NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

OKC Thunder: Darius Bazley enters Year 2 in NBA with more responsibility

The shortest offseason in NBA history didn’t feel all that short to Darius Bazley.

“Everyone says it’s a quick turnaround, but I don’t think it’s quick enough,” the 20-year-old Thunder forward said. “I may be saying that just because I’m young and I want to get out there and play again, but that’s how I feel.”

Bazley’s sophomore season is set to begin a little more than 100 days after his promising rookie campaign ended. After missing 11 games with a right knee injury leading up to the COVID-19 shutdown in March, Bazley returned as a healthy and improved player five months later in the Orlando bubble.

He averaged 13 points and six rebounds in Oklahoma City’s eight seeding games. Those numbers were well up from his overall rookie averages of 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds. Bazley averaged 22 points and 8.6 rebounds in one three-game stretch at Disney World.

The 6-foot-8 forward shined in his first-ever playoff series, shooting 11-of-22 from 3-point range in the Thunder’s first-round loss to the Rockets.

“I had dinner with Baze down in the bubble a couple different times,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “I just loved his mentality. He was just learning and taking every game, good or bad, and throwing it into his experience, realizing that it's all a path for him to figure out how good a player he's ultimately going to be.”

Bazley is likely to start at power forward this season with former starter Danilo Gallinari off to Atlanta.

“I know that coming into this year it’ll be new, there will be more to learn, more to experience,” Bazley said.

Bazley likened all of the Thunder’s offseason moves — losing veterans like Gallinari, Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder, Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel and Andre Roberson — to “seniors graduating.”

“The team is moving in a direction, a forward direction,” Bazley said, not wanting to discuss his reaction to the trades in more detail.

The Thunder is primarily building around third-year point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but Bazley and guard Luguentz Dort could also be long-term fixtures.

“They’ve been here, been in the building,” Presti said. “We’re putting a lot of faith in them, a lot of responsibility on them to recognize there’s a legacy of a way you show up every day.”

It’s a big jump for Bazley, who was a complete unknown entering his rookie training camp last year. Bazley was selected with the 23rd pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after forgoing college to accept a million-dollar New Balance internship.

“He came into training camp last year and I don’t think anybody could have formed an expectation for him,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.

Bazley went on to average 19 minutes per game, making nine starts in 61 games as a rookie.

As for the progress he made this offseason?

“I think I improved a lot,” Bazley said, “but I won’t really be able to test it until game time.”

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.  [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8932675c46f0cbac22212b456d70fb5b.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bdb80b692a6c5f3395e827071e2d2546.jpg" alt="Photo - Darius Bazley averaged 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in his rookie season, but his numbers improved significantly in the bubble. Bazley enters his second season as the Thunder's best option to start at power forward. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Darius Bazley averaged 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in his rookie season, but his numbers improved significantly in the bubble. Bazley enters his second season as the Thunder's best option to start at power forward. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Darius Bazley averaged 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in his rookie season, but his numbers improved significantly in the bubble. Bazley enters his second season as the Thunder's best option to start at power forward. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1b00609c1e3dfbfea32c1656fe45d0d2.jpg" alt="Photo - Darius Bazley (7) smiles after a dunk during a Thunder game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Jan. 18. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Darius Bazley (7) smiles after a dunk during a Thunder game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Jan. 18. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Darius Bazley (7) smiles after a dunk during a Thunder game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Jan. 18. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0e74cffbf8236a4bdc7a115f16aa011e.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Darius Bazley (7) react after a play during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City,Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

Comments