Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Olshey, Bazley, Jokić

Starting Jazz small forward Royce O’Neale appears to be increasing Utah’s ceiling this season by becoming a bigger offensive threat, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic.

“I’m trying to just take what the defense gives me,” O’Neale said of his revamped offense this season with the Jazz. “I’m trying to find ways to get open, whether I am finishing at the basket or kicking it out for the open three. I’m trying to find the open guy. I don’t want the ball to stick in my hands. Everybody thrives off moving the ball, finding the open guy.”

Though O’Neale is still averaging a fairly modest output of 7.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, and an excellent 2.2 SPG, Jones contends that O’Neale’s consistent three-point shooting and his improved cutting away from the ball have made him a player that opposing defenses need to respect. This could improve the Jazz’s outlook in the postseason.

“This is what I’ve been trying to train for in the offseason,” O’Neale said of how he hopes to help the Jazz. “I want to do whatever I have to do for us to win. Whether that’s guarding the best player, or knocking down shots. I’m just trying to not be tired and to play the whole game, if I can.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazersinvestigation into the conduct longtime president Neil Olshey could last a few weeks, well beyond the duration initially anticipated, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
  • Third-year Thunder forward Darius Bazley has looked to learn from veteran center Mike Muscala, the team’s oldest player, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. “I don’t know if Mike knows this, but I look up to him,” Bazley said. At 30, Muscala is the Thunder’s oldest player. “Just to see Mike and his readiness, whether he’s playing good or playing bad, he always comes in with the same energy and effort, and today he was rewarded for it.”
  • The league continues to gather information on the on-court fight between All-NBA Nuggets center Nikola Jokić and Heat forward Markieff Morris. Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets that a league announcement on an expected suspension period for Jokic could be announced as late as tomorrow. Denver head coach Michael Malone has indicated that an extended absence for Jokic could open the door for more rotational run for reserve big men Bol Bol and Zeke Nnaji, per Sean Keeler of the Denver Post“[M]aybe some guys like Bol Bol [and] Zeke Nnaji that haven’t had a great chance to play yet are going to have a chance to get out there and play rotational minutes,” Malone said. “But we’ll react once we get that news [about the fate of Jokic.”