If you’ve been following NBA news a bit in recent days, you couldn’t have missed the very noticeable return of Jaylen Hoard in the NBA. Almost two years after participating in the Disneyworld bubble with Portland, then appearing in 19 matches for the Thunder last season, the 23-year-old Frenchman has signed a 10-day contract with the Thunder. To say he seized his chance in all four matches he appeared in is an understatement. Against Detroit (11 points, 20 rebounds), Portland (24 points, 21 rebounds) and Utah (23 points, 5 rebounds), the former Wake Forest winger floated and showed that he totally had his place among the elite .
Before OKC’s last two games of the season, both in Los Angeles against the Lakers and the Clippers, we had a chat with Jaylen. The member of Team France – the extended group for international competitions – is happy with the opportunity but keeps a cool head and a lot of humility.
BasketballSession: Jaylen, how are you? The last few days have been quite lively! How are you living this positive period?
Jaylen Hoard: It’s okay ! There, we have a day off because we have just had two matches and we arrived in Los Angeles in the middle of the night, it’s always a bit of a hassle. For this period, I didn’t necessarily have any expectations, because I was called at the last moment and everything went very quickly. Aleksej Pokusevski fell ill, I was preparing for a match with the Blue, we had two left to try to qualify for the G-League playoffs. I was going to take a nap and they called me to tell me that I had to leave immediately with the Thunder and that there was a game the next day. Things happened so fast that I couldn’t have any particular expectations. I already wanted to integrate the group well and in the end everything went well. Most guys, I know them. Integrating and finding cohesion was not too difficult, since in the team there are guys with whom I had played in the NBA last year or this year in the G-League.
Last season you had already made appearances with OKC and, personally, I had found them rather good. How did you live not to restart the season with the Thunder?
Honestly, after the Summer League I did with them, I don’t think I performed well, apart from one game where I was good. Having been average, I did not necessarily expect to sign with the Thunder team. With my agent, we talked about different options. He told me that it would be interesting to return to the G-League team to continue working with them. Even if the G-League is not very “glam” and I could have gone to Europe or elsewhere in the world to play basketball, the development that this league allows and the chance that is given to players is interesting. We wanted to try again for a year, telling ourselves that if it worked it was good, but otherwise we would look elsewhere.
[📺 RÉSUMÉ VIDÉO] 🏀 #NBA
🇬🇧 With a huge Jaylen Hoard, OKC wins against the Blazers!
⭐ 24 points and 21 rebounds for the Frenchman!https://t.co/WiWMZsPux8
— NBAextra (@NBAextra) April 6, 2022
It’s super important for the NBA to have reliable shooting. So as soon as I have the ball, I shoot without hesitation because I know that if I want to be able to play in this league, that’s what is expected of me.
In the G-League, you ended up playing inside and post 5. You were asked different things and you adapted very well, with a good series of double-doubles in particular. Did you surprise yourself or did you know that if this happened it would go just as well?
Honestly, I wasn’t a fan at all (laughs). But it was necessary. DJ Wilson worked hard all season and he was logically called up by Toronto, then Olivier (Sarr) also played really well and was signed as a two-way by the Thunder. So, I was kind of the only tall player (he measures 2.03 m, Ed.) who remained in the workforce. It was a bit of a hassle at first, it was difficult. I think my first two matches weren’t great, but little by little I became more comfortable in this role. With the coaches, we watched a lot of videos to see how I could have an impact. Even if it’s not my traditional job, it got better and better over time.
Since your return to the NBA, we see you at ease at 3 points and you have even already scored more award-winning baskets than throughout the season in the G-League. We know that in the NBA we swear by players who have a reliable shot. Is it an aspect of your game that you had targeted?
It’s something I’ve worked on a lot throughout the year with the G-League coaches. The stats say I only scored one 3-pointer, but that’s because they only counted the stats after the December showcase, in fact I put in a few more. Right now I’m confident about my shooting. Like you said, it’s super important for the NBA that the players have a reliable shot. So as soon as I have the ball, I shoot without hesitation because I know that if I want to be able to play in this league, that’s what is expected of me and that’s what I’m going to have to do. .
CQFR: Phenomenal Jaylen Hoard, the Lakers officially eliminated!
It must be special to arrive in a team at a time when most of the fans and the front office almost want the team to lose games to be well placed in the lottery. When you’re a player like you who has a small window of opportunity to seize your chance, how do you live with that?
It’s hard for me to worry about that. I can’t say that I’m only there for myself, but when you’re under contract for 10 days, it’s like a trial and you are necessarily trying to show things. For my part, I just try to play the best I can. The rest I can’t really control. We have two games left, I will try to finish well and play hard, we will see for the rest. There, it is true that it is a particular team. It’s very different from groups with more veterans, like what I experienced in Portland. Over there, especially when you’re a rookie, you don’t necessarily play a lot. Even in training or training camps it’s different. It was difficult even to have space and time to make reps and participate in drills. At OKC, there are only young players. Everyone has a bit of a chance at one time or another and an opportunity to show off. That’s a pretty cool thing about our situation.
Among these young people, there is Théo Maledon and Olivier Sarr. The media has told you a lot about this connection throughout the year and I imagine it was nice. With Olivier, who was unfortunately cut off this week, and you who did part of your studies in the United States, do they still consider you Frenchies?
Yes a little more (laughs). In fact, we hear about it every day. We are teased. The other players tell us all the time to stop speaking French among ourselves. We always have thoughts, but I’m happy to have been able to spend the whole year with Théo and Olivier. Olivier has just been cut and I was able to talk a little with him. I didn’t want to bother him too much with that because I know it’s something difficult to manage. Basically, of course he was a little disappointed, but he knows he showed great things. He couldn’t really control what happened either. He did what he had to do and showed what he can do on the pitch. During his time with the Thunder, he played really well. Personally, I don’t worry, I know he will find something.
Blues ? I’m waiting for an opportunity and when I get it, I’ll have to seize it
The last two matches of the season are therefore in Los Angeles, where you have just arrived. What does LA mean to you?
Los Angeles is very cool. Before, my old agency, Wasserman, was based here, so I had the opportunity to spend time there before the Draft. The city is really good and there are lots of things around that are great to see, there is the food… I have family here. My aunt lives there, my cousin is in a university not far away… Besides, for the game against the Lakers there will also be my brother Elijah, who will be coming from his college in New Mexico. This is my first time playing at the Staples Center. The last time I faced the Lakers was in the bubble, in a particular context.
This week there is the return of the Nike Hoop Summit, the last two editions of which had been cancelled. What memories do you have of this event that you played in 2018 and what would you advise Yohan Traoré and Sidy Cissoko, the two tricolor representatives of this year?
The Hoop Summit was amazing. It was a goal that I had set myself when I was at INSEP and even before I would say, when I was at Castelnau at 15-16 years old. I had seen that many French people who had done the Hoop Summit had ended up in the NBA. This is the trajectory I was aiming for, so if I had a good performance at the Hoop Summit, it could help me for the Draft. It’s a great experience because you’re playing in an NBA arena. When I learned that I was selected, it was a great joy. In addition I was with Bathiste Tchouaffé, who was at INSEP with me, we won the match as well so it’s a very good memory. For Yohan and Sidy, I only know them by name, but I can only advise them to play as hard as possible and not to be afraid to try things, to be free. We had been tough on defense and that helped us all in the game and afterwards. You have to take advantage of the experience, that’s also what is important. You’re in Oregon, which is my favorite state, we’re taking you on a tour of the Nike campus, the headquarters…
What makes Oregon your favorite state in the US?
I love the landscapes of Oregon. I am someone who likes to explore nature. There you have the mountains, the sea, lots of things to see. Also, the people of Oregon are lovely. It was a great experience for me in Portland. My best friend lives there too, it’s one of my favorite places. Before signing with OKC, I was hoping to stay in Portland but it couldn’t be done and that’s how it is. The experience with the Blazers was really cool. We had veterans like Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony… They taught me a lot of things, it’s a chance to have been able to play with these guys.
You are part of Team France Basketball, the extended group for international meetings with the Blues. Are you aiming for a selection in the short or medium term?
The France team is a goal for me, of course. From there to say when it will be possible, it is not really the question. I am waiting for an opportunity and when I have it, I will have to seize it. Then we’ll see where it takes me. It would be great, but I know it’s complicated to join the team. We could see at the Olympics that the level is huge and there are a lot of players. It is more complicated to enter than in other countries, but I hope to succeed.
Jaylen has a Youtube channel on which you can find topics around him and his family, with his sisters Anaia (whom we told you about in the Mook MORE THAN BALLERS) and Leah, and his brother Elijah.