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Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort using FIBA World Cup success to help Thunder

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are reaping the benefits of Canada’s success at last fall’s FIBA World Cup.

Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montreal’s Luguentz Dort have been instrumental in lifting Oklahoma City to the top of the NBA’s Western Conference.

Both were also instrumental in Canada’s bronze-medal performance against the United States on Sept. 10 in Manila, and Gilgeous-Alexander said he’s a big advocate of playing FIBA basketball in the off-season.

“The style of play, the pace of the play, the physicality,” Gilgeous-Alexander told reporters on Sunday. “At the end of the day, you’re playing real basketball games with real reps and real game management with real coaches in the summertime when most guys aren’t.

“It gets you more reps and more ready for the NBA season. The last two summers, I played FIBA basketball, and I felt more sharp coming into the season and it’s for sure no coincidence.”

Men's Canadian basketball player celebrating with both arms out in front of him.
Gilgeous-Alexander celebrates while wearing his Team Canada jersey at the 2023 FIBA World Cup in Milan. (Sherwin Vardeleon/Getty Images)

Dort said the elimination playoff round of the World Cup helped prepare him for tight games like the Thunder’s 135-127 double overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

“Those type of games are win or go home and when we have a goal and we want to win a medal and make history for our country, it’s amazing,” said Dort. “That helps, definitely, being in those type of games where the game is so close and you’ve got to make the right play to win the game. It definitely helps.”

Dort is averaging 10.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game this season, with 0.8 steals and 0.7 blocks over 48 games.

Gilgeous-Alexander, however, is having the best season of his career. He’s averaged 31.1 points, 6.6 assists, 5.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.9 blocks over 49 games ahead of Tuesday’s showdown with the Utah Jazz. He’s fourth in the league in scoring and leads the NBA in steals by a wide margin.

The 25-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander believes it’s too soon to be talking about earning NBA MVP honours.

“I’m not naive, I can hear it,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I channel it out and I try to focus on the day in and day out.

“It’s what got me to this point and I’d be stupid to do otherwise.”

Murray misses out on all-star selection

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has shrugged off not being included on the Western Conference’s team for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game. The native of Kitchener, Ont., is averaging 21 points, 6.6 assists and four rebounds per game this season.

“There’s multiple players in the league who should be all-stars, know what I’m saying?” said Murray, throwing up his hands. “What do you want me to do now? I think you’ve seen me play at a very high level against those same guys who are all-stars.

“I just go out there. I try not to take it to heart but, it is what it is.”

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