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Chet Holmgren shines in return: NBA Summer League

Chet Holmgren made a triumphant return to the NBA Summer League as the Oklahoma City Thunder secured a victory over the Utah Jazz.

Chet Holmgren shines in return: NBA Summer League
Rick Bowmer, AP

In the second quarter, Holmgren drove to the basket, scoring despite facing contact. Collapsing to the court, he extended his long arms, showcasing his determination. Although exhausted and bearing bruises from the game, Holmgren's return was a significant moment. After being sidelined for a year due to surgery for a Lisfranc injury in his right foot, Holmgren battled through initial rust in the first quarter before finding his rhythm. The Thunder's 95-85 win over the Jazz took a backseat to Holmgren's highly anticipated comeback. "It's great to finally be back in an actual game after the last 11 months or so," Holmgren expressed. "I've been pushing myself to stay focused throughout this time, and this feels like a rewarding moment for all the hard work." Starting the game and playing for 29 minutes, the 7-foot-1 center scored 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, with most of his attempts coming from inside the arc. Holmgren made three of six free throws, grabbed nine rebounds, and contributed two assists. While Holmgren shone defensively, blocking shots and providing paint protection, Thunder guard Jalen Williams commended his presence, stating that it boosted the team's confidence to guard opponents more assertively. The Thunder outscored the Jazz by 13 points with Holmgren on the court. Reflecting on his performance, Holmgren acknowledged the need to review his mistakes and missed shots to improve his game. He emphasized the importance of being aggressive from the start and finding his rhythm earlier in future matches. In addition to Holmgren's return, Tre Mann's dunk during the second quarter became a highlight of the game. Mann's thunderous dunk over Micah Potter left spectators in awe, and it was considered a strong contender for the best dunk of the summer league. Mann went on to score 20 points, showcasing his skills both at the rim and behind the arc. Another standout player was Jalen Williams, who impressed with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting before halftime. Williams, the runner-up for Rookie of the Year, displayed his dominance on the court and expressed his enjoyment of playing basketball after a summer spent practicing against coaches. During the game, several Thunder-related tidbits emerged: new signees Vasilije Micic and Jack White sat near the team's bench, waiting for their official inclusion; Cason Wallace accompanied the team but would not play until the Las Vegas Summer League due to pending trade processes; and coach David Akinyooye started a lineup consisting of Jalen Williams, Jaylin Williams, Ousmane Dieng, Mann, and Holmgren. The lower bowl of the Delta Center was packed, with fans even filling the front rows of the upper deck, indicating strong support for the Thunder. However, the team will be without center Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and rookie wing Keyontae Johnson for the duration of the Salt Lake City Summer League due to respective ankle and hamstring injuries. Robinson-Earl's ankle has been a recurring issue, causing him to miss a significant number of games last season. Johnson, the Thunder's draft pick from Florida and Kansas State, will have to wait for his debut in a Thunder uniform. However, neither player has been ruled out for the upcoming Las Vegas Summer League, which begins on Saturday. Among the Jazz's first-round picks, Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh were absent from the game due to injuries, adding to the challenges faced by the Utah team. In the Thunder's summer league opener against the Jazz, the 7-foot-1 Chet Holmgren showcased his versatility and overcame some rust to deliver an impressive performance. In 29 minutes of play, he contributed 15 points, shooting 6-of-14 from the field, along with nine rebounds, four blocks, and two assists in a 95-85 victory. Holmgren's defensive prowess, reminiscent of his dominant days at Gonzaga, was on full display as he unleashed a powerful two-handed block late in the game. This exemplified his game-changing abilities on the defensive end. Undoubtedly, Holmgren's performance marked a promising start to his delayed rookie season and hinted at a potential campaign for Rookie of the Year in 2023-24. However, he faces tough competition and will need to stand out among a highly anticipated group of rookies, including the likes of Victor Wembanyama, another extraordinary talent.

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