Udoka Azubuike

Jazz To Decline Rookie Scale Options For Azubuike, Bolmaro

The Jazz won’t pick up the fourth-year option for Udoka Azubuike or the third-year option for Leandro Bolmaro, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Both players will become unrestricted free agents next July.

Azuibuike would have earned $3,923,484 during the 2023/24 season and Bolmaro would have received $2,588,400. The deadline for rookie scale option decisions is Monday, and those are the only two that Utah faces.

Azubuike, a 23-year-old center, was selected by the Jazz with the 27th pick in the 2020 draft. He has dealt with injuries during his brief NBA career and has played a total of 33 games, including one this season. The former Kansas standout is averaging 3.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 7.9 minutes per game.

Bolmaro, a 22-year-old swingman, was acquired from the Timberwolves this summer in the Rudy Gobert trade. He appeared in 35 games for Minnesota last season and two so far with Utah, averaging 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 6.9 minutes per night. He was the 23rd pick in 2020, but didn’t come to the NBA until 2021.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, McDaniels, Azubuike, Sharpe

After replacing his old boss Tim Connelly this offseason, new Nuggets head of basketball operations Calvin Booth had a busy summer, trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith, signing Bruce Brown and DeAndre Jordan in free agency, and using first-round picks on Christian Braun and Peyton Watson.

Speaking to Mark Medina of NBA.com, Booth said the Nuggets’ offseason goals were to upgrade their defense, get more athletic, and add more two-way talents. He feels the team accomplished those goals.

“With KCP, we have one of the best 3-and-D guys in the league, someone with championship experience and a proven vet,” Booth said. “Bruce was one of the most underrated guys in the league last season. We’re finding that out every day in the game with how sophisticated of a game he has.

“Christian and Peyton will eventually address those needs. We valued DeAndre’s vet leadership and the way he communicates. He’s one of the best rebounders of his generation, and he can still do that. Ish Smith has been a great addition as well and brings different levels of speed and pace to the game.”

In his Q&A with Medina, Booth also discussed several other Nuggets-related topics, including Nikola Jokic‘s chances of winning a third consecutive MVP award, Jamal Murray‘s return from an ACL tear, and Booth’s own contract extension with the franchise.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Even though John Hollinger of The Athletic believes the Nuggets have a chance to come out of the West this season, he thinks there are still too many question marks related to the team’s depth and returning stars to actually forecast such a scenario. In his preview of Denver’s season, Hollinger projects a 50-32 record and a fourth-place finish in the West.
  • Jaden McDaniels will be the Timberwolves‘ starting small forward to open the 2022/23 season, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. McDaniels, whom the team worked hard to keep out of the Rudy Gobert trade, will fill out a star-studded lineup that features Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns up front, with Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt.
  • Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, who underwent surgery on his right foot and ankle in March, was cleared to practice in full on Thursday for the first time in seven months, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “I was excited about it,” Azubuike said. “We did some exercises in the morning before practice, and that felt good. Then, me going out there, getting a rep and you know, I’m just excited. It really felt good.” It remains to be seen if the former first-round pick will earn a spot on Utah’s regular season roster, since the team has 18 players on standard contracts and will need to make cuts by Monday.
  • Trail Blazers rookie Shaedon Sharpe has signed with agent Mike George of One Legacy Sports for representation, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Jazz Notes: Sexton, Kessler, Azubuike, Conley, Clarkson, Zeller, Lee

New Jazz guard Collin Sexton has been fully cleared following last year’s knee injury that sidelined him for all but 11 games, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). Newly acquired rookie big man Walker Kessler has also received clearance from his toe injury, Walden adds.

While Sexton and Kessler should be good to go for training camp, former Jazz first-rounder Udoka Azubuike isn’t quite there yet. According to Walden, Azubuike continues to progress from the ankle surgery that ended his 2021/22 season early, but has yet to be cleared for 5-on-5 work.

Here are a few more updates on the Jazz:

  • Following an offseason fire sale in Utah, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson look like obvious candidates to be traded at some point in the coming weeks or months. But general manager Justin Zanik said today that there has been “nothing but total buy-in from those guys,” so it doesn’t sound as if either Conley or Clarkson is pushing to be dealt (Twitter link via Walden).
  • Conley told reporters today that he’s “10 toes in” with the Jazz, even as he acknowledged the possibility of a trade. He’s conflicted about the idea of being moved, since he could end up with a contending team but would likely have to finish the season away from his family (Twitter links via Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune).
  • After undergoing eight surgeries in nine years, Cody Zeller wants to show in Utah that he’s finally healthy, telling reporters today that he believes he can bring value to a young roster as an experienced veteran (Twitter link via Walden). The Jazz have a roster logjam to clear in the next few weeks, but Zeller should have a shot at a 15-man roster spot due to the team’s lack of veteran frontcourt depth.
  • Tony Jones of The Athletic sounds unconvinced that Saben Lee is part of the Jazz’s plans going forward, tweeting that he believes the newly acquired guard will need to have “a hell of a camp” in order to stick.

International Notes: Brown, Basketball Without Borders, World Cup

Former NBA wing Anthony Brown has agreed to terms on a deal with Russian club Unics Kazan, writes Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. A former EuroLeague club, Unics Kazan now competes in the VTB United League.

After being selected with the No. 34 pick by the Lakers in 2015 out of Stanford, Brown bounced the NBA and G League for several seasons. He suited up for the Lakers and their NBAGL affiliate, at the time called the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now the South Bay Lakers), the Magic and their affiliate team the Erie BayHawks/Lakeland Magic, the Timberwolves and their NBAGL club the Iowa Wolves, and the Pelicans. In 41 total NBA games, the 29-year-old has averaged 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG across 18.6 MPG.

Brown first headed overseas in 2018, and has since suited up for teams in Serbia, France, Spain, Turkey and Israel. While playing for Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Israel Super League competition last season, the 6’7″ swingman posted averages of 16.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.0 SPG, with a shooting line of .465/.396/.821.

Here are more international basketball odds and ends:

  • Several NBA players and coaches will head overseas to take part in a Basketball Without Borders camp set for Cairo, Egypt, per a league press release. The event will run from this Sunday, August 28, through next Wednesday, August 31. Sixty-four of the best boys and girls hailing from 26 African nations, aged 18 and under, will travel to the camp. Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, Magic center Mohamed Bamba, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Grant Williams, and retired Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo will be among the camp’s coaches, with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups, Pelicans head coach Willie Green, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee, and Hornets athletic trainer Quinton Sawyer also participating. The camp’s roster of directors will be pretty star-studded as well, led by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Cavaliers GM Mike Gansey, and Clippers scout Lance Blanks.
  • With almost exactly one year to go before the 2023 FIBA World Cup tips off, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press checks in on USA Basketball as the organization ramps up its preparation for the event. The first games in next year’s competition are scheduled to be played on August 25, 2023. Fielding a lineup that features G League and international-caliber American players, Team USA currently has a 6-1 record in the World Cup qualifiers. Next year, Steve Kerr will coach Team USA, featuring a likely-star studded roster. This year, that task falls to former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. “We’re learning a lot because the NBA game has changed over the last seven or eight years, too,” Sean Ford, the U.S. men’s national team director, said. “There’s much more shotmaking. It’s just unbelievable, incredible the amount of 3-point shots that are taken, the freedom of movement, the flow of the game. But the international game has stayed the physical way.” 
  • Former Thunder swingman Terrance Ferguson has made the jump to overseas play, signing on with Polish team GTK Gliwice. Get full details here.

Jazz, Knicks Still Far Apart On Donovan Mitchell Trade

Rumors continue to emerge regarding Donovan Mitchell trade talks involving the Jazz and Knicks, but little progress has been made, according to Tony Jones of the Athletic. Appearing Friday on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Jones was pessimistic that a deal will get done soon.

“I don’t think the two sides are close. I don’t think they have been close,” Jones said. “We’ll see what happens as the urgency of training camp looms. The Jazz want what they want, which is picks out of this deal, and they want young guys on short or rookie contracts.”

Knicks players who fit that definition include Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, but New York has been unwilling to part with significant young talent in addition to substantial draft assets. Jones said keeping Grimes is a priority for the Knicks, along with veteran guard Derrick Rose, who is a longtime favorite of coach Tom Thibodeau.

“The sense I get right now is it’s probably not going to happen on an imminent level,” Jones added. “The two sides aren’t close. To me, I think if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen closer to training camp or the start of the season. If it doesn’t happen then, we’ll see what happens closer to the February trade deadline.”

There are more Jazz-related notes from the podcast:

  • Matching Mitchell’s salary of $30.35MM for next season becomes trickier if Rose’s $14.52MM contract isn’t involved. Scotto notes that Utah doesn’t want to take on long-term money, which eliminates Julius Randle ($23.76MM) and Evan Fournier ($18MM). Jones said the Jazz don’t have any interest in adding Randle and “I’m not sure there’s much of an appetite for (Cam) Reddish ($5.95MM).” He adds that the Jazz would rather keep Mitchell and hold onto a possible $36-$40MM in cap room for next summer than accept unwanted salary.
  • Looking at the rest of the roster, Jones believes Utah can easily find deals for Bojan Bogdanovic, Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley if the team decides to move them before the start of the season. He thinks there’s less of a market for Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley.
  • Udoka Azubuike may have the inside track to be the starting center if Utah trades Mitchell and commits to a youth movement, Jones adds. Sources tell Jones that Azubuike has been working with coaches in Salt Lake City all summer and has been showing improvement. First-round pick Walker Kessler would also be in the mix for the starting job. If the Jazz keep Mitchell and try to make the playoffs, Jones expects them to find a more experienced center in free agency.

Jazz Center Udoka Azubuike Done For Season After Surgery

Jazz center Udoka Azubuike underwent successful surgery on Friday to repair multiple ligaments in his right ankle and foot, the team announced. He’ll miss the rest of the 2021/22 season.

Azubuike appeared to suffer a dislocated ankle in a G League contest on March 10, his third right ankle injury in the past 13 months. He had a partially dislocated ankle back in November and a severe ankle sprain in February of 2021.

In 17 games this season, the second-year big man averaged 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per night while shooting 75.5% from the field. He appeared in just 15 games as a rookie last season, logging a total of 57 minutes.

After four seasons at Kansas, Azubuike was the 27th pick in the 2020 draft. Although his NBA run has been brief, the 22-year-old has shown flashes of upside — as Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune notes, Azubuike averaged 9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks over a six-game stretch between February 2-14.

Since Azubuike was behind Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside on Utah’s depth chart, his absence won’t have much of an impact on the team’s playoff push, but obviously it’s a tough setback for the young center and hopefully he’s able to recover quickly.

At 45-28, the Jazz are currently the No. 4 seed in the West, but their hold on that spot is tenuous, as the Mavs have an identical record and the No. 6 Nuggets and No. 7 Timberwolves trail the Jazz by 2.5 and 3.5 games, respectively.

Injury Notes: Lakers, Jazz, Bulls, Heat

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Anthony Davis is progressing each day as he inches closer to a return to action, as Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet tweets.

Anthony has had a good week … He’s had a productive week,” Vogel said.

Davis continues to do spot shooting, which began on Monday. Davis originally suffered a right foot strain on February 16, so he’s a little more than four weeks into his four-to-six week recovery timetable.

Lakers reserves Carmelo Anthony and Wayne Ellington were both unable to play on Friday at Toronto due to non-COVID illnesses, Trudell relays (via Twitter).

Talen Horton-Tucker missed the game as well, per Blake Murphy of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Horton-Tucker has been battling a Grade 2 ankle sprain.

Here are more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • The Jazz are dealing with a plethora of maladies at the moment. Six players were listed as out for Friday’s game against the Clippers, the team announced (Twitter link): Donovan Mitchell (right calf contusion), Bojan Bogdanovic (left calf strain), Danuel House (left knee bone bruise), Hassan Whiteside (non-COVID illness), Trent Forrest (right wrist sprain), and Udoka Azubuike (right ankle sprain).
  • Bulls coach Billy Donovan says Lonzo Ball has been experiencing discomfort in his rehab, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “He has not responded,” Donovan said. “There’s no setbacks. It’s still the same thing. He has not been able to do anything full speed. And anytime we get him close to that, there’s discomfort. So I think they’re going to probably at least look at, you know, ‘Do you back off and let him rest for a little bit and see if that helps?’” Johnson notes that Friday marked seven weeks since Ball underwent surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee, and given his lack of progress, it seems highly unlikely he’ll return in the six-to-eight week recovery timetable Chicago originally provided. Donovan said there’s been no talk of Ball missing the remainder of the season, but the team is still determining the next steps in his recovery process.
  • On a more positive note, Donovan said Patrick Williams has been a full participant in G League practices with the Windy City Bulls, with no setbacks. He also said there was a “very real” possibility that Williams could return to action versus Toronto on Monday or Milwaukee on Tuesday, Johnson tweets. Williams has been targeting a return next week; he’s been out since October due to wrist surgery.
  • Jimmy Butler (sprained right ankle) and Victor Oladipo (back spasms) both missed the Heat‘s 120-108 win over the Thunder on Friday, Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes. It’s the third time Butler has sprained his right ankle this season, Chiang notes, which is definitely a concerning trend. However, the injury isn’t considered serious. On the bright side, Caleb Martin (hyperextended left knee) and P.J. Tucker (left knee irritation) were both able to play after being listed as questionable. Martin had missed the past three games for the 47-24 Heat, who hold the No. 1 seed in the East.

Northwest Notes: Edwards, Wolves, Williams, Azubuike

Anthony Edwards returned this week after a four-game absence, but the tendinopathy in his left knee may force the Timberwolves guard to play with pain for the rest of the season, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Edwards, who sat out games for the first time in his NBA career, described the feeling as a “big knot just hurting, hurting, hurting.”

“It’s something that you can play through,” he said. “Certain people can play through it, but if you don’t have a certain tolerance for pain, you can’t play through that.”

Edwards is having a strong second season after finishing as the runner-up in Rookie of the Year balloting last year, but his numbers had been declining lately because of the sore knee. He said he usually felt fine at the beginning of games, but the pain would return quickly.

“It would start off good, then three to four minutes into the game, hurting, hurting, hurting for the rest of the game,” he said. “And I be in trouble because I can’t really do nothing, for real.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves could be headed to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and they may be aiming even higher next year, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Minnesota owns all its first-round picks moving forward, and sources tell Lowe that the Wolves are ready “to push some chips in” this summer. The team also faces an important decision on D’Angelo Russell, who will be eligible for a max extension in the offseason.
  • A depleted roster is a mixed blessing for several young Trail Blazers players, who are getting a chance to prove themselves at the NBA level but are also dealing with the embarrassment of frequent blowouts, notes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Portland has eight players who are 22 or younger, including two-way player Brandon Williams, who moved into the starting lineup this week after an injury to Anfernee Simons“When times get low, even when times get high, you can’t be nonchalant in this league because you have another game around the corner,” Williams said.
  • Jazz center Udoka Azubuike has suffered his third ankle injury in the past 13 months, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Azubuike appeared to dislocate his right ankle in the closing seconds of a G League game Thursday night.

Northwest Notes: Winslow, Thunder, Azubuike, Snyder, House

Blazers forward Justise Winslow made his debut with the team on Saturday, finishing with six points and seven rebounds off the bench in a loss to Milwaukee, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. It was Winslow’s first action since being acquired in a trade with the Clippers just 24 hours prior.

“He has been around a lot of different teams, and all the intel on him is really good,” head coach Chauncey Billups said. “Just a great dude, a winning player. Everybody who plays with him loves him. Those are the type of guys that you love.”

Portland acquired Winslow, Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick in the deal, sending out Norman Powell and Robert Covington. At 21-33, the team currently owns the 10th-best record in the Western Conference.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

COVID-19 Updates: White, Green, McLaughlin, Roby, Azubuike

Spurs guard Derrick White exited the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols last night, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). White suited up for San Antonio and logged 25 minutes off the bench in an eventual 101-94 victory over the Clippers on Saturday.

The 6’4″ combo guard out of Colorado shot 7-of-11 from the field and 2-of-4 from the free-throw line for a total of 19 points in the victory. He also chipped in four assists, four rebounds, a steal and three blocks. White is currently averaging 14.6 PPG, 5.4 APG and 3.5 RPG during his sixth NBA season with the 16-27 Spurs.

Here are more COVID-19 updates from around the NBA:

  • Nuggets reserve power forward JaMychal Green has entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The 31-year-old veteran is averaging 5.7 PPG and 3.7 RPG across 35 contests with the Jazz during the 2021/22 NBA season.
  • Timberwolves reserve point guard Jordan McLaughlin has entered the league’s coronavirus protocols and will be unavailable for Minnesota ahead of today’s contest against the Warriors, according to Minnesota’s PR team (Twitter link).
  • Thunder power forward Isaiah Roby has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (via Twitter). The 6’8″ big man was available to play in yesterday’s 107-102 loss to the Cavaliers, though he was ultimately a DNP – CD.
  • Jazz center Udoka Azubuike has cleared the protocols, tweets Ryan Miller of KSL.com. The 22-year-old seven-footer has appeared sparingly for Utah thus far this season, suiting up for just six games.