Southwest Notes: Zion, Kyrie, Luka, Mavs, Rockets

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson isn’t particularly close to returning to action, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

While we already knew that New Orleans won’t have the former No. 1 overall pick available for the play-in tournament, it sounds like the team also isn’t counting on Williamson returning from a hamstring injury in time to play in a first-round series, should the Pelicans win a pair of play-in contests.

Sources tell Charania that there’s “no expectation” Williamson will be on the court at all during the first round of the playoffs, as his conditioning level isn’t close to where it needs to be. Perhaps if the Pelicans can win two play-in games and then knock off the top-seeded Nuggets in the first round, we could see Zion again this spring, but that’s a long shot.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic said during his exit interview with the media on Monday that he’d like to see the team re-sign Kyrie Irving this summer, as Eddie Sefko of relays. “I think it’s a great fit,” Doncic said. “Obviously people are going to say no, look at the results we’re having. But like I said, chemistry, relationships take time. And I wish he can still be here. He’s a great player. He just wants peace. And a great person.”
  • The Mavericks consulted with the league office before submitting their player availability designations last Friday, sources tell Marc Stein (Substack link). The franchise is now under NBA investigation for its decision to rest healthy players in that game, and Stein suggests that the Mavs’ mistake was being too honest with the media on Friday about their motivations. Stein likens the league’s stance on tanking to its approach to tampering and free agency gun-jumping, writing that the least discreet teams are the ones that get penalized.
  • The Rockets expect to begin their head coaching interviews before the end of the week, reports Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Ime Udoka, Frank Vogel, and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson are among Houston’s initial targets, Feigen adds, confirming previous reporting. General manager Rafael Stone said the team is seeking a candidate who has a “real vision” for how to use the Rockets’ young players and incorporate veterans. “The next coach … is going to know much more than Stephen (Silas) did what they’re walking into,” Stone said. “We’ll have free agency and the draft picks. And we have a young core of guys who I think are very, very likely to be with us for the next year or two.”
  • While Silas handled the Rockets‘ young core with an understanding and supportive approach, the team may be seeking a replacement with a “fierier style” who will “lean more toward critical when appropriate,” Feigen writes in a separate Houston Chronicle story (subscription required).
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