For Lu Dort’s mom, seeing him sign a full-time contract with the Thunder made the perfect birthday gift. Erline Mortell has been by her son’s side through his entire rollercoaster basketball career that has taken him from Canada and across the United States in the past four years. When Dort didn’t hear his name called in the 2019 Draft after his rookie season at Arizona State, Mortell was right there with him. So when she heard her son earned a full-time contract with the Thunder, it made for one memorable birthday present.
“It meant a lot just because they really support me, since I started playing basketball. They were there last year…at draft night. It was tough for all of us,” said Dort. “How we felt when I told her the news, it felt great. She was really happy. And it was her birthday too.”
The Montreal native garnered a regular spot in the starting lineup in January after proving his ability to defend the league’s best scorers when his number was called. Since then, he has started in the Thunder’s remaining 21 games averaging 22 minutes and 6.2 points per game.
As a two-way player, Dort took advantage of his split time with the OKC Blue and the Thunder soaking in every ounce of coaching he received in order to grow as a player. Seeing his humble, hard-working mentality pay off was not only rewarding to the eyes of Dort and his family, but to his teammates who couldn’t help but root for their rookie, two-way starter.
“They were all happy. We have a group text and all the players were texting me, texting the group to congratulate me,” said Dort. “That was big. You could see the support that they have. They saw me grow as a player from the first time I got here to now, so it was really big to me.”
WATCH: Lu Maximizes Opportunity
On Wednesday, Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander pointed out just how valuable Dort has been to the team on the floor this season.
“I believe wholeheartedly that he deserves and he's worked for it and he’ll continue to get better,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I think Lu’s the type of player that does the things that not everybody wants to do– dive on the loose ball, guard the opposite team's best player the whole game. And he’s obviously really good at it.”
For Dort, the work has only just begun. He and his team will leave on Wednesday to restart their abbreviated season in Orlando’s Walt Disney World. In the meantime, he has been working on his game both on and off the floor to help his team in any way he can. This means sharpening his already impressive defensive prowess while broadening his ability to be an offensive threat. In true Lu Dort fashion, it’s all about being ready when the opportunity arises.
“Being able to knock down open shots, being able to space the floor. That’s one of the main things I've been working on since I’ve been back here,” said Dort.
“When I wasn’t practicing, I was watching a lot of film with the coaches. I feel like it was tough on all of us to not be able to play. Now that everything is starting back, we’re all are getting with each other and starting to build chemistry again,” said Dort.
That team chemistry will continue to grow as the team begins its mini training camp upon arrival at Walt Disney World. This global stage and and being a part of the full-time roster is something Dort doesn’t take for granted as a Montreal native. It’s an opportunity for Dort to be an inspiration to any child from his Montreal-Nord community -a borough on the northside of Montreal- that with hard work, they can do it too.
“It’s a tough place. It’s not easy to come out from this place,” said Dort. “Just going to the states and playing basketball or whatever the case may be… it’s good for the kids to see me just being here. If I did it, they can do it too. It’s a big motivation for them and I know it.”