Royce YoungESPN Staff WriterClose
- Covers the Oklahoma City Thunder for ESPN.com
Noel was taken to OU Medical Center and will be held there overnight to be evaluated. The team did not have any further details on his condition, Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after Thursday’s 119-117 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
An update on Noel’s status is likely to come Wednesday.
Noel went up to contest a dunk by Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins, and he caught an elbow to the face and landed hard on his right side. As Noel hit the floor, his head bounced off the hardwood. He was motionless beneath the basket for several minutes, and players and Thunder medical personnel gathered around him with visible concern.
Noel was moving as staff attended to him, and he was conscious as he was taken off the floor on a stretcher.
“I just tried to make an aggressive move and dunk,” Wiggins said. “He tried to contest it. I think he fell wrong. I didn’t really see it until I saw him on the ground. Hopefully he’s good. I hope nothing but the best for him. I hope he gets healthy soon and comes back stronger.”
Several Wolves players were interested in receiving updates on Noel after the game, asking about his status and for information when it came available.
My prayers out to you 🙏🏾 @NerlensNoel3
— andrew wiggins (@22wiggins) January 9, 2019
Noel was called for a foul on the play. After a review, no additional fouls were called.
“It was just a really s— play,” Steven Adams said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened. Obviously, Wiggins didn’t mean anything in that — that should be said. He shouldn’t be taking any blame for it whatsoever. It’s just one of those crazy plays that happens. Fortunately, they responded quite quickly, the medical staff and whatnot. It was really good. I felt like he was in the best hands at the time, which was good.”
Said Thunder star Russell Westbrook: “I’d just rather not talk about it.”
Schroder was upset with Wolves players who he thought were talking among themselves and laughing while Noel was on the floor. Schroder stared at the Wolves players and yelled in their direction, “What are you laughing at?” Wolves players responded to Schroder, saying they weren’t laughing at Noel or the current situation.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” Wiggins said of Schroder. “He was acting crazy for no reason. I looked right through it. He’s not someone I see as a problem. Not at all.”
After play resumed, Schroder and Teague had to be separated. Following a review, Schroder was called for a technical foul, and Teague received two T’s, leading to an automatic ejection.
Wolves interim coach Ryan Saunders won in his debut, and players celebrated in the locker room by dumping water on him, leaving Saunders to do his postgame interviews soaking wet.
Wolves players said not too much was different for them schematically in their first game without Tom Thibodeau, who was fired as head coach on Sunday, but Wiggins played perhaps the best game of his career, scoring 40 points, going 16-of-18 from the free throw line and adding 10 rebounds.
“One thing about the NBA, things are going to happen,” Taj Gibson said. “Curveballs are going to keep being thrown at you, but you just have to weather the storm, especially on the road. We just relied on [Wiggins], and it went to certain players. Dario [Saric] had a big game. Anthony Tolliver came up big for us. We got stops right when we needed to get them. It was a good collective win for us, but it means a lot for Ryan.”