‘Mini-offseason’ created by injury helped Darius Bazley make a jump

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When second-year forward Darius Bazley returned to the court after missing almost a month of games due to a shoulder injury, he looked like a better player.

Over his first 36 games, he averaged 11.9 points and shot 39.2% on 11.2 field goal attempts per game.

At that point, March 5, the All-Star break began. At some time during that week off, Bazley suffered an injury on his shooting arm. It was initially called a shoulder contusion, but he later clarified that it was a fractured scapula.

Bazley missed 16 games from March 11 to April 10, but he came back like a changed offensive player. He averaged 17.2 points while slightly increasing his shooting percentage to 40.1%, but he did so on 15.1 field goal attempts over his 19 games post-injury.

General manager Sam Presti said the month away from games was like a “mini-offseason” for the forward.

“He got tremendous, consistent work both physically and skill-wise, and that’s work he wasn’t able to get in the offseason,” Presti said. “He actually got, like, almost like a mini-offseason during the injury, and I think that’s one of the reasons he finished the season so strongly.”

As he entered his second season, Bazley did not get a regular training camp or preseason. With changes to the league schedule caused by the coronavirus and end-of-season bubble tournament and playoffs, offseason activities were rushed to start the 2020-21 season.

That month in which he was forced away from games and struggling to shoot due to pain in his left shoulder allowed him time to develop and train.

One of the key areas on offense that Bazley improved was his ability to drive to the rim. He showed a spin move he didn’t pull out often before. Coupled with his length, which allows effective Eurosteps, he got to the rim off drives better and more often.

His efficiency needs to improve. Forty percent shooting is not a number that frightens defenses. But after some down stretches in the first half of the season, his play at the end was promising.

“He took a huge jump, but there were parts of the season where he was plateaued a little bit,” Presti said. “So much credit to that guy to embrace the plateau, to fight through that, to recognize there’s another jump coming if you continue to stick to those habits and stick to the mentality that we’ve worked with him on, and he got a big boost.”

This post originally appeared on OKCThunderWire. Follow us on Facebook!

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Darius Bazley is naturally right-handed, learned to play basketball with his left