OKC Thunder news: Noel – Donovan relationship and win mode

OKC Thunder Nerlens Noel (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder Nerlens Noel (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder in the news examines Nerlens Noel’s long time relationship with Head Coach Billy Donovan. Additionally, being in the fast lane, trekking ahead and dismissing tank mode suggestions.

OKC Thunder center Nerlens Noel went down with a left ankle sprain in the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday. In film review, it looked like the ankle went fully over which could mean a high ankle sprain. That’s significant because high ankle sprains tend to take longer to heal.

Nerlens Noel and Donovan go way back:

Asked postgame how severe the injury was Head Coach, Billy Donovan stated they won’t know more until Sunday as per his post game interview courtesy of FOX Sports Oklahoma.


The Oklahoman’s Maddie Lee recently shared a piece about Noel and the history between him and Coach Billy Donovan.

Donovan began recruiting the top prospect in high school. Despite not retaining Noel in 2012, six years later their paths crossed again.

"The first time Billy Donovan saw Nerlens Noel play basketball, the lanky center was in high school. Donovan, then head coach at Florida, had already led the Gators to back-to-back national titles, in 2006 and 2007. But that was a few years before the height of Noel’s recruitment.In 2012, Noel’s last year of high school, Kentucky won the NCAA championship. Donovan said he figured out “pretty quickly” that Noel wasn’t going to end up at Florida. “I saw Nerlens play a ton in high school,” Donovan said. “And he kind of played in a lot of the high-low action where he was at the top of the key and he’d throw high-low passes or he’d distribute. He’s always been a really good passer, and he’s a really quick roller to the basket.”"

Noel’s notable impact on the Thunder shouldn’t be overlooked. Some of the skills that made Noel stand out to Donovan, he continues to showcase for his team today. He is a shot block machine whose defensive efforts cause havoc for opponents.

His production has increased this season and statistically, he is having a greater second year with OKC.

He takes a load off Steven Adams and is very agile which makes for many soaring and statement moves in the paint.

This season, Noel is putting up 7.8 points, 3.4 defensive rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.2 assists through 18.7 minutes on the floor.

His unselfish play as Donovan highlighted through his superb passing is also a prime reason he has confidence in him when he enters the game. Noel assists on average 10.2 percent of his teammate’s field goals as per advanced stats in Basketball-Reference.

There’s no wonder why when Donovan was able to add him to the OKC Thunder roster in 2018, he jumped at the opportunity.

Best wishes go out to Noel and let’s hope his injury isn’t too serious.

OKC Thunder knocking outside noise

Matthew Schmidt from Clutch points wrote about how the Thunder have turned unexpected events and a long rebuild into a playoff push. 

"When Sam Presti traded away Paul George and then a franchise icon in Westbrook this past summer, it was an obvious signal that Oklahoma City was starting over. Pretty much everyone expected OKC to be one of the NBA’s worst teams this season, as its best player was an aging, declining, injury-prone Chris Paul. Instead, Paul has actually remained healthy and is playing very well, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a monster, Dennis Schroder has been efficient for once and Billy Donovan has done a heck of a job of getting the most out of this roster."

One of the admirable things about this Thunder team are that they came into the season with the mindset of writing their own story.

Chris Paul said he expected OKC to be fighting for the playoffs and they didn’t put restrictions on how good they could be. During media day prior to the commencing of the season, Paul stated:

"A lot of people try to tell your truth or tell your story…all this different type of stuff. I’m excited about the opportunity, excited about our team, excited about building."

Paul deserves the utmost respect for the way he has led by example and looked after his young teammates. He didn’t let the narrative people created of who he is and what role he should play affect who he really is.

Many including former OKC Thunder big man and now analyst Kendrick Perkins have commended Paul on his selflessness and mentorship.


Just like many held preconceived opinions about Paul and how he was going to play for OKC, the same was made for Coach Donovan and arguably the best sixth man Dennis Schroder. However, they have overcome team and individual goals in leaps and bounds and now look more determined than ever.

More from Thunder News

This Thunder team is letting everyone know they aren’t who people may have perceived them to be. And so many lessons can be learned from this. One of those is that you can let the conversation go on, but what really matters is what happens on the court.

OKC Thunder in win mode

TI’s Rylan Stiles shared a story on why Thunder fans should embrace their success. 

"Sadly for some, the plans of tanking must be put on the backburner for at least a season. Heck, with SGA’s emergence, maybe the OKC Thunder can retool a championship level contender without outright tanking. While we all expected SGA to be fun, exciting, and new…no one expected him to play at an All-Star level in his first season with OKC (second in the NBA)."

It always seemed baffling to me why teams would purposely lose games when playing basketball or any sport should be competitive. But it’s been great to see the heart and passion of the Thunder to play every game as though it matters which is a hallmark of the franchise.

The Thunder may have not been the best team every year, but they’ve always done their best to stay in the mix, only missing out on one playoff appearance in the last ten years.

Maybe it’s not about tanking in the future, signing or trading players but like Stiles said embracing what they have right now because above all and like we’ve seen, the Thunder are better being true to who they are.

Next. Why the Thunder shouldn’t trade before the deadline. dark

That wraps up in the news for Sunday, January 5th. The OKC Thunder are back in action Monday in Philadelphia taking on the 76ers. Check back with TI for the preview.