Tagged in: Oklahoma city

Orlando Magic make Duke’s Paolo Banchero No. 1 pick in 2022 NBA draft

After months of speculation, Duke’s Paolo Banchero was a surprise selection by the Orlando Magic with the top overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center.

The Oklahoma City Thunder started a busy first round by taking Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren with the second pick, then got 11th pick Ousmane Dieng of France in a trade with the New York Knicks and took Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams at No. 12.

Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. went No. 3 overall to the Houston Rockets.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Smith had been widely expected to be the top selection. But the Magic turned things upside down by taking Banchero, who sported a bright purple suit with sequins, along with even brighter shoes, as he took to the stage and shook hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“I had a feeling, from the information I was being told, that it was just kind of up in the air,” Banchero told ESPN of going first. “Orlando wasn’t really sure yet, and just to be ready for whatever.

“I didn’t find out, though, that I was actually getting picked until about 20 seconds before the commissioner got on the stage. I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just kind of happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready. I’m ready.”

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Banchero, a 6-foot-10 forward from Duke, averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists across 39 games for the Blue Devils, who reached the Final Four before losing to their forever rival in North Carolina.

Banchero, who might be the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft, will now be looked to as the anchor of Orlando’s nascent rebuild, which includes guards Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, forwards Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac and center Wendell Carter Jr.

While Banchero was a surprise at No. 1, Holmgren was always expected to go to Oklahoma City with the second pick. A 7-footer from Gonzaga, Holmgren flashed a wide array of skills in his lone season in college, averaging 14.1 points on 60% shooting overall and 39% from 3-point range while grabbing 9.9 rebounds and blocking 3.7 shots in 26.9 minutes across 32 games.

Oklahoma City now has an interior anchor to go with its promising young backcourt of rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Australian Josh Giddey, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft and a first-team All-Rookie selection.

The Thunder also got Dieng, the 11th pick, by sending three conditional first-round picks to the Knicks. Dieng, who turned 19 last month, averaged 8.8 points for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League this past campaign.

Oklahoma City then took Williams with the 12th pick, making him the first player drafted from Santa Clara since Hall of Famer Steve Nash in 1996. And the Thunder rounded out their first-round selections by taking UCLA’s Peyton Watson with pick No. 30.

Smith, a sweet-shooting 6-foot-10 forward from Auburn, averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 42% from behind the 3-point arc. After drafting Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba in the first round of last year’s draft, the Rockets kept their rebuild in the wake of moving on from franchise icon James Harden at the start of the 2021-22 season by selecting Smith. Houston also took LSU forward Tari Eason with the 17th pick.

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LeBron James to miss ‘at least one week’ because of abdominal strain

Lakers superstar LeBron James is expected to miss “at least one week” because of an abdominal strain, a source told ESPN on Thursday.

James was ruled out for Thursday’s match versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, and another source familiar with the injury told ESPN that the Lakers’ medical staff “wants to take their time” with James’ recovery.

“Anytime LeBron’s out and he’s going to miss some time there’s obviously concern,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before Thursday’s game.

“Hopefully this is something that’s minimal, and hopefully he’ll be back soon.” James, a 19-year veteran who turns 37 next month, has already missed two of the Lakers’ first eight games through their 5-3 start to the season because of a sore right ankle.

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James aggravated his ab injury, which the team is calling a rectus abdominis strain, in Tuesday’s 119-117 victory over the Houston Rockets, sources told ESPN.

In the fourth quarter of the Rockets’ win, James started to feel the injury but was unaware of what caused it.

“When he came over to the bench he just said he felt something pulling, was able to finish the game, but then obviously discovered there was something there after the game,” Vogel said.

Vogel stated the injury is unrelated to the groin tear that caused James to miss 27 games during the 2018-19 season.

Vogel added that James’ early-season injuries have not changed the team’s approach to protecting him for the long haul.

“Not any different than in years past,” Vogel said. “We want to be responsible with his minutes … get to the finish line as healthy as possible but also as in rhythm as possible. And that’s a balance that we strike throughout the year.”

James is averaging 24.8 points on 46.7% shooting — his lowest percentage since his rookie year — along with 7 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Los Angeles travels to Portland to play the Trail Blazers on Saturday, followed by home games versus the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, Miami Heat on Wednesday and Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

L.A. will start DeAndre Jordan, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley and Kent Bazemore against the Thunder. “Obviously you can’t replace what LeBron does,” Vogel said, “but everybody else has to do what they do better and you have to start that way.”

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Los Angeles Lakers intend to acquire Dennis Schroder from Oklahoma City Thunder

Ahead of the lifting of the transaction window on Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers intend to obtain Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder, sources told ESPN.

The deal can be formally agreed to in principle Monday and finalized after the NBA draft on Wednesday night.

As part of the trade, the Lakers are preparing to send the player they select with the 28th overall pick and guard Danny Green to the Thunder, sources said.

Los Angeles cannot outright send the draft pick to Oklahoma City because there is a rule that restricts teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years. Los Angeles sent the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 draft to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade.

The Thunder already own the 25th pick in Wednesday’s draft.

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Schroder, 27, has been one of the most sought-after guards in the trade market, and he fortifies a Lakers backcourt that potentially could lose veteran guards Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in free agency.

Schroder has one year and $15.5 million left on his contract and would be acquired with the intention of eventually signing him to a new contract to stay with the defending NBA champions, sources said.

Oklahoma City got Schroder in 2018 from the Hawks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony and a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick. If the pick doesn’t convey, it turns into two second-rounders, which is an increasingly likely scenario given the Thunder’s rebuilding plan beginning in action.

Schroder finished runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year last campaign, becoming a key component to one of the best combinations in the NBA, a three-point-guard lineup alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Though he excelled in his role, averaging 18.9 points and 4.0 assists, Schroder was never shy about his wish to return to the starting lineup and the Lakers are poised to give him that chance.

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Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni: Russell Westbrook’s quad healing, but still no timetable for return

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni still uncertain of when or if All-Star guard Russell Westbrook will be available during the team’s first-round series versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.

D’Antoni said before Tuesday’s 123-108 Game 1 victory that Westbrook’s strained right quadriceps is healing, but the team does not have a specific timetable for his return.
“Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in,” D’Antoni said.

“He’s getting a lot better,” D’Antoni said. “The good news: it’s healing. We’ll just have to wait and see. I really don’t know at this point. Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in.” Westbrook was programmed to undergo an MRI on Tuesday, and the results were not immediately revealed.

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Westbrook, who was a late arrival to the NBA’s Walt Disney World Resort campus because he tested positive for COVID-19, felt soreness in his right quadriceps after the Rockets’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Aug. 4.

He sat out the next two games because of a right quad contusion, according to the team.

Russ’s absence will be a tough one for the Rockets to cope with. His ability to use dribble penetration and generate open 3-pointers for others on the team is unparalleled across the NBA. The Rockets rely on heavy doses of 3-point shooting.

Westbrook played 28 minutes in Houston’s Aug. 11 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, recording 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. The Rockets revealed the next day that an MRI had revealed that Westbrook had a strained muscle in his quad.

A nine-time All-Star acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Thunder last summer, Westbrook has averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in his first season with the Rockets.

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