NBA Summer League: Chet Holmgren shines in return as Thunder rolls past Jazz

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren, top, battles against Utah Jazz's Micah Potter (25) and Luka Samanic (19) for the ball in the first half during an NBA Summer League basketball game Monday, July 3, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — Chet Holmgren drove to the basket in the second quarter and scored through contact. As the ball fell through the net, Holmgren sprawled to the court and splayed his long arms. 

The Thunder rookie looked exhausted. He was bruised and beaten up. But he was back. 

Holmgren, in his first competitive game in a year, his first game since undergoing surgery for a Lisfranc injury in his right foot, fought through early rust in the first quarter before settling into rhythm. 

The Thunder beat the Jazz 95-85 Monday night to open Salt Lake Summer League, but the score was an afterthought to Holmgren’s much-anticipated return. 

“It’s great just to be able to be in an actual game again for the last 11 months, or whatever it’s been,” Holmgren said. “It’s really been competing with myself just to stay in it. I feel like I followed everything to a T, so this was kind of like the reward for that.” 

The 7-foot-1 center started and played 29 minutes. He scored 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, with all but one of his attempts coming from inside the arc. Holmgren was 3-of-6 from the foul line. He had nine rebounds and two assists. 

Most of Holmgren’s highlights came on the defensive end. He swallowed a shot midway through the fourth quarter for his fourth block of the game. Side note: Holmgren had six blocks in his Salt Lake City Summer League debut last year. 

“It makes paint protection very easy,” Thunder guard Jalen Williams said of having Holmgren around. “It gives everyone a lot more confidence to get up and guard their man higher.” 

The Thunder outscored the Jazz by 13 points with Holmgren on the floor. 

“Last thing I wanted to do was come out here and be timid,” Holmgren said. “I wanted to come out of the gates and be aggressive and look to impact the game.

“Obviously, with that, you can make mistakes or miss shots. That’s part of the game whether you’ve just played 100 straight games without missing one or missed a whole season … Gotta get on the tape and watch that and see where my mistakes were, so next time I don’t come out here and have to take the first quarter to find my rhythm.” 

Tre Mann’s show stopping dunk

Is it too early to crown Tre Mann for best dunk of summer league?

Mann’s second-quarter posterization of Jazzman Micah Potter was an act of violence. 

Mann launched from the left side of the paint, cocked his right arm and put the hammer down. Right over Potter’s head. 

“That was the craziest dunk I’ve been on the floor for,” Jalen Williams said. 

Mann hung in slow motion, as if giving the cameras an extra tick to get a good shot. 

“That’s what it felt like,” Mann said. 

Mann, who’s entering a pivotal third season, erupted at the rim and from behind the arc, where he shot 4-of-8 on his way to a 20-point night. 

Jalen Williams stands out

At halftime, Jalen Williams had 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. 

The Rookie of the Year runner-up looked overqualified to be suiting up in Summer League. Like someone invited the bully to the playground. 

“I like playing basketball,” Williams said, “so it’s just fun to get out there and play when you can … finally be done playing against the coaches the whole summer. 

Williams, sporting new-look cornrows, scored the Thunder’s first nine points of the game. 

He took just two shots in the second half, doing all of his scoring before the break. 

Thunder tip-ins

– New Thunder signees Vasilije Micic and Jack White sat on the baseline near the Thunder’s bench next to members of the front office. 

– Cason Wallace is with the team in Salt Lake City, but he won’t play until Las Vegas Summer League as he waits until a trade processes to make him an official member of the team. 

– Thunder Summer League coach David Akinyooye is 1-0. Akinyooye started Jalen Williams, Jaylin Williams, Ousmane Dieng, Mann and Holmgren. Jared Butler, Jaden Shackelford, Hunter Maldonado and Zhaire Smith came off the bench. 

– Jaylin Williams, who led the NBA last season in drawn charges, took three charges Monday night. 

– Jalen Williams and Keshawn Justice, college teammates for three seasons at Santa Clara, exchanged jerseys after the game. Justice, a 6-foot-7 forward, went undrafted after five seasons at Santa Clara, but the Jazz added him to its summer league roster. 

– The lower bowl of Delta Center was packed, and some fans sat in the front rows of the upper deck. 

Pregame: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Keyontae Johnson out for Thunder

The Thunder will be without third-year center Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (right ankle sprain) and rookie wing Keyontae Johnson (right hamstring strain) for the duration of Salt Lake City Summer League, the Thunder said Monday. 

The Thunder will play the Jazz at 8 p.m. Monday in the first of OKC’s three games in Salt Lake City. Neither Robinson-Earl nor Johnson has been ruled out for Las Vegas Summer League, where the Thunder will tip things off Saturday. 

Robinson-Earl’s right ankle has been an issue. Last season, he missed 28 games — two months of play — after spraining his right ankle. He was in and out of the lineup after returning. 

Robinson-Earl’s $1.9 million salary for this season recently became guaranteed, and he has a team option for $2 million next season. Robinson-Earl was the 32nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. 

For Johnson, his debut in a Thunder uniform will have to wait. The Thunder drafted Johnson, who played at Florida and Kansas State, with the 50th pick in the 2023 draft. 

Two of the Jazz’s three first-round picks are out Monday night due to injuries: Taylor Hendricks, the No. 9 pick, and No. 28 pick Brice Sensabaugh. 

Leave a Comment