Southwest Notes: Thompson, Holiday, Lively, Grizzlies, Sochan

Rockets rookie guard Amen Thompson sprained his right ankle on Wednesday, with the team ruling him out of the contest shortly after he suffered the injury in the third quarter. According to Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire, head coach Ime Udoka said Thompson suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain.

Thompson also sustained a Grade 2 left ankle sprain over the summer and that injury had a two-to-four week recovery timetable, according to DuBose, so it’s likely he’s looking at a similar return timeline for this injury.

The No. 4 overall pick is Houston’s primary backup point guard behind Fred VanVleet, so Aaron Holiday absorbed the brunt of Thompson’s minutes following his departure from the game. However, Udoka didn’t turn to Holiday right away, moving Jae’Sean Tate to the backcourt before bringing Holiday in, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle observes (subscriber link). Udoka wasn’t ready to fully commit to the idea of Holiday always being the backup in a three-guard rotation.

I think we’ll go by committee a little bit,” Udoka said. “I think, the lineup that we had out there, even Amen was out there, we had Jae’Sean as another guy that can initiate, so we do have some guys I can kind of play up or down and fill different roles. We’ll look at it as game-to-game.

Udoka praised Holiday’s playing ability and said he believed Holiday and VanVleet could play together. Feigen writes that improving the bench play of the Rockets is crucial and playing Holiday may be important to finding a consistent rotation.

Depending on the team, for sure,” Udoka said. “Teams that have bigger wings, obviously that’ll pose some threats. But Aaron is a guy, similar to his brother, doesn’t have the height of Jrue, but he is a very physical, tough guy that can play on or off the ball. Fred does as well.

According to Feigen, Udoka said there may be situations where he calls on Reggie Bullock, rookie Cam Whitmore or Tate to fill in some of the backcourt minutes.

Holiday signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets this offseason that has just $1MM guaranteed. If Holiday is on the roster on Jan. 10, that contract will become fully guaranteed.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks rookie center Dereck Lively II is a huge part of Dallas’s early season success, averaging 7.6 points and 7.0 rebounds while starting in four of the team’s five games so far. Lively said he’s learned from former Mavs champion Tyson Chandler, who joined the organization via the Mavs Legend Program, according to Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Chandler works with Mavericks centers in his role with the team, including the 19-year-old Lively. “He has a willingness to actually learn, listen and take in information,” Chandler said. “He has a great spirit. He reminds me a lot of myself. I feel the duty to actually be there for him and guide him as much as necessary.”
  • The Grizzlies are a league-worst 0-6 to begin the season, facing a lengthy suspension to Ja Morant and injuries to key players like Steven Adams. Still, the Grizzlies were expected to be more competitive even with their early season issues, considering they brought in former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and have current reigning DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr., as well as Desmond Bane. Kelly Iko and John Hollinger of The Athletic dive into why Memphis’ struggles go deeper than suspensions and injuries, including Smart being a step slower on defense thus far and the younger players on the roster not taking a step forward. I recommend checking out the article in full if you have a subscription to The Athletic, as the pair explore the intriguing trade options Memphis has, along with a deeper look into the club’s problems.
  • Experimenting with starting Jeremy Sochan at point guard has produced a mix bag of results for the Spurs. Even still, head coach Gregg Popovich expressed his appreciation with what the second-year guard/forward brings to the table, as relayed by Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Popovich said Sochan is “trending in the right direction” and has stood out defensively, adding that he likes how the former lottery pick is “taking care of the ball,” according to Orsborn. “It doesn’t matter who he guards, he does a wonderful job, creates a lot of chaos for us,” Popovich said.
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