Victor Oladipo

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Oladipo, Gobert, Burks

ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy believes the Thunder should seriously consider playing Russell Westbrook the entire game during the postseason, as he told Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman. The Thunder outscored the Rockets in Game 2 by 11 points in the 41 minutes that Westbrook played. Westbrook’s 51-point, 10-rebound, 13-assist effort was wasted in a 115-111 loss that gave Houston a 2-0 series lead. Oklahoma City is better off with Westbrook staying on the court even if he wears down as the game goes on, Van Gundy told Bracht. “I think he gives them a better chance even if he is diminished somewhat due to fatigue by playing the whole game,” Van Gundy said. “Maybe it will be different at home, but the dropoff is huge.”

In other playoff developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan doesn’t want Victor Oladipo‘s shooting woes to affect his overall game, the Associated Press reports. The shooting guard is averaging 8.5 PPG and shooting 19% from the field through the first two playoff games. Donovan wants Oladipo to realize his defense and rebounding are also important. “Victor’s not a one-dimensional player — he can do a lot of different things,” Donovan said. “Taking his mindset off the ball going in the basket, and him realizing, ‘I’m not going to allow myself to be defined by that because there’s too many other things I can do out there to help this team.'”
  • Forward Doug McDermott was a bright spot for the Thunder in Game 2, as he scored 11 points in 14 minutes. “I knew I could have an impact on this series,” McDermott told Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “I know my shot’s always gonna be there, and they have to respect that.”
  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert will remain sidelined for Game 3 of the series against the Clippers, according to another AP story. He hyperextended his left knee and suffered a bone contusion in the opening minute of the series. The Jazz were outscored 60-38 in the paint in Game 2 while going with a smaller lineup most of the way.
  • The Jazz will also be without shooting guard Alec Burks for Game 3, the team’s PR department tweets. Burks received a platelet-rich plasma injection into his left knee on Thursday. Burks, who averaged 6.7 PPG in 15.5 MPG over 42 games during the regular season, has not appeared in the series.

Northwest Notes: Mudiay, Jokic, Oladipo

It wasn’t long ago when Emmanuel Mudiay was being touted as a key component of the Nuggets franchise. One year later, his future with the organization is uncertain, says Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post.

Over the course of the 2016/17 campaign, the second-year guard has seen his role in Denver shrink. In the eight games since the All-Star break, Mudiay has seen action just three times. It’s a precipitous drop for a 21-year-old once taken with the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft but an understandable one considering the stable of young talent on the Nuggets roster.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division.

  • The Timberwolves are running out of times to sneak into the Western Conference playoff picture, Jerry Zgoda of the StarTribune writes. With just 17 games left in the season, the Wolves will have to leapfrog three teams and make up 3.5 games in the standings.
  • After missing a pair of games with a flu, Nikola Jokic returned to action for the Nuggets. “I can still feel it in my chest, and my throat is a little sore when I start coughing,” Jokic told Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. “It feels really good to be back.”
  • Though he missed six games resting his back, the time off helped Victor Oladipo in more ways than one, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman writes. “It was amazing for my wrist, actually,” Oladipo said. “I’m not one to complain. It wasn’t 100 percent, but that rest kind of helped it out a little bit. It’s a lot better now.”

Northwest Notes: Stephenson, Hayward, Ezeli, Cole

After appearing in four games with Minnesota earlier this season, Lance Stephenson appears likely to rejoin the team on a second 10-day contract. According to Jon Krawczynski‏ of The Associated Press, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Stephenson is “coming along” in his recovery from an ankle sprain and should sign a new contract soon (Twitter link). Injuries have sidelined Stephenson’s 2016/17 campaign; “Born Ready” has played in a combined 10 games with the Pelicans and Wolves. 

More from around the Northwest…

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that Gordon Hayward is “one of the most coveted upcoming free agents” that no one is noticing. Hayward, who is expected to decline his 2017/18 player option, has averaged a career-high 22.1 points per game, helping the Jazz maintain a comfortable hold on the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Hayward doesn’t register on casual fans’ radars, O’Connor writes, but the seventh-year wing “might be the key to unlocking Utah’s title chances.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman answered some questions about the Thunder for his online chat. Tramel called Domantas Sabonis “one of the few bright spots” in a recent loss to the Suns, with the caveat that he will soon be moved to the bench. Similarly, Tramel forecasts a move to the bench for Alex Abrines once Victor Oladipo returns from injury. When it comes to the offseason, Tramel writes “OKC doesn’t have the flexibility to sign a big free agent. It would have to do some kind of sign-and-trade deal, and the Thunder doesn’t have the kind of assets (draft picks) to pull that off. Plus, you have to convince free agents to come. So the likelihood is not strong that the Thunder can change the roster via big-name free agent.”
  • Festus Ezeli‘s season-ending surgery will involve tissue from a cadaver donor, Tim Brown of The Oregonian writes. Per Brown, Ezeli received bone marrow injections in his left knee in August, with the intention of helping him play in 2016/17. It would be pretty surprising to see the Trail Blazers exercise Ezeli’s $7.733MM option for 2017/18.
  • Norris Cole, who has scored 13 points over three games with the Thunder, is “learning on the job,” Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. “I think for him, being pressured and coming into a new system and a new style and having to be a point guard and run the team, it was a difficult task for him,” Billy Donovan said of Cole. “These are the moments I think that will probably help him get better. He’s a veteran guy. He’s smart, he’s bright and he’ll be able to get better from this.”

Northwest Notes: Cole, Oladipo, Nurkic, Davis

Veteran point guard Norris Cole is thrilled to be back in the NBA after nearly a year away from the league, writes Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman. The Thunder signed Cole for the rest of the season on Wednesday, giving them a veteran point guard to back up Russell Westbrook. The job belonged to rookie Semaj Christon when the season started while Cameron Payne was rehabbing from a foot injury. Christon got it back again when Payne was traded to the Bulls last week. Now Oklahoma City has a more experienced option in Cole, who saw plenty of playoff action during his three and a half seasons in Miami. “I think he understands what he’s walking into and what he’s got to do,” said coach Billy Donovan. “And it will take some time. I think he understands that. Just need him to run our team when he’s in there, make good decisions, defend – all the things he’s done for most of his career.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Donovan isn’t worried that Victor Oladipo‘s back injury will become a long-term problem, Dawson tweets. Oladipo missed his fourth straight game with back spasms Thursday night, but the coach believes it’s just a muscular issue and the recovery time is normal.
  • Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic made a powerful impression Thursday in his first home game since being acquired in a trade with the Nuggets, notes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Nurkic put up  18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals, making him the first Portland player ever to reach all those numbers in a single game. “I feel great to be here, excited every day to spent with those guys in this city,” Nurkic said. “They give me a lot of opportunity when I came here, so I just try to play and have fun. I know who I am… I know I’m going to be on the court. I just go there and play.”
  • Blazers big man Ed Davis discusses his decision to have season-ending shoulder surgery with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian and says he will definitely be ready for the start of next season.

Northwest Notes: Motiejunas, LaVine, Nurkic, Oladipo

The Timberwolves had planned to work out free agent forward Donatas Motiejunas, but the Pelicans swooped in before that could happen, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Minnesota brought Motiejunas into town, but his agreement with New Orleans stopped a planned meeting and workout session. “His agent cancelled and we never got a chance to sit down with him,” said Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau. The Rockets drafted Motiejunas in 2011 with a pick they acquired from Minnesota. He spent four seasons in Houston before becoming a restricted free agent over the summer.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Wolves guard Zach LaVine has become a candidate for Most Improved Player, contends Shams Charania of The Vertical. The third-year guard has raised his scoring average from 14.0 to 21.1 points per game and has become an important part of what Thibodeau calls the team’s “core three” along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Charania added that owner Glen Taylor plans to commit financially to keeping all three.
  • Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic has vowed to be professional about his reduced role, even though he’s clearly unhappy with the arrangement, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Nurkic started the season’s first 25 games, but even then he didn’t always get starters’ minutes. Nurkic shared time with Nikola Jokic and only once topped 30 minutes in a game. His playing time has been cut even further since the Nuggets got healthier, and he was stuck on the bench for four straight games last week. “For sure it’s tough,” Nurkic said. “I’m 23 years old. I’m not here to sit on the bench. I’m here to play basketball. And it’s a tough decision for me, from a starting spot and 20 minutes to four straight [games of not playing]. … You control what you control, and I let my agent do the rest of the stuff.” The Nuggets have already exercised Nurkic’s option for 2017/18 at nearly $3MM.
  • Victor Oladipo returned to the Thunder lineup Saturday after a nine-game absence, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Oladipo hadn’t played since spraining his right wrist in a December 11th game.

Northwest Notes: Hill, Burks, Oladipo, Wolves

George Hill, who has been sidelined with a toe injury, could return as soon as Thursday against the Sixers, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link). The Jazz traded for Hill during the offseason, but the point guard has only been able to play in 11 contests due to injuries.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Alec Burks is making strides toward getting back on the court and the Jazz are excited to have the shooting guard back at practice, Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune writes. This week was the first time Burks practiced since breaking his ankle last season.
  • Victor Oladipo remains out of the lineup, but the Thunder are viewing his absence as an opportunity to evaluate the team’s depth, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman passes along. “We’ve found maybe different things that we can do that maybe we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore, to experiment with,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Hopefully when he gets back, his absence has made us better and helped our team grow in a way that we can continue to move in a positive direction.”
  • Jordan Hill hasn’t played much since joining the Wolves, but he remains optimistic about his role in the organization and the team’s future, as Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune writes. “In a couple years, man, I feel this team will definitely be a surprise,” Hill said.
  • Coach Tom Thibodeau is having trouble finding minutes for Brandon Rush, whom the Wolves signed in the offseason, Youngblood relays in the same piece. “It’s tough to play 10 guys,” Thibodeau said. “We’re settled in a rotation right now. But that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. He’s a good pro, works hard every day.”

Injury Notes: Nance, Nowitzki, Parsons, Oladipo

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. has a bone bruise in his left knee and will be out indefinitely, the team announced on its website. He suffered the injury Tuesday in Charlotte. Nance had an MRI today to confirm the injury, but further results were limited because of swelling. He will be re-evaluated Sunday, and the Lakers plan to issue an update on availability after that examination. Nance has played in 28 of the team’s 31 games this season, all off the bench.

There’s more injury news from around the NBA:

  • Dirk Nowitzki won’t play tonight, but the Mavericks hope to have him back soon, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Nowitzki is almost fully recovered from a strained right Achilles and could play Friday against the Clippers or Monday against the Pelicans. “I’ll probably get a good workout tonight and see how it responds,” Nowitzki said. “I’ll probably get my first practice [Thursday] and see how it feels, basically go from day to day. It’s been encouraging. It hasn’t gotten worse from some of the stuff we’ve been doing. Hopefully, I’ll be out there soon.”
  • Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons is active for tonight’s game with the Pistons, tweets Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Parsons, who was still recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee when the season started, has appeared in just six games. He suffered a bone bruise on his left knee shortly after returning.
  • Thunder guard Victor Oladipo says his injured right wrist is improving, but he will sit out his fifth straight game tonight, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Despite his optimism, coach Billy Donovan said there has been “no change at all in terms of what he can and can’t do” since suffering the injury in a December 11th game. “He is getting better,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to come across like he’s not. There is improvement there, but it’s not at a point where he can do enough in terms of catching, passing, shooting, playing right now.”
  • Back tightness forced Hawks center Dwight Howard to sit out tonight for the second straight game, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution“It’s a lot better than it was a couple days ago,” Howard said. “It continues to get better.” Howard, who signed a three-year, $70.5MM deal with the Hawks in July, has had back issues before. In 2014/15, back and knee problems limited him to 41 games with the Rockets.
  • The Jazz expect to have point guard George Hill back in the lineup soon, although it may not happen until next week, report Aaron Falk and Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Hill went through an intense workout Tuesday as he tries to overcome a sprained toe that has sidelined him for nearly a month.
  • Wizards center Ian Mahinmi had platelet-rich plasma treatments on both knees this morning, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Knee problems have limited him to just one game after signing a four-year, $64MM contract this summer.

Victor Oladipo Won’t Require Surgery

Victor Oladipo injured his right wrist when he took a hard fall to the court during the Thunder’s December 11 game against Boston, and hasn’t played since then, with the team losing three of its four games in his absence. According to head coach Billy Donovan, Oladipo still “can’t do anything with his right hand right now,” but he won’t need to go under the knife to fix the problem, per Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.

“Based on the MRI he went through, based on our medical team consulting with the doctor, there’s no need for surgery,” Donovan said. “He’s got swelling. He’s got discomfort. He has a lack of mobility. He has pain when he’s in certain positions. … My understanding is that if he really forces this thing and tries to come back too fast, it could be something that’s going to be prolonged.”

As the Thunder wait for one of their primary backcourt playmakers to get healthy, they also may getting closer to welcoming back another. A weekend report indicated that Cameron Payne, who has yet to make his 2016/17 debut due to a broken foot, has a chance to return before the end of the calendar year, perhaps on December 29 against his hometown Grizzlies. However, Donovan responded to that report by telling reporters, including Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman, that there’s still no specific timetable for Payne’s return.

“I’ve not heard [that Payne will debut on December 29] or anything else like that, and I know that our medical staff wouldn’t do that, because there’s steps that he has to go through in order ever to be cleared to play,” Donovan said on Sunday, per Dawson. “He’s at a point where he’s doing more. Certainly he’s feeling fine. I think that the recovery and rehabilitation is going well. There’s been no setbacks to where we want him to be.”

With Oladipo and Payne out of the lineup, the Thunder have been leaning even more heavily on Russell Westbrook, who poured in 46 points on Monday night after recording a triple-double with 22 assists on Saturday.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Lucas, Oladipo, Blazers

Managing expectations is one of the challenges Tom Thibodeau faces in his first year as coach of the Timberwolves, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Many observers thought Minnesota was poised to become playoff contender with a proven coach joining forces with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. But the Wolves have started slow, winning just seven of their first 25 games, and Thibodeau keeps reminding them to ignore outside influences. “Those are all projections,” he said. “Sometimes they’re high and sometimes they’re low. The thing is not to get wrapped up in that and to understand where you are and the improvement you have to make. Also, every year is different. Teams change. Personnel changes on every team and you have to understand what goes into winning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran Wolves guard John Lucas III is squaring off against his father tonight for the first time in his NBA career, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Lucas III earned a roster spot in Minnesota in the preseason, while the elder Lucas serves as head of player development for the Rockets.“It’s good to see him being back doing the thing he loves to do, being around the game. He’s enjoying it. I like seeing him back out there, passing on his knowledge,” Lucas III said.
  • The Thunder’s only plan regarding Victor Oladipo‘s injury is to re-evaluate him every day, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Oladipo hasn’t played since suffering a wrist sprain Sunday, and no timetable has been set for his return“I think a lot of times people want to know when he’s gonna be back, and to be honest with you, we don’t know,” said coach Billy Donovan. “I’m not saying he’s gonna be out for months. I’m not saying weeks or days. But I think what happens is, if you say, ‘He’s gonna be back this day’ and he’s not, people start to draw conclusions.”
  • The Trail Blazers need to turn some of their frontcourt surplus into a swingman who can play defense or a big man who can score, writes Josh Martin of Bleacher Report. He mentions Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard as possible trade candidates.

Thunder Notes: Donovan On Adams, Oladipo

Steven Adams is struggling this season and Erik Horne of The Oklahoman examines what is causing the lack of production. Horne believes that the Thunder’s lack of perimeter shooting is clogging the lane, which severely hurts the team’s pick-and-roll offense. Adams enjoyed great spacing last season with Durant drawing away defenders, but this season, defenders are having an easier time denying passing lanes without having to worry about defending one of the league’s best shooters on the wing.

Adams, who signed a four-year, $100MM extension with the team prior to the season, has been playing with an injured hand recently, but he downplayed the injury after a disappointing game against Houston last week. “It was just that I sucked pretty much,” Adams said. “That’s what the bottom line is.”

Here’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Coach Billy Donovan believes the disappointment in Adams’ play comes as a result of outlandish expectations, Horne relays in the same piece. “For people to say ‘this is the expectation, he’s gonna be a 16 [points] and 10 [rebounds] guy’ now when that’s not who he’s ever been, we need Steven to be who Steven’s always been,”  Donovan said. “When he does that, it really impacts our team.”  Adams is averaging 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Thunder this season.
  • New addition Victor Oladipo has been the team’s back-up point guard with Semaj Christon missing action because of a concussion and the Thunder are impressed with his play, Horne writes in a separate piece.  “The last few games, the results have been really positive for him,” Donovan said. Oladipo signed four-year, $84MM extension with the team last month.
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