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Roundball Round-Up: A former Buckeye sets a franchise rookie record

There are currently five former Ohio State basketball players in the NBA, and we’ll update you weekly on how they are doing.

Indiana Pacers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

It was a mixed last week for the former Buckeyes playing in the NBA. Some struggled to find their groove, another found himself in health and safety protocols just a couple days after his birthday, and a rookie set a franchise record. Every Thursday we recap the week that was for the Ohio State alums in the NBA, with highlights from games played Wednesday, Jan. 19 through Tuesday, Jan. 25.

Duane Washington Jr.

Point Guard | Indiana Pacers

Things have been trending downward for the Ohio State rookie recently. With the Pacers welcoming some players back from COVID-19 protocols and injury, there hasn’t been quite as much time on the court for Washington. After a stretch where he played at least 29 minutes in five-straight games earlier in the month, the point guard has only played more than 25 minutes in a game once in the six games since, and didn’t even see the court last Wednesday against the Lakers.

After not playing against the Lakers on Wednesday, and failing to score in a loss to Phoenix on Saturday, things had gone from bad to worse for Washington. Then Monday night happened. Even though the Pacers lost to New Orleans, Washington hit seven three-pointers and scored a career-high 21 points against the Pelicans. The seven triples were a Pacers rookie record.

Even though this is a lost season for the Pacers, who have lost 12 of 15 games since Christmas, Monday’s performance from Washington was one of the highlights of the year for Indiana. What remains to be seen is if Monday’s performance leads to more playing time for Washington the rest of the season, it could give him some confidence that helps him put some of his subpar in January in the rear view mirror.

D’Angelo Russell

Point Guard | Minnesota Timberwolves

Recently Russell had been dishing the rock at a high rate for Minnesota. Over the last week, he has taken on more of a scoring role for the Timberwolves. Even though Minnesota lost to Atlanta last Wednesday, Russell had one of his best performances of the season, scoring 31 points. The only game Russell scored more in this year was in a double overtime victory in late November over Philadelphia, where he netted 35 points.

Russell and the Timberwolves got a few days to recover from the loss to the Hawks, and they made the most of the extra time off. On Sunday, Minnesota returned home and defeated Brooklyn 136-125. Russell not only scored 23 points against the Nets, he also recorded 10 assists.

The former Buckeye’s last game over the past week was on Tuesday night, where Minnesota squeaked out a 109-107 victory over Portland. For the third game in a row, Russell scored at least 20 points, finishing with 22 points against the Trailblazers. The Timberwolves have a big week ahead of them with games against Golden State, Phoenix, Utah, and Denver all on tap. All four teams are currently ahead of Minnesota in the Western Conference playoff standings.

Mike Conley

Point Guard | Utah Jazz

January is going to be a month that Utah will want to forget. So far this month the Jazz have gone 4-9, but Utah at least still has a four-game lead on Denver in the Northwest Division. Conley has been up-and-down of late. The point guard had a three-game stretch where he scored at least 17 points in each of those games. The only victory in that stretch came on Friday against Detroit, where he scored 19 points.

Following a loss to Golden State on Sunday night where he went just 3-of-10 from the field, Conley sat out Monday’s game against Phoenix to give his knee a rest and avoid playing back-to-back games. There’s no reason to worry though, as Conley was expected to be available for Wednesday night’s game.

As you can see, there is a lot of injury issues in Utah right now, which can explain a lot of their poor play. The amount of players missing also isn’t helping Conley on the court, as he doesn’t have quite as much quality around him to try and help the Jazz win games, which is why his assist numbers have been down recently. While it’s not time to panic yet, if these issues stretch into next month, then you could see Utah look to make some moves near the trade deadline.

Jae’Sean Tate

Small Forward | Houston Rockets

The good news recently for Tate is he had a solid performance last Wednesday in Utah’s 116-111 win at Utah. Tate outdueled fellow Buckeye Mike Conley, scoring 18 points and grabbing five rebounds. There wasn’t much else to write home about for Tate and the Rockets, as they lost to Golden State on a buzzer-beater by Steph Curry, and were blown out by San Antonio on Tuesday night.

Tate is a solid player stuck on a bad team right now. Much like the Rockets, Tate will have flashes of brilliance, as evidenced by his near triple-double just a little over a week ago. The only concerning thing is Tate’s time on the court slipped a little over the last two games. It could have just been because of matchups, as well as Tuesday night’s blowout against San Antonio, but it will be something worth monitoring to make sure he isn’t losing playing time going forward.

Keita Bates-Diop

Small Forward | San Antonio Spurs

Sunday was Keita Bates-Diop’s 26th birthday. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else to celebrate for the former Buckeye that day, as he failed to score a point in the 15 minutes he played in a 115-109 loss to Philadelphia. Things would only get worse for Bates-Diop on Tuesday.

Hopefully Bates-Diop is able to return to the active roster as soon as he is able to be removed from the NBA’s health and safety protocols. San Antonio continues to struggle, so it’s not likely that Bates-Diop will see his minutes cut into upon his return. What will be interesting in the next few weeks is if Bates-Diop is moved before the NBA’s trade deadline, since he seems like a piece that a contender could use coming off the bench for the stretch run and playoffs.