Southwest Notes: Udoka, Ivey, Spurs, Mavericks

Ime Udoka understands that the Rockets hired him as their head coach to help the team become competitive again. In an interview with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Udoka talks about how Houston can take the next step in its development, going from a team of highly rated prospects to a cohesive unit capable of contending for a playoff spot.

Udoka discusses the possibility of using Jalen Green and Jabari Smith in setups similar to what he did with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in Boston. He also repeats a message that he emphasized at his introductory press conference — youth won’t be an excuse for failure.

“I want guys that can catch on quickly but also adapt to what we’re trying to do,” Udoka said. “I’m not gonna hold anything back defensively or schematically because we’re a young group, that’d be going against what I’m saying. I want guys to get up to speed quickly, have smart, cerebral players that can do a lot of different things.”

The Rockets will have nearly $60MM in cap space to try to improve their roster this summer, and there have been persistent rumors that James Harden is interested in returning. Udoka said he expects the front office to target free agents who will mix well with the young core already on hand.

“You want to add veterans that aren’t just a voice only, you want them to be out there, play and push the guys,” he said. “But, as I’ve said, regardless of free agency and the draft, we still have a group of guys we want to grow, and we’re looking for internal growth. More so than necessarily looking for an outside guy to try to save the day.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Nets assistant Royal Ivey will join the Rockets‘ coaching staff, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Ivey is the first assistant coach to be added since Udoka was hired last month.
  • The Spurs are reaping the financial benefits of winning the draft lottery, writes David Rumsey of Front Office Sports. San Antonio fans are thrilled at the prospect of adding Victor Wembanyama, and team employees worked well past midnight Tuesday to handle new season ticket requests.
  • The Mavericks are ready to make a “meaningful overhaul” to their roster after missing the playoffs, team sources tell Fred Katz and Tim Cato of The Athletic. Dallas was relieved to keep its first-round pick, which will be 10th overall, in Tuesday’s lottery. The pick remains top-10 protected for the next two years, leaving Dallas with only its 2027 first-rounder to use as a trade asset. The Mavericks were one number away from moving up to fourth in the draft, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.
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