Right now there isn’t a ton of attention on the NBA, and for some of the former Buckeyes playing professionally in the league, that’s not a bad thing considering how they are playing — if they are even playing at all. That may sound a little grim, but an injury, a player in health and safety protocols for most of the week, and a lot of losses were the themes for the five Ohio State alums. Luckily the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams earning spots in the Super Bowl, as well as the upcoming Winter Olympics, are getting more of the headlines right now.
Even though there a lot of negatives over the past few weeks when it comes to Ohio State players in the NBA, there have been a few positive moments. One former Buckeye will be headed to Cleveland in a few weeks to participate in some of the All-Star Weekend festivities. Also, another player that used to sport the scarlet and gray is building more momentum after a record-breaking performance last week.
Small Forward | Houston Rockets
There likely won’t be a happier player at this year’s Rising Stars Game than Jae’Sean Tate. While players like LaMelo Ball, Cade Cunningham, and Evan Mobley were high draft choices over the past two seasons, Tate took a long road to get to the NBA. Tate spent time playing in Belgium and Australia before signing a contract with the Houston Rockets. Tate will be playing on the Sophomore team with Ball, who also played in the NBL in Australia before coming to the NBA, and they’ll be taking on the Rookies, which includes Oklahoma City guard Josh Giddey, another NBL alum.
When it comes to what we saw on the court over the last week from Tate, there wasn’t a whole lot that stood out about the forward’s play. Tate is currently averaging 12.5 points per game this year, and he scored 12 points in the loss on Friday to Portland and followed that performance up with 10 points in the loss to Golden State. The Rockets have now lost four straight games heading into last night’s contest against the Cavaliers after winning three of four games in the middle of January. Houston currently sits last in the Western Conference with a 14-36 record.
Duane Washington Jr.
Point Guard | Indiana Pacers
One of the lone bright spots of late for the Indiana Pacers has been undrafted rookie Duane Washington Jr., who is averaging 15 points per game over his last five games heading into last night’s contest against the Orlando Magic. Even though Washington struggled from behind the arc in his first two games after hitting seven three-pointers last Monday, the guard kept with his shot and found his rhythm in Saturday and Monday’s games.
If Washington is able to shoot from behind the arc like we have seen from him of late, it’s not a stretch to think that we could see him as part of All-Star Weekend in the future competing in the Three-Point Contest. Over his past five games, Washington is 16-of-35 from three-point range, and that includes a two-game stretch where he was just 2-of-10 before finding his shot against Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers.
With how the Pacers have been playing over the last couple months, there is no reason Indiana shouldn’t be giving Washington consistent playing time to see what they have with the rookie, and if he fits into their future plans. Injuries really hurt Indiana this year, but a major problem in January has been defense. The last time the Pacers allowed less than 100 points in a game came on Dec. 10 against Dallas. Last week saw an embarrassing performance from Indiana, as they allowed Charlotte to score 158 points. It’s easy to see why the Pacers are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Point Guard | Utah Jazz
Another team that has fallen on hard times is the Utah Jazz. Luckily for Mike Conley and his teammates, Utah is currently still in the playoffs, despite going 4-12 in January. Heading into last night’s game against Denver, the Jazz had lost five straight games. One reason Utah has struggled of late is because Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell have missed time due to injuries, and Joe Ingles was lost for the season with a knee injury.
The loss of Ingles will likely result in Conley helping to shoulder a little more of the load to try and minimize the loss of the guard. The former Buckeye actually did have a solid stretch over the past week even though it didn’t result in any wins for the Jazz. Last Wednesday against Phoenix, Conley scored 16 points and dished out 10 assists, earning him his first double-double since early November.
Friday night saw Conley return to Memphis, which will always be an emotional trip because of the time he spent with the Grizzlies to start his career. Conley scored 15 points, but it wasn’t enough to top his former team, who are near the top of the Western Conference standings. Conley followed that performance up with 22 points against Minnesota on Sunday, marking just his third 20-point game of January. Expect Conley to see around 30 minutes per game, and once Utah gets healthier the Jazz should return to their winning ways.
Point Guard | Minnesota Timberwolves
Patrick Beverley, who played on Tuesday night against Denver, is listed as questionable for Thursday's game in Detroit (ankle).— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) February 2, 2022
D'Angelo Russell, who has missed the last three games with a shin contusion, is also listed as questionable for Thursday in Detroit.
D’Angelo Russell didn’t see much time over the past week after suffering a shin contusion that caused him to miss three games. Russell played 20 minutes against Golden State last Thursday, but that was the last time he would see the court. The guard finished the game with just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting in the loss to the Warriors.
Even though Russell is an important part to Minnesota’s core, the Timberwolves can afford to let Russell get 100% healthy. Minnesota lost their first game without Russell last week, but followed that up with wins over Utah and Denver. With two games against Detroit followed by two games against Sacramento, Russell doesn’t have to rush back since those are winnable games even without the former Buckeye.
Small Forward | San Antonio Spurs
Keita Bates-Diop apparently has cleared protocols. He's no longer listed on the injury report after missing four games while in health and safety protocols.— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 31, 2022
After being placed in health and safety protocols last week, Keita Bates-Diop was finally able to return to the court on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, there was some rust to shake off for Bates-Diop, who had just two points in 11 minutes against Golden State. It will be interesting to see what role Bates-Diop plays with the Spurs as they approach the All-Star break. How much Bates-Diop is used could be a telling sign as to if he might possibly moved as the trade deadline approaches. With a 19-33 record, San Antonio isn’t a threat to make the playoffs, which could see them be a seller at the deadline.