It's been over a month since Oklahoma City Thunder rookie guard Luguentz Dort made his name known in the NBA Playoffs.
In a breakout first-round series against the Houston Rockets where Dort took on the challenge of guarding prolific scorer James Harden, the Montreal native became a household name among NBA fans. It was more than just his stout defence on Harden that had his name in the newswire - in a win-or-go-home Game 7, the rookie recorded his career-high in scoring, exploding for 30 points with six 3-pointers to try and keep his team's season alive.
Keeping Up With The Canadians 🇨🇦- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) September 3, 2020
Luguentz Dort | vs. Houston
6 THREE POINTERS
4 REBOUNDS#ThunderUp | #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/LQgNrY3Yqs
The Thunder would come up just short of advancing in the playoffs and now that Dort has had some time to digest his first season in the league, he's shifted his focus to getting ready for the 2020-21 season.
In an interview with TSN 690, Dort discussed how his hometown helped shape his successful rookie campaign.
"Coming from Montreal, it's such an underdog city and there's so much (talent) here that people don't know, and the fact that I've made it (to the NBA), I hope other people realize they can do it also," he told TSN 690.
"I felt a lot of weight on my shoulders because I want to represent my city, but I was just trying to tell the world what we have here in Montreal. That was my main thing that really pushed me to get to the level I'm at right now."
Dort represented his city well, exceeding all expectations as an undrafted rookie guard. He also said he feels the love from the city, and that's what he misses most when he's in the states during the season, "The vibe here, the people here. Just walking around where I grew up and some people recognize me and just give me support or say a few words, that pushes me the most."
If Dort can continue to play the way he did in the postseason, he'll become recognizable in many places beyond his home city.
As previously mentioned, the 21-year-old guard was given the task to try and contain the three-time scoring champion Harden. According to NBA stats, in 156.4 partial possessions guarding Harden, Dort held the former MVP to just 65 points shooting 31.5% from the field and 26.3% from beyond the arc.
When asked about how he was able to keep the typically unstoppable scorer quiet, he credited his preparation with the help of his veteran leader Chris Paul.
"I spent a lot of time (prepping to guard Harden). ... We got to prepare a little earlier and having Chris (Paul) on my team, he's just such a leader. He knows how the playoffs work and how to spend your time getting ready for it. So I spent a lot of time with Chris, watching film on James, studying his game and I felt like that really helped."
Dort and Harden were already familiar with one another, too, both playing their college basketball at Arizona State University.
"Me going to Arizona State and James going to Arizona State, I used to watch James a lot. So in the playoffs, I was just ready and I felt like I was good enough to stop him."
TSN 690 had mentioned how Rockets guard Austin Rivers had a viral Instagram Live video earlier in the week and gave a ton of credit to Dort for his efforts on the defensive end despite not knowing who he was prior to the start of the series. Dort talked about how that's just the start of one of his main goals in the NBA, stating, "It lets me know that I really did a good job this playoffs and that it's going to help me for the future. One of my main goals is to earn the respect of the league and I feel like I'm already starting to get that."
He also talked about what it's like to have another fellow Canadian on the roster in Toronto native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
"Me and Shai played against each other when we were young and now that we're on the same team, it's been cool," Dort told TSN 690.
"You know, we represent OKC but as Canadians, we represent our country and it's really fun that we have the two of us on the same team. We've built a really good relationship and he's just a really good friend of mine. We're so close and it's awesome to have two Canadians on the same team."
Dort's aware that their young Thunder squad didn't get much love heading into this past season, but he feels that has them ready for anything in 2020-21.
"We can be really good. The expectations going into last season weren't very high and we ended up top-five in the West. We're ready. Our guys are all ready for the challenge. I think we'll surprise people again."
Oklahoma City has a fun, young team with two Canadians in Dort and Gilgeous-Alexander at the forefront.
Dort's rookie campaign was one-of-a-kind and he's just getting started on what has the potential to be a long and successful NBA career.
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