Southwest Notes: Rockets, Brunson, Finney-Smith, Grizzlies, Hayes

The Cavaliers team that Houston defeated on Wednesday has provided a blueprint for the Rockets to follow as they go through their own rebuild, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Cleveland patiently accumulated talent while enduring seasons of 19 wins, 19 wins (again), and 22 wins, and that patience is paying off this year.

“They have a bunch of young guys, and had some rough years for sure, but stuck with those young guys,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said on Wednesday, per Feigen. “Those young guys were working together during the summer and going to Summer League and getting a little bit better to the point they are really having a good season led by J.B. (Bickerstaff) and the job J.B. has done and them sticking with J.B. and the organization being super solid with that group. That’s what we’re looking for here.”

Asked about the Rockets, Bickerstaff acknowledged that he could see some similarities between his own team and Houston, pointing to the young backcourt of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. as a duo worth building upon.

“This group, especially being able to play with the size of those guys, they have big guards who can play different positions and score different ways,” Bickerstaff said of the Rockets. “They’re what the future of the league looks like, that size and skill.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Amid speculation about whether the Mavericks will trade or re-sign a pair of 2022 free-agents-to-be, Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith, Dalton Trigg of reached out to team owner Mark Cuban and received the following response: “We will do all we can to keep (both Brunson) and Dorian.”
  • Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News outlines how the trade exception the Mavericks created in last summer’s Josh Richardson deal could come in handy at the trade deadline.
  • With the Grizzlies firmly in control of a top-three seed in the West, Tim MacMahon of ESPN takes a deep dive into the young squad’s success and its short- and long-term goals. “Obviously, everybody’s ultimate goal is to win a championship,” All-Star point guard Ja Morant told ESPN. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re laying brick by brick each day to get better. At the end, we’ll build an empire.”
  • Playing almost exclusively at power forward, Pelicans big man Jaxson Hayes racked up 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting on Monday vs. Cleveland. The performance prompted head coach Willie Green to say after the game that jumbo lineups with Hayes alongside center Jonas Valanciunas are “something we’re definitely going to explore” more going forward, per Christian Clark of
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