SALT LAKE CITY — Chet Holmgren drove to the basket in the second quarter and scored from contact. As his ball hit the net, Holmgren sprawled onto the court, spreading his long arms.
The Thunder rookie looked exhausted. He was bruised and beaten. But he is back.
Holmgren regained his rhythm after overcoming the chorus at the beginning of the first quarter in the first official game in a year and the first game after Lisfranc’s right foot injury surgery.
The Thunder defeated the Jazz 95-85 Monday night to open the Salt Lake Summer League, but the score put Holmgren’s long-awaited return on the backburner.
“It’s great to be back in the game for the last 11 months or whatever it is,” Holmgren said. “It was really a battle with myself to stay there. I feel like I made it all the way to the T, so this was kind of the reward for that.”
The 7-foot-1 center started and played 29 minutes. He scored 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, all but one from the inside. Holmgren made 3-of-6 from the foul line. He had nine rebounds and two assists.
Most of Holmgren’s highlights have been defensively. He swallowed a shot midway through the fourth quarter, making it his fourth block of the game. Side note: Holmgren had six blocks in his Salt Lake City Summer League debut last year.
Thunderguard’s Jaylen Williams said Holmgren “makes protecting the paint a lot easier.” “This will give everyone more confidence to stand up and defend their opponents higher.”
Holmgren’s performance led the Thunder to a 13-point lead over the Jazz.
“The last thing I wanted to do was come out here and be timid,” Holmgren said. “I wanted to come out of the gate and be aggressive and make an impact in the game.
“Of course, then you can make mistakes, you can miss shots. Whether you’ve played 100 games in a row and you’ve missed a single game, or you’ve missed an entire season, that’s part of the game… on tape. I have to record it and watch it and see where my mistakes were, so next time I’ll come out here and take the first quarter to find my rhythm.”
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Tre Man’s Showstopping Dunk
Is it too early to give Tre Man the crown for Best Dunk of Summer League?
Mann’s posterization of jazzman Micah Potter in the second quarter was an act of violence.
Mann fired from the left side of the paint, with his right arm up and the hammer down. Right above Potter’s head.
Jalen Williams said, “That was the craziest dunk I ever had on the floor.”
Mann was hanging in slow motion, as if he was giving the camera an extra check to get a good shot.
“It was like that,” Mann said.
Entering an important third season, Mann exploded from the back of the rim and arc, making 4-of-8 shooting and heading into a 20-point night.
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Jaylen Williams stands out
At halftime, Jaylen Williams had 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
The Rookie of the Year runner-up seemed too eligible to make it to Summer League. Like someone invited a bully to the playground.
“I like playing basketball,” Williams said.
Williams, wearing new cornrows, scored the Thunder’s first nine points of the game.
Only two shots were taken in the second half and all the goals were scored before the break.
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thunder chip in
– Thunder new signings Vasilye Micic and Jack White sat next to members of the front office on the baseline near the Thunder’s bench.
– Kayson Wallace is with the Salt Lake City team, but will not play until the Las Vegas Summer League as he awaits the trade process to become a full member of the team.
– Thunder Summer League coach David Aquinoe is 1-0. Akinyoe started Jaylen Williams, Jaylynn Williams, Usman Dien, Mann and Holmgren. Jared Butler, Jaden Shackelford, Hunter Maldonado and Zia Smith came off the bench.
– Jaylynn Williams, who led the NBA in draw bills last season, received three bills Monday night.
– Jaylen Williams and Keshawn Justice, who were college teammates for three seasons in Santa Clara, exchanged jerseys after the game. The 6-foot-7 forward was undrafted after five seasons with Santa Clara, but the Jazz added him to their Summer League roster.
– The lower bowl at Delta Center was packed, with some fans sitting in the front row on the upper deck.
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PRE-GAME: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Kiyonte Johnson head to Thunder
The Thunder announced Monday that they will be without third-year center Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (right ankle sprain) and rookie wing Kiyonte Johnson (right hamstring injury) during the Salt Lake City Summer League.
The Thunder will face the Jazz at 8 p.m. Monday in the first of three OKC games in Salt Lake City. Neither Robinson Earle nor Johnson have been ruled out for the Las Vegas Summer League, and the Thunder will have a result on Saturday.
Robinson Earle’s right ankle is in question. Last season he missed 28 games (two months of play) because he sprained his right ankle. After his return, he was in and out of the line.
Robinson Earle was recently guaranteed a salary of $1.9 million this season, with a team option of $2 million next season. Robinson Earle was the 32nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
For Johnson, a debut in a Thunder uniform will have to wait. The Thunder selected Johnson, who played in Florida and Kansas State, with the 50th overall pick in the 2023 draft.
Two of the Jazz’s three first-round picks, No. 9 pick Taylor Hendricks and No. 28 pick Bryce Sensabaugh, are out Monday night with injuries.
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