The Hamilton Spectator

Canuck World Cup success breeds NBA success

Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort and Thunder reaping the rewards


The Oklahoma City Thunder are reaping the benefits of Canada’s success at last fall’s FIBA World Cup.

Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montreal’s Luguentz Dort have been instrument­al in lifting Oklahoma City to the top of the National Basketball Associatio­n’s Western Conference.

Both were also instrument­al in Canada’s bronze-medal performanc­e against the United States on Sept. 10 in Manila, and GilgeousAl­exander said he’s a big advocate of playing FIBA basketball in the offseason.

“The style of play, the pace of the play, the physicalit­y,” Gilgeous-Alexander said Sunday. “At the end of the day, you’re playing real basketball games with real reps and real game management with real coaches in the summertime when most guys aren’t. It gets you more reps and more ready for the NBA season. The last two summers, I played FIBA basketball, and I felt more sharp coming into the season and it’s for sure no coincidenc­e.”

Dort said the eliminatio­n playoff round of the World Cup helped prepare him for tight games like the Thunder’s 135-127 double overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

“Those type of games are win or go home and when we have a goal and we want to win a medal and make history for our country, it’s amazing,” said Dort. “That helps, definitely, being in those type of games where the game is so close and you’ve got to make the right play to win the game. It definitely helps.”

Dort is averaging 10.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game this season, with 0.8 steals and 0.7 blocks over 48 games.

Gilgeous-Alexander, however, is having the best season of his career. He’s averaged 31.1 points, 6.6 assists, 5.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.9 blocks over 49 games ahead of Tuesday’s showdown with the Utah Jazz. He’s fourth in the league in scoring and leads the NBA in steals by a wide margin.

The 25-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander believes it’s too soon to be talking about earning NBA MVP honours.

“I’m not naive, I can hear it,” he said. “I channel it out and I try to focus on the day in and day out.

“It’s what got me to this point and I’d be stupid to do otherwise.”

■ Murray Shrugs — Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has shrugged off not being included on the Western Conference’s team for the upcoming NBA all-star game.

The native of Kitchener is averaging 21 points, 6.6 assists and four rebounds per game this season.

“There’s multiple players in the league who should be all-stars, know what I’m saying?” said Murray, throwing up his hands. “What do you want me to do now? I think you’ve seen me play at a very high level against those same guys who are all-stars.

“I just go out there. I try not to take it to heart but, it is what it is,” he added.

 ?? ?? Luguentz Dort
Luguentz Dort
 ?? ?? Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray

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