Udoka Azubuike

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.

Northwest Notes: Simons, Conley, Azubuike, Z. Wade

Trail Blazers forward Anfernee Simons has really started to blossom during his fourth year, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic.

A lot of Simons’ improvement appears to be a credit to his commitment to offseason workouts with longtime trainer Phil Beckner. One of Portland’s many undersized guards, Simons is averaging career highs of 12.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.4 APG and 22.8 MPG through his first five games during the 2021/22 season.

“Usually, he would train with me here and there,” Beckner said. “And at the start of the summer he wanted to know where I was going to be. I told him either Phoenix or Portland. So I asked him where he was going to be. His answer: ‘Wherever you are at.”’

“Everybody kept telling me, ‘My time is coming. My time is coming …’ and I wanted to be prepared,” Simons said. “New coach, new opportunity, and I wanted to be prepared as much as possible to show I’m ready for it. So that was my whole thing this summer: follow Phil around and get better each day.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • 34-year-old veteran Jazz point guard Mike Conley sat out his first game of the season yesterday, a 107-99 loss to the Bulls in which the Jazz desperately could have used Conley’s leadership, in a conscientious load management decision from head coach Quin SnyderEric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune details Utah’s thinking. “It’s more of a holistic decision, and one that we think is the best for our team and for Mike,” Snyder said. “I think, given the choice, he’d try to play every back-to-back. But I’m not gonna let him do that.” Conley is set to return tonight against the Bucks, per Jazz.com.
  • Newly-installed Jazz general manager Justin Zanik addressed the decision to pick up the team’s 2022/23 option on intriguing second-year center Udoka Azubuike, writes Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune. “I was very happy with him in the summer and the work that he’s done,” Zanik said. “It’s just really hard to be in game-type shape when you’re not playing games.” Azubuike appeared in just 15 contests as a rookie.
  • 19-year-old rookie guard Zaire Wade, selected with the tenth pick in the NBA G League draft by the Salt Lake City Stars, G League affiliate to the Jazz, acknowledged grappling with detractors in his entrance to the pro ranks, writes Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. His father, future Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade, is a part-owner of the Jazz. “I think a lot of people think that I’m not a hard-working kid and things get handed to me,” Zaire said. “Nothing’s handed to me. Coach said he noticed after the first day I stepped here, I’m just working hard trying to earn everything myself. I’m trying to make a name for myself.”

Jazz Exercise 2022/23 Option On Udoka Azubuike

The Jazz have picked up their 2022/23 third-year option on Udoka Azubuike, the team announced in a press release.

The Jazz selected Azubuike with their first-round pick (27th overall) in the 2020 draft. As a second-year former first round pick, his salary is fully guaranteed this season. Exercising the team option means his salary for next season will be guaranteed as well. Azuibuike will earn $2,174,880 in ’22/23.

Azubuike, a hulking center with a massive 7’7″ wingspan, appeared in just 15 games as a rookie last season, averaging 1.1 points and 0.9 rebounds in 3.8 minutes per game.

He most recently saw action during 2021 Summer League, averaging 13.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in three games in Salt Lake City, and 13.8 points, 8.8 boards and 2.5 blocks in four contests in Las Vegas.

Azubuike figures to see a lot of time in the G League this season, as the Jazz have three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Rudy Gobert at starting center, with Hassan Whiteside as backup.

All decisions on rookie scale options for 2022/23 are due by Monday, Nov. 1. We’re tracking them right here.

Western Notes: Azubuike, Jackson, Wright, Green

Jazz 2020 first-round selection, big man Udoka Azubuike, was hampered by a severe ankle sprain in his rookie campaign, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. Azubuike suffered the injury during the Salt Lake City Stars’ first game in the G League bubble last season. “It was tough, it was really tough for me going through that injury, that process,” Azubuike said. “Not being out on the court practicing or learning, doing what a regular rookie like me would do.” He’ll likely compete for backup center minutes this season with veteran acquisition Hassan Whiteside.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The King’s young players are not the only ones going through a learning process during summer league action. Bobby Jackson, the team’s summer league coach, is also gaining valuable experience, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. “I can get better in late-game situations, understanding who to have on the floor, the substitutions, all the stuff that comes with it,” Jackson said. “But me and my stuff, just like the players have to do a better job, we’ve got to do a better job of making sure we have the right personnel on the floor. But it’s a growing experience for me, I love it.” Jackson was also recently named the head coach of the G League’s Stockton Kings.
  • McKinley Wright IV received a two-way deal from the Timberwolves last week. The former Colorado standout grew up in Minnesota and is thrilled to play in his home state, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I didn’t know that I was going to be coming home,” Wright said. “I didn’t know that Minnesota was this interested in me. … I told my family, ‘We didn’t hear my name called how we initially planned, but this is better for me, going undrafted, betting on myself, and I continue to look forward to proving people wrong.”
  • Jeff Green’s versatile offensive game, which is built around 3-point shooting and elite finishing around the rim, should be a major boost for the Nuggets’ second unit, Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website writes. The veteran big man signed a two-year deal with Denver in free agency.

Jazz Rumors: Lindsey, Snyder, Azubuike, Wade, Ainge, Battier

Dennis Lindsey‘s transition from his executive VP of basketball operations position with the Jazz into an advisory role was framed as Lindsey’s call, but it was more of an ownership decision, according to Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

As Larsen and Walden explain in an in-depth story, new Jazz owner Ryan Smith is making some changes to the front office — director of pro player personnel David Fredman was also told this week that his contract isn’t being renewed.

One factor in the decision to reassign Lindsey was a “long-running disconnect” between the executive and head coach Quin Snyder, per the Tribune’s report. According to Larsen and Walden, Lindsey and Snyder had numerous disagreements both on and off the court, including not seeing eye to eye on rotation and roster decisions. Snyder – along with many members of the front office – were frustrated by the selection of Udoka Azubuike in the first round of the 2020 draft, per Larsen and Walden.

Given Utah’s success during the 2020/21 season, Lindsey and Snyder were on better terms during the last year, but several people in the organization still felt that this week’s announcement reflected a feud being settled. “Quin won,” one source told The Tribune.

Here’s more on the Jazz’s front office shakeup:

  • While Lindsey is now an advisor in the Jazz’s front office, there’s an expectation that he’ll seek a job with another team, according to Larsen and Walden.
  • Dwyane Wade has “added his voice” to front office discussions, but isn’t taking a day-to-day role in basketball and roster decisions, per Larsen and Walden.
  • If former Celtics executive Danny Ainge joins the Jazz, it will likely be in an advisory role, says Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Jones, Larsen, and Walden all say more front office additions are expected. Multiple reporters, including Jones, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggest that Wade’s former teammate Shane Battier is one candidate to join the basketball operations department. Battier worked in the Heat’s front office from 2017-21, but recently left that position and is now just a consultant for Miami.