austin Rivers commended Edwards’ willingness to play through the injury, Hine tweets. “It just sets a tone like this dude’s invested. He’s here. This guy’s playing through injuries, no matter. The Houston game, a lot of guys would just sit out, like, ‘Hey, we’ll win without him.’ But Ant came out there and really showed us,” he said.

Health Updates: LeBron, Walker, Prince, Bucks, SGA

LeBron James has been helping to keep the Lakers in the play-in race, averaging 36.6 points per game on 58.5% shooting during the club’s 3-2 road trip that wrapped up on Monday.

However, James won’t be available when the Lakers return home and host the Heat on Wednesday. He has been ruled out for the game due to a non-COVID illness, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Lakers guard Lonnie Walker will also miss his third consecutive contest, McMenamin adds. Previously listed as out due to a tailbone contusion, Walker is now on the injury report with left knee soreness.

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

  • Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince intends to make his return to action on Wednesday night vs. Portland, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Prince, who was dealing with a right shoulder subluxation, last played on November 23 — he has missed Minnesota’s last 20 games.
  • After playing on Tuesday night vs. Washington, Jrue Holiday (non-COVID illness) and Joe Ingles (left knee injury management) have been ruled out for the second half of the Bucks‘ back-to-back set on Wednesday in Toronto, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Khris Middleton (right knee soreness) and George Hill (non-COVID illness) will also remain sidelined.
  • Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed Tuesday’s game due to a non-COVID illness, but he’s not on Wednesday’s injury report, so it appears he’ll be available tonight in Orlando, tweets Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder.

Injury Updates: Beal, Martin, Bol, Gilgeous-Alexander, James

Bradley Beal returned to action on Tuesday after missing three games due to left hamstring soreness. However, the Wizards’ franchise player aggravated the injury and didn’t finish out the game, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets.

We have more injury news:

  • The Hornets’ Cody Martin is listed as questionable to play against Memphis on Wednesday, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Martin played one minute in the season opener, then was sidelined by a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery in November, but it appears he’s on the verge of returning.
  • Magic big man Bol Bol was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. He will miss Wednesday’s home contest against the Thunder and possibly more games beyond that.
  • Thunder star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed the team’s game against Boston on Tuesday due to a non-COVID illness, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Oklahoma City did just fine without him, setting a franchise record with 150 points.
  • LeBron James is listed as questionable to play against Miami on Wednesday due to left ankle soreness, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. The Lakers’ superstar scored 43 points in 40 minutes against Charlotte on Monday.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, SGA, Gobert, Edwards, Markkanen

Point guard Damian Lillard has spent his entire career with the Trail Blazers, and despite publicly stating multiple times that he intends to spend the rest of his career in Portland, his name has been featured in trade rumors off and on for years. Lillard recently gave some advice to Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been the subject of similar speculation.

The grass is not always greener on the other side,” Lillard said, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman.

You never know what it’s going to look like or how the next team might view you, especially when you’ve had some injuries like he’s had,” Lillard continued. “You just don’t know. Also I would tell him a lot of these people that are saying ‘free him’ and all of these things or whatever, they are not the people that are going to have to live with the consequences if it doesn’t work out. They’re not gonna ever have to walk in his shoes.”

Lillard also complimented Gilgeous-Alexander’s excellent start to the 2022/23 season, per Mussatto.

He’s coming into his own,” Lillard said. “I can remember when I was younger and I became the leader of a team. … I see that he’s in that stage. He’s trying to show what he can do — almost like a coming out party for him.

He’s having a great season. He’s playing confident, he’s playing well for the team and it’s fun to watch, just not when it happens against us.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves continue to have an up-and-down season. They won three straight with Rudy Gobert sidelined with an ankle injury (though they were playing three similarly inconsistent opponents in the Thunder, Mavs and Bulls), and have now dropped two straight with him back. Still, Gobert says he’s pleased with the team’s effort, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I’m really happy about the way we come in every day working, putting in the extra work,” he said. “And then when it’s game time, I’m really happy with the physicality, the competitiveness. I think that’s what’s going to take us as far as we can go.”
  • Anthony Edwards has shown improvement as a play-maker for the Timberwolves, and La Velle E. Neal III of The Star Tribune believes the 21-year-old has higher upside in that role than Karl-Anthony Towns. Edwards still needs to find more consistency, but it would be a good thing if Edwards becomes the face of the franchise sooner rather than later, according to Neal.
  • Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has a strong case to become a first-time All-Star, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. He says been striving to achieve that goal for years. “I’ve said this publicly before, but absolutely it has always been my personal goal. Obviously I’ve got team goals and I’m always gonna push those first, but like at an individual level that’s always been my goal. Not just to be one of the guys in the league, I want to make it to the top,” Markkanen said. Through 32 games (33.8 MPG), he’s averaging a career-high 22.8 PPG, along with 8.1 RPG and 2.1 APG. He’s also posting career-best marks from the field (53.3%) and from three-point range (43.8%).

Western Notes: Clippers, Gilgeous-Alexander, Lillard, Green

The Clippers were able to practice at full strength on Tuesday, a rarity for a team that has dealt with numerous injuries, Andrew Grief of the Los Angeles Times notes. That includes Paul George, Norman Powell, Ivica Zubac and Reggie Jackson, who have missed games this month due a variety of ailments.

“It’s exciting to finally actually have our whole team almost complete, be ready to play and just try to get rotations down and see what guys plays good with who,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “And so we’re starting all over again, but it’s a good feeling to have your whole team back.”

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a game-winning shot for the Thunder in a two-point victory over the Trail Blazers on Monday. Gilgeous-Alexander says he’s “super comfortable” in those situations, according to The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto. His teammates concur. “The ball had to end up in our best player’s hand,” guard Luguenz Dort said.
  • Damian Lillard became the Trail Blazers’ all-time leading scorer on Monday, surpassing Clyde Drexler. Center Jusuf Nurkic already considered his teammate the franchise’s greatest player, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. “No disrespect to Clyde — he’s one of the all-time greats — but even if Dame didn’t pass him, I feel like Dame is still the greatest Blazer ever,” he said. “When you put everything together — the way he plays the game, what he does off the court, everything — he’s a one of a kind player. Hopefully he retires here.”
  • Warriors forward JaMychal Green has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, Kendra Andrews of ESPN tweets. Green, who missed Wednesday’s game against the Knicks, had one of his best outings for Golden State on Sunday. He contributed 15 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes during a victory over Toronto.

Western Notes: SGA, Gobert Trade, Daniels, J. Green

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having an outstanding season in 2022/23, and looks destined for his first All-Star and All-NBA appearances. He’s third in the league in scoring at 31.1 PPG, and is also averaging 4.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.7 SPG and 1.1 BPG on .500/.324/.926 shooting through 23 games (35.7 MPG).

In a lengthy profile on Gilgeous-Alexander’s emergence as a star, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (subscriber link) writes that, despite external speculation that the 24-year-old might grow impatient with the Thunder’s rebuild and eventually seek a trade, there’s no sense of that happening within the organization. Gilgeous-Alexander says he has a lot of faith in GM Sam Presti.

It’s always easy to trust someone when they haven’t given you a reason not to trust them,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s always easier to trust someone when they tell you something and it happens. And that’s been my relationship with Sam so far.

Everything he’s told me has happened, and he’s never lied to me … It’s easy to work — well, it’s crazy that basketball is work — but it’s easier to play basketball and put your all into every day and believe in the future when it’s a guy like that running the show.”

Here’s more from the West:

  • Prior to the Timberwolves‘ matchup with the Jazz on Friday, which the Wolves won 118-108 to move to 13-12, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune wrote an article about whether Minnesota would still make the Rudy Gobert deal right now, with the knowledge that the start to the season would be uneven. He believes the answer is “probably,” because while there have definitely been bumps along the way, Gobert has played better of late and he’s starting to develop some chemistry with teammates.
  • Dyson Daniels, the No. 8 overall pick in June’s draft, has emerged as an immediate contributor to the West’s No. 1 seed due to his strong defense, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. The 19-year-old Pelicans guard says he welcomes the challenge of guarding top players. “I like when people go at me. I love to accept that challenge,” Daniels said. “I want to show them that I’m here for a reason and I can defend. … Guys always want to go at the rookie, and I’m fine with that. It only makes me better.”
  • Rockets guard Jalen Green, last year’s No. 2 overall pick, has had a bit of an up-and-down second season thus far, which is to be expected for a young player on a rebuilding club. According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Green focuses on big-picture growth and has proven to be a sponge when it comes to soaking up information and watching film.

Northwest Notes: Collins, Jazz, Thunder, Timberwolves

Nekias Duncan of Basketball News unpacks Utah’s reported interest in Hawks big man John Collins. Duncan acknowledges that a trade seems unlikely, but believes Collins’ screen-and-roll game would work well in the Jazz‘s offensive system.

While Collins is an upgrade over Kelly Olynyk defensively, Duncan doesn’t view him as a difference-maker on that end, so he probably wouldn’t help improve the team’s defense, which currently ranks 21st in the NBA. Ultimately, Duncan thinks Olynyk would be the primary piece heading back to Atlanta if a deal is completed.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • The Jazz‘s players are enjoying being one of the NBA’s biggest overachievers so far this season, writes Tania Ganguli of The New York Times. “Every game people are surprised that we win,” Lauri Markkanen said. “We got a great coaching staff, we got great players on this team, so we can beat anybody when we play our best basketball. We try and have that underdog mentality going into games. People really are not expecting a lot from us. Use that to fuel us — not that you really need that; we obviously go out there and compete every night. Just if we ever need some extra motivation, I guess.” After dropping two straight games, the Jazz currently sit with a 12-8 record, the No. 4 seed in the West.
  • External expectations for the Thunder were low entering 2022/23, particularly after No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren was ruled out for the season with a foot injury over the summer. However, ESPN’s Bobby Marks says Oklahoma City appears to be “on the right path” with the league’s youngest roster, which is led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 31.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.3 APG and 1.8 SPG on .519/.380/.917 shooting through 17 games (36.1 MPG). The Thunder are only 7-11, but they’ve been competitive and the players seem to trust each other, Marks notes.
  • The new-look Timberwolves had their best performance of the season Wednesday at Indiana, defeating a Pacers team that had won five consecutive games heading into the contest, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “Very, very pleasing,” head coach Chris Finch said. “Hopefully it’s one more step, many more to go, but one more step in the right direction.” The Wolves have now won five straight and hold a 10-8 record.

Knicks Notes: Gilgeous-Alexander, Brunson, Barrett, Walker

The Knicks weren’t willing to part with a major portion of their draft assets to land Donovan Mitchell, but Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might be worth the gamble, writes Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. New York fans will get to see the talented guard in person Sunday afternoon when Oklahoma City comes to Madison Square Garden.

Although SGA has often said that he prefers to remain with the Thunder — and repeated that sentiment Friday night — his trade value might be too tempting for a franchise that’s still in the rebuilding stage. Through 11 games, Gilgeous-Alexander ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 30.5 PPG and he’s averaging 4.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals as well.

Gilgeous-Alexander would fit the Knicks’ fascination with Kentucky players, and Sanchez states that team scouts saw plenty of him in college before New York took his teammate, Kevin Knox, with the No. 9 pick in 2018. SGA also has a connection with RJ Barrett as they’re set to join forces for Team Canada at the 2024 Olympics.

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has been willing to trade away stars in the past, and if he decides to move Gilgeous-Alexander in exchange for draft picks, New York is in a strong position to make the best offer, Sanchez contends.

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Jalen Brunson believes Barrett has All-Star potential, per Ian O’Connor of The New York Post. “I think he can be a very impactful player, I think he can lead a franchise, and that’s what he was picked here to do,” Brunson told reporters Friday after Barrett’s 30-point outburst in a win over the Pistons. “He can do it. I have the utmost faith in him. He works very hard. He has a great demeanor about how he plays. You never see when he’s frustrated, you never see when he’s having the game of his life. … It shows he’s not afraid of the moment, not afraid of anything. He’s capable of doing a lot of big things.” 
  • Former Knicks guard Kemba Walker is being patient as he waits for a chance to return to the NBA, relays Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Appearing this week on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Walker explained what went wrong after he signed with New York last summer. “When the opportunity came about, I was über-excited,” he said. “But unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for me. Individually, I didn’t really fit the system and what those guys were trying to do over there. It just wasn’t for me.” 
  • Because the Knicks don’t have a true first option to lead their offense, they have to rely on effort and hard work more than other teams around the league, notes Steve Popper of Newsday. When that’s not present, like in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Nets, the results can be embarrassing.

Northwest Notes: SGA, Wolves, Hardy, Blazers

A series of reports in recent months have suggested that Toronto and other teams around the NBA are monitoring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s situation in Oklahoma City in case he becomes disgruntled and wants out. But after leading the Thunder to a blowout win over the Raptors on Friday night, the star point guard reaffirmed his commitment to the franchise, as Michael Grange of writes.

“It’s exciting,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the future in OKC. “And knowing the guys in the locker room personally, makes it more exciting: Guys’ mentalities, guys’ work ethic, it just makes it fun to be around and I’m very excited for the future.”

While the Thunder are still very much in the midst of their rebuilding process, they’ve been relatively competitive so far this season, with a 5-7 record and a -0.8 net rating. That respectable start is due in large part to Gilgeous-Alexander’s All-NBA caliber play — he’s averaging an eye-popping 30.5 points per game to go along with 5.5 APG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.0 SPG.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves lack leadership and maturity, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on The Hoop Collective this week (YouTube link). According to MacMahon, while Minnesota is still trying to figure out “spacing and X’s and O’s,” one coach whose team recently played the Wolves said their biggest issues are “interpersonal.”
  • Rookie head coach Will Hardy is happy to give his players and assistants credit for the Jazz‘s strong start to the season, but Hardy has earned his share of the credit for the impressive job he has done in Utah so far, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “I think he’s done a great job,” Jazz center Kelly Olynyk said. “He’s been really personable and good with the guys. He’s really kind of put us in situations to help us be successful. He’s given us structure and organization, but not to a point where you feel robotic or you feel like you’re constricted. He’s still letting everybody play free, be themselves and play to their strengths.”
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Jason Quick discusses Josh Hart‘s future with the Trail Blazers, how Chauncey Billups‘ coaching style differs from Terry Stotts‘, and the positive impact Jerami Grant has had in the team’s locker room.