OKC Thunder: Luguentz Dort reacts to long-term contract extension
When Luguentz Dort signed his new contract on June 24, the Thunder rookie made sure to not forget his mom in a celebratory tweet.
It was Erline Mortel’s birthday.
“Best gift I could’ve given you after all you have done for me,” Dort wrote. “Without you none of this would be possible.”
The undrafted guard from Montreal received the long-term security he was seeking. A reported four-year deal worth $5.4 million was quite an upgrade from the salary Dort was collecting on his two-way contract.
“I had conversations with my agent and everything, but nothing was actually like 100% sure,” Dort said of the lead-up to the deal. “It was still unsure until these past couple weeks … and then it happened.”
Dort, who will likely remain in the Thunder’s starting lineup when the regular season resumes Aug. 1 at Disney World, spoke with reporters Monday for the first time since signing his extension.
He was asked how his mom reacted to her birthday present.
“When I told her the news it was just really great,” Dort said. “She was really happy.”
As were Dort’s teammates.
“We have a group text and all the players texted me or texted in the group to congratulate me,” Dort said. “That was big, just because you can see the support … They saw me grow as a player from the first time I got here to now.”
Dort made his Thunder debut Dec. 6 against the Timberwolves. He played seven minutes, missed his only shot attempt and collected one rebound and a steal. Two nights later he played 20 minutes at Portland.
A month and a half after that, the 21-year-old logged the first of 21 consecutive starts.
“I think Lu’s the type of player that does things that not everybody wants to do — dive on a loose ball, guard the opposite team’s best player the whole game,” Thunder teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “And he’s obviously really good at it.”
That defensive tenacity, packed in a 6-foot-3 and 215-pound frame, kept Dort on the floor for 22 minutes per game.
After slipping through the cracks on draft night, it became clear his place on the Pac-12’s All-Defense team at Arizona State would translate to the NBA.
“I was surprised how quickly he adapted to the NBA lifestyle,” said Nelson Osse, Dort’s AAU coach in Montreal. “What was really, really, really surprising is when I heard that he wasn’t even practicing with the team.
“We all know defense in basketball is a team concept, so imagine the kid having the chance to practice with his teammates. He could actually get better.”
Dort will have that chance at Disney World.
The Thunder held Dort out of practices in the fall and winter to prolong the 45 days he was allowed to spend in the NBA on a two-way contract. Now signed to a standard contract, Dort can finally move forward as a full-time player.
“I never knew when I’d get sent back to the G League,” Dort said, “so every time I was on the court was an opportunity to show myself.”