Oct 8, 2019; Tulsa, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Abdel Nader (11) goes up for a basket between two Dallas Maverick defenders during the second half at BOK Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
After two seasons of largely playing bit roles for two different organizations, Abdel Nader‘s NBA career seems to be gaining some steam.
The former Cyclone scored a career-high 23 points last week in Oklahoma City’s 17-point loss to Portland while filling the minutes left open by an injury that will keep teammate Hammidou Diallo out for at least a month. Nader followed up that performance by pouring in 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and knocking down a huge 3-pointer late in the Thunder’s 109-104 win over New Orleans last Friday.
“I’m really happy for him,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said on Friday, according to The Oklahoman, “There’s nobody that works harder or is more committed or is in the gym more than he is.”
Nader did struggle in a three-point win over the Pelicans on Sunday, shooting just 2-of-6 and 0-of-4 from 3-point range to finish with four points, but he continues to see more time on the floor than he has during any other point of his first two seasons in the Association.
As of Monday, Nader is averaging 6.8 points, on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 38.7 percent from the three, in 14.1 minutes per game. All of those numbers are career-highs for the one-time transfer from Northern Illinois, who earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors after averaging 12.9 points as a senior in 2015-16, helping the Cyclones reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
Who knows how long Nader will be able to ride the confidence from his back-to-back big-time performances last week, but he certainly made a case for more playing time while the Thunder work Diallo’s injury.
“I think (Nader’s) playing with the right spirit, sort of letting the game come to him and shooting with confidence,” OKC’s star point guard Chris Paul told The Athletic last week. “Sometimes when you are playing sparing minutes here and there, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. But I think the coaching staff and our team try to lift him up as much as possible. It’s good to see him put these games together back-to-back.”