Southwest Notes: Mills, Rockets, Pelicans

The Spurs will welcome the injured Patty Mills back to their lineup soon, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Mills hasn’t played yet this season after having rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder during the summer. Mills said he has been cleared for full practices, but is not ready for game action. Coach Gregg Popovich will be careful not to rush him back into the lineup. “If he messes up the shoulder again, we lose him for the season,” Popovich said. “He’s too important.” Mills played through pain last season and was a key contributor off the bench in San Antonio’s run to the championship. Despite the long rehab, the Spurs opted to reward the free agent guard with a contract worth approximately $11MM over three years.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets had their eyes on Josh Smith for several years before he was waived by the Pistons, reports Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report. Houston was interested in a sign-and-trade with the Hawks when Smith hit the free agent market in 2013, but wasn’t able to work out a deal. Instead, Smith inked a four-year, $54MM pact with Detroit. Smith cleared waivers Wednesday and has been open about his intention to join the Rockets, but the team must clear a roster spot before a deal can be finalized.
  • Smith confirmed to Michael Lee of The Washington Post that Dwight Howard had a lot to do with his decision to choose Houston. Smith and Howard have been friends since their AAU days, and Howard served as best man at Smith’s wedding. The Rockets’ center made a recruiting pitch to Smith after he was waived. “Dwight the player was big,” an unidentified person close to Smith said. “Dwight the person didn’t hurt, let’s be honest.” 
  • Coach Monty Williams questioned the Pelicans‘ toughness after Tuesday’s loss to the Pacers, writes John Reid of The Times Picayune. “What I didn’t like is we didn’t respond to the physicality,” Williams said. “… We spent too much time worrying about the calls than playing the game.” The Pelicans have been plagued by inconsistent play despite the presence of MVP candidate Anthony Davis and the offseason addition of Omer Asik.

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