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NEW ORLEANS – Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was expecting the worst when it ended up being between him and two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry for the final starting guard spot among Western Conference All-Stars. Instead of asking for a heads-up on the result, Gilgeous-Alexander preferred to learn the verdict from live TV just like any other NBA fan.

“So, that just leaves us one more All-Star starter in the backcourt,” Ernie Johnson, host of Inside the NBA on TNT, said calmly on Jan. 25. “Starting guard … Joining Luka Dončić in the backcourt. Shai … Gilgeous… Alexander.”

The two-time NBA All-Star was named a first-time starter for the 2024 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 18 in Indianapolis.

“With selection stuff like that and awards, I don’t like for people to tell me before,” Gilgeous-Alexander told Andscape after scoring 31 points in a 107-83 road win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 26. “I like to be surprised. I was excited. I thought Steph was going to get it. But I was excited.”

Elite success didn’t happen overnight. The Canadian was traded once by the LA Clippers and received his first All-Star starting nod in his sixth season. Entering Wednesday’s game against the defending champion Denver Nuggets, the slender 6-foot-6, 180-pounder was third in the NBA in scoring (31.1 points per game on 54.5% shooting) while adding 5.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game.

“This season he is having is nothing to take lightly …,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “When you zoom out at what he has done this [season], and there is a lot of season left, it’s impressive. The thing that I’ve mentioned many times this season and go back to is he does it inside the team. His success impacts the whole and somehow creates space for other guys to elevate, improve and rock out a little bit.”

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Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić (left) looks for an opening against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right) at American Airlines Center on Dec. 2, 2023, in Dallas.

Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Through three fan voting returns, Gilgeous-Alexander was actually in third place in the West’s backcourt voting results behind Curry and the Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić. But Gilgeous-Alexander jumped forward to surpass the widely popular Curry to land the final starting guard spot alongside Dončić after leading in media and player votes. Gilgeous-Alexander is the Thunder’s first All-Star Game starter since Paul George in 2019.

There’s still room for growth in terms of Gilgeous-Alexander’s popularity, as the 25-year-old wasn’t among the NBA’s top-selling jerseys for the first half of the season. But playing in small-market Oklahoma City has not kept NBA players, media and fans from viewing this exciting 25-year-old as a top-10 player in the league now.

“I’m sure there’s people on every team voting for him because there’s not a night where it’s like he wasn’t an All-Star,” Thunder forward Chet Holmgren said. “He brings it every night and that’s huge for us. He’s going to continue to do that for a long time.”

When asked about Gilgeous-Alexander’s All-Star starter selection, Thunder forward Jalen Williams simply said: “Duh! That’s all I got.”

Gilgeous-Alexander has checked NBA All-Star and starter off his list, but the elite NBA stars are always viewed by the success they have in the postseason. Such is still a work in progress for this Thunder star, but there is new hope in Oklahoma City.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s playoff experience includes two first-round exits and a 1-1 record in the NBA Play-In Tournament last season, but Oklahoma City had the Western Conference’s third-best record entering Wednesday at 32-15. The Thunder’s roster also includes Holmgren, a Rookie of the Year candidate, the hot-scoring Williams and a potential West All-Star coach and NBA Coach of the Year candidate in Daigneault.

Holmgren credited the Thunder’s unselfishness and executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti “putting the right guys in the locker room.”

“The focus is on winning,” Holmgren told Andscape. “Everyone has bought into winning basketball games. And that’s something that gets a lot easier when you see the work that everybody puts in and you’re able to build that trust. We’re young.

“We haven’t been playing together for a long time. But everyone trusts each other. We’re all in it together trying to do the right thing.”

Said Daigneault: “Last [season] at times and even before that there was an uncommon consistency to the team even in our losing seasons. I thought there was an uncommon poise with the team last [season] where we were able to compete and win some of them. This [season] has been a continuation and build on that as we continued to improve and add good players to the roster.”

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From left to right: Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, center Chet Holmgren, wing Jalen Williams and guard Luguentz Dort celebrate during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Paycom Center on Jan. 11 in Oklahoma City.

Joshua Gateley/Getty Images

Gilgeous-Alexander said the Thunder are improving daily, control their own destiny and can be “as good as we want to be.”

So, do the Thunder have championship potential?

“You can’t look that far ahead because you’ll miss what really matters which is getting better every day,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That is so far away, but there are so many other things that we have to take care of before that.”

The mild-mannered Gilgeous-Alexander is known for being loud with his fashion. Named GQ’s Most Stylish NBA Player and GQ’s Most Stylish Man of the Year in 2022, he wore swanky brown colored sunglasses, three gold chains bearing crosses and a posh brown leather bomber jacket after beating the Pelicans last week. Gilgeous-Alexander also is a spokesperson with commercials for underwear brand Skims. Off the court, he loves to rib his co-workers.

On the court, however, Gilgeous-Alexander is a smooth scorer who lets his game do the talking. Bucket after bucket, he usually just races back quietly on defense. Holmgren also said that Gilgeous-Alexander is the leader of the team due to his communication and ability to stay steady no matter the highs or lows. Daigneault said that Gilgeous-Alexander makes all his teammates better because he is “able to balance high ambition and high production.”

“He’s a killer. He’s a winner. He’s a family guy,” Holmgren said to Andscape of Gilgeous-Alexander. “Everyone has their vices. But that dude has no vices. If you had to pick a vice, it would be fashion. He puts a lot of time into his fashion stuff. I don’t even know how he keeps up with all that. But just a great dude overall.

“Everybody has bought in, but it starts with him. Leadership has to start with the guy we’re looking at from the time we walk into the gym until we leave. He is one of those dudes and he stepped into that role extremely well.”

On his keys to being a great leader, Gilgeous-Alexander said: “Staying in the moment and genuinely having your guys’ best interest. Being there for them. Sacrificing.”

During the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, Gilgeous-Alexander watched respectfully as the starters were announced. Now, it’s the Thunder star’s time to be in the starting spotlight along with fellow West All-Stars Dončić, LeBron James, Nikola Jokić and Kevin Durant. Moreover, Gilgeous-Alexander’s global reach is expected to grow considerably more during the 2024 Paris Games if he can lead Canada men’s basketball team to success in its first Olympic berth.

While he has no interest in seeking the spotlight, Gilgeous-Alexander is certainly aware of his growing celebrity as an NBA star and considers it “a blessing.”

“I guess it means you’re doing something right,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “But I don’t really pay attention to it or focus on it too much. It doesn’t really matter to me about whether I’m getting enough attention.”

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By: Marc J. Spears
Title: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is more than an All-Star starter for the Oklahoma City Thunder
Sourced From: andscape.com/features/shai-gilgeous-alexander-is-more-than-an-all-star-starter-for-the-oklahoma-city-thunder/
Published Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2024 13:14:20 +0000

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Nikola Jokic Shares His Thoughts On The NBA MVP Conversation

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Nikola Jokic Shares His Thoughts On The NBA MVP Conversation – originally posted on Sportslens.com

The end of the NBA regular season marks the close of the individual award races around the league. Many of the 2023–24 awards have long been locked up, at least based on their betting odds, and there are just one or two that still have to be decided. The odds for MVP are heavily in the favor of Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, though the superstar doesn’t seem to buy in to any conversation regarding the honors.

Jokic Comments On The NBA MVP Discussion

It has been Jokic’s award to lose since Joel Embiid went down with an injury in late January. It would be the third time that he has earned the honor of being named the most valuable, as he has averaged a near triple-double yet again this season, and has his team in position for another deep playoff run.

During his post-game press conference following Denver’s big win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday, Jokic was asked about his thoughts on the MVP discussion happening as the season comes to a close:

I think the whole MVP conversation is getting out of control. I think I’m playing good basketball, the team is playing good basketball. If I win it, great. If I don’t win it, congrats to the other guy. I think there’s a lot of players playing really good basketball in the league.

Gilgeous-Alexander & Doncic Have Been The Other Candidates Lately

The other two players that have been garnering the most attention in MVP talks down the stretch have been Luka Dončić and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The latter has been in the conversation for much of the season, as the Thunder guard has led the league in scoring and has had his team at the top of the standings throughout the year.

Doncic has been arguably the best player in the league over the past couple of months. Not only has he been putting up impressive numbers, but his Mavericks have been on fire as of late, having won 16 of 18 to catapult into the top-5 in the West.

Jokic was the winner of the NBA MVP award in both 2021 and 2022, and there were some who believed that he should have taken home the hardware last season as well. Had be topped Embiid in 2023, he would be on the brink of an unprecedented fourth straight MVP win.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

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By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: Nikola Jokic Shares His Thoughts On The NBA MVP Conversation
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/nikola-jokic-shares-his-thoughts-on-the-nba-mvp-conversation/
Published Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2024 20:43:13 +0000

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Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/bulls-coach-billy-donovan-is-a-candidate-for-the-kentucky-head-coaching-job/

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Bulls Coach Billy Donovan Is A Candidate For The Kentucky Head Coaching Job

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Bulls Coach Billy Donovan Is A Candidate For The Kentucky Head Coaching Job – originally posted on Sportslens.com

College basketball is coming off of a weekend in which they owned the sports landscape. The women’s Final Four set viewership records and the men’s side saw UConn pull off back-to-back championships, but some of the biggest news came off of the court, when it was announced that John Calipari would be leaving Kentucky after spending the last 15 years as the head coach. There has already been plenty of speculation about who will take the high profile job, and Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has been one of the names most often floated.

Is The Bulls Head Coach A Candidate For Kentucky Job?

While he has been in the NBA ranks for the past nine years, most of Donovan’s success as a head coach came during his days at the college level. He is best known for being the head coach at the University of Florida from 1996 until 2015, a span that saw six Elite 8 appearances and back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007.

But his first ever job as a coach of any kind came at Kentucky, where he worked as an assistant under Rick Pitino. So a connection between Donovan and the program exists, which make him one of the assumed leading candidates for the job.

Does Donovan Want To Head Back To The College Ranks?

Would he leave the Bulls and the NBA in order to move back down to the collegiate ranks? His name is brought up nearly every time there is a prestigious NCAA job opening, though this particular program might be more enticing to Donovan than openings in the past. But despite Chicago’s struggles this season, it appears that his job with the Bulls is safe, as he recently signed a multi-year extension with the team.

Kentucky can certainly offer more money, though, and as The Athletic reports, the Bulls likely won’t be interested in getting into a bidding war. They instead could be banking on the fact that coaching the Wildcats brings far more pressure than coaching the Bulls does, which may be a reason for the 58-year-old Billy Donovan to stay put in Chicago.

Other names that have been mentioned as possible Calipari replacements are Baylor head coach Scott Drew and Nate Oats of Alabama.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

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By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: Bulls Coach Billy Donovan Is A Candidate For The Kentucky Head Coaching Job
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/bulls-coach-billy-donovan-is-a-candidate-for-the-kentucky-head-coaching-job/
Published Date: Tue, 09 Apr 2024 15:18:30 +0000

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James Harden Can Reach These Two NBA Career Milestones During Final Week Of The Season

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James Harden Can Reach These Two NBA Career Milestones During Final Week Of The Season – originally posted on Sportslens.com

James Harden and the Los Angeles Clippers still have plenty to play for over the final four games of the regular season. While it is unlikely that they are unseated as the 4th seed in the Western Conference, they still have to stave off the surging Dallas Mavericks if they want to keep home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They’ll play back-to-back games against the Phoenix Suns to start the week, and Harden will be setting himself up to chase a couple of NBA career milestones.

Harden Is On The Doorstep Of Two NBA Milestones

He is one of the most statistically accomplished players that are active in the league today. He is #3 on the list of three-pointers made all time, and should be passing Ray Allen for the #2 spot early on in the 2024-25 season. He is 20th on the all-time scoring list as well, and should pass Kevin Garnett within the first few games of the next campaign as well.

But there are a couple of marks that he is threatening going into the final week of the season. The first, and the one that he is highly unlikely to reach, is the 26,000 points mark. Harden will enter the week needing 119 points to hit the milestone, which means that he would have to average 30 points per game over the final four, a total that he has reached just once this season while averaging 16.7 per. It is likely that he will eclipse the 26k points mark in the second or third game of next season.

The Steals Mark Feels More Achievable Over Final Week

But the steals milestone feels very achievable. Harden has a while to go until he is ranked in the top-25 all-time in number of steals in NBA history, coming in at #37. But he is coming up on a personal milestone in the category, as he needs just 3 steals during the final week of the season in order to hit 1,600 for his career. He may even pass Jason Terry for #36 on the list if he somehow nabs 7 defensive takeaways over the final four games, though that will likely come next season as well.

He has averaged better than one steal per game in essentially every season of his career, and 2023-24 has been no different. Harden is stealing 1.1 balls per game this year, and should be able to hit the 1,600 mark in his 4 games to wrap up the NBA season.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

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By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: James Harden Can Reach These Two NBA Career Milestones During Final Week Of The Season
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/james-harden-can-reach-these-two-nba-career-milestones-during-final-week-of-the-season/
Published Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2024 22:48:54 +0000

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