Udoka Azubuike

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.

Northwest Notes: DSJ, Zeller, Nuggets, Beverley, Azubuike, Kalaitzakis

The Trail Blazers will keep Dennis Smith Jr. on their roster through the salary guarantee date, ensuring that he receives his full salary for 2021/22, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Smith won a training camp battle to earn a regular season roster spot and has averaged 5.4 PPG and 3.3 APG in 19 games (17.2 MPG). While his shooting numbers (.396 FG%, .273 3PT%) are below his mediocre career rates, Smith has apparently made enough of an impress on the Trail Blazers to stick around as the team’s 14th man. He’ll earn a $1,789,256 salary ($1,669,178 cap hit) for the season.

Wojnarowski also provides another updates on the Trail Blazers, tweeting that center Cody Zeller is expected to be available vs. Cleveland on Friday night. Zeller, who hasn’t played since December 6, missed time due to a knee injury and a stint in the health and safety protocols, but it appears he’s been cleared to return on both fronts.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets forwards Jeff Green and Zeke Nnaji are no longer in the health and safety protocols, but two-way rookie Petr Cornelie has entered them, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Because the team still has one player in the COVID-19 protocols, hardship signee Davon Reed can remain active.
  • The Patrick Beverley trade has been a major coup for the Timberwolves, according to Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune, who says the veteran guard has been an “ideal leader” for the young team. Minnesota gave up Jarrett Culver and Juan Hernangomez to land Beverley.
  • Udoka Azubuike hasn’t played much for the Jazz since being selected with the 27th pick in the 2020 draft, but he logged a career-high 16 minutes in his first ever start on Wednesday in Denver, holding his own against Nikola Jokic. Tony Jones of The Athletic has the story on the young center’s unexpected showcase, which came with Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside unavailable. “I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little nervous,” Azubuike said. “I just came back from (an ankle) injury, and I’m playing against the MVP? That was a lot to process.”
  • Georgios Kalaitzakis, the 60th overall pick in the 2021 draft who was waived by Milwaukee earlier this season, has signed an NBA G League contract, as our JD Shaw recently reported (via Twitter). The 23-year-old Greek forward joined the Oklahoma City Blue and appeared in his first game with the Thunder‘s affiliate on Thursday.

Northwest Notes: Billups, Thunder, SGA, Azubuike

Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups was unhappy with his team’s effort after Thursday’s 31-point loss to the Spurs, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. It may have been the most frustrating defeat of the season for an 11-12 Portland team that is trying to gain traction in the Western Conference playoff race. The Blazers were missing star guard Damian Lillard, who is sidelined with an abdominal injury, and Nassir Little, who is nursing a sore ankle, but Billups doesn’t see their absences as an excuse for the blowout.

“My biggest concern I think at the moment is, I want us to compete harder,” he said. “I want us to compete in every game. And I don’t feel like every game we do that. I really don’t. I don’t feel like we do that every night. And that concerns me.”

Billups was particularly upset that his team didn’t execute the game plan against San Antonio, allowing the league’s worst three-point shooting team to hit 14-of-36 from beyond the arc. He also hinted that he will experiment with rotation changes based on competitive spirit.

“I’m willing to lose games that way,” Billups said. “I’ve ended games with lineups that people probably scratched their head at. But if I find guys that’s gonna compete, and have this winning spirit about them, I love it.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder made some unwanted NBA history Thursday night with the most lopsided loss since the league was formed, notes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said the 152-79 defeat against Memphis isn’t an accurate way to judge his team, which was on the second night of a back-to-back and played without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and several other players. “This isn’t indicative of who our team is, how we’ve competed all season from training camp all the way through the games,” Daigneault said. “It’s important I think to keep that in mind internally for us.”
  • Gilgeous-Alexander was placed in concussion protocol after being fouled twice on layups in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game, Mussatto adds. He had a headache on the Thunder’s flight to Memphis Wednesday night, then felt worse after waking up from a nap Thursday afternoon. Daigneault said he would have kept Gilgeous-Alexander at home if he realized he had suffered a concussion.
  • Jazz center Udoka Azubuike won’t need surgery on the dislocated right ankle he suffered last week, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Sources tell Todd that Azubuike will begin rehabbing the ankle, but the process may take most of the season.

Jazz Center Udoka Azubuike Injures Ankle In G League Game

Udoka Azubuike suffered a partially dislocated right ankle while playing for Utah’s G League affiliate Friday night, the Jazz announced (via Twitter).

The team’s medical staff determined that the second-year center has a subluxation in his right ankle, but initial X-rays didn’t show a fracture. Doctors will continue to review the MRI results to set a timetable for Azubuike’s recovery (Twitter link).

Azubuike was hurt in the first quarter of the Salt Lake City Stars’ game when he landed awkwardly after attempting to block a shot, according to Kyle Ireland of KSL Sports. Teammates had to help him off the court and into the locker room.

The Jazz made Azubuike the 27th overall pick in 2020, but he hasn’t seen much action at the NBA level. He played just 15 games as a rookie and has appeared in four so far this season, averaging 0.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in eight total minutes.

The 20-year-old also suffered a severe ankle sprain while playing in the G League bubble in February, Ireland notes. He didn’t recover until after the abbreviated G League season has ended. In six games with the Stars this season, he’s averaging 7.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per night.

Jazz Notes: Gobert, Ingles, Mitchell, Whiteside, Butler, Wade

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Pacers center Myles Turner engaged in a skirmish during Thursday’s game in Utah, briefly wrestling with one another after getting tangled up following a Gobert drive (video link).

As Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune details, the incident resulted in ejections for Gobert and Turner, as well as for Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell. Ingles was ejected for shoving referee Ed Malloy while trying to break up the fight; Mitchell was said to be “acting as an instigator and escalating the situation.” It’s unclear if any players will face suspensions as a result of the incident, but fines, at least, seem likely.

After the game, Mitchell and Gobert were focused more on the way the game was being officiated than concerns about forthcoming penalties. Gobert said referees are “allowing guys to do way too much s–t” this season and Mitchell agreed.

“It’s really at a point now, especially tonight, where the referees are allowing things to get out of hand,” Mitchell said, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “Both teams, we’re competitors and we’ll play through contact and talk s–t and do whatever. But at some point it’s continuing to build and you can sense that.”

Here’s more out of Utah:

  • Hassan Whiteside has been a great fit so far as the Jazz’s second-string center, Todd writes for The Deseret News. According to Todd, the veteran big man – who has been accused in the past of looking to pad his own stats – has embraced the team-first philosophy in Utah. “It’s so cool how close this team is, I haven’t been on a team that’s this close,” Whiteside said. “A lot of people say, ‘Hey we’re close team, hey we do this together.’ Nah. This is really like a close-knit group. It’s great. I love it.”
  • Rookie guard Jared Butler can expect to bounce back and forth between the NBA and the G League this season, as Todd outlines in a separate story for The Deseret News. The veteran-heavy Jazz won’t be making it a top priority to develop their young prospects at the NBA level, so Butler, Udoka Azubuike, and Elijah Hughes could all see reps for the Salt Lake City Stars when they’re not part of Utah’s rotation, says general manager Justin Zanik.
  • Dwyane Wade‘s position as a part-owner of the Jazz hasn’t diminished his Heat fandom, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Wade said he still “loves” his old team and would be rooting for them to win a championship if the Jazz don’t. “Miami, from a personal standpoint, I would love to see them win it all,” he said. “But I also would love to see us win it all. So, for me, it’s a win-win.”

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Azubuike, Olshey, Wolves

Hassan Whiteside‘s time with the Heat was often stormy, but he doesn’t hold any grudges against his former team, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Whiteside, who signed with the Jazz during the offseason, said he remains in contact with some of his ex-teammates.

“(Udonis Haslem), Bam (Adebayo), I still talk to them guys,” Whiteside said. “I even talk to (coach Eric Spoelstra). I told him, ‘Happy Father’s Day.’ I still talk to them guys. There are no hard feelings. We broke up. We were in a relationship and we broke up. I don’t hate nobody.”

Whiteside revived his career with Miami in 2014/15 after two years out of the league. He was the team’s starting center for five seasons, although he sometimes clashed with Spoelstra about playing time and his role on the team. He was traded to Portland in 2019 and is on his third team since that deal. In Utah, Whiteside has reunited with former teammate Dwyane Wade, who is a part owner of the Jazz.

“It’s a special feeling. Having D-Wade, seeing a familiar face like that,” Whiteside said. “He was a part of me even wanting to come to the Jazz. I don’t know what I would have been without D-Wade. D-Wade, I don’t think he knows how much he means to me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz picked up their third-year option last week on Udoka Azubuike, which shows they still have confidence in the first-round pick from 2020, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. General manager Justin Zanik admits Azubuike has been placed in a difficult situation. “Last year we drafted him, and four days later he shows up to camp and we’re asking of him, one; you’re not going to get any reps in the regular season because of the goals that we have as the veteran team, and two; nobody in college plays like us,” Zanik said. “The only way you can learn that is reps, but last year he had a major injury. He only played in one game.”
  • The “bully act” by Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey has been allowed to continue for too long, contends John Canzano of The Oregonian. The team has opened an investigation into Olshey amid accusations of a toxic work environment. Canzano states that Jody Allen deserves some of the blame for not controlling Olshey’s behavior during the three years she has owned the team.
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic examines the issues that have caused the Timberwolves to go into a four-game tailspin after a 3-1 start. Krawczynski notes that teams have discovered Minnesota doesn’t have enough shooters to make them pay for doubling Karl-Anthony Towns, while Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels have hit rough spots after strong rookie seasons.