Southwest Notes: Jones, Pelicans, Thompson, Whitmore, Wemby

Despite an impending salary crunch, the Pelicans are not open to trading defensive ace Herbert Jones, Marc Stein reports in his latest notebook. Jones signed a four-year extension during the offseason.

By dealing Kira Lewis Jr. as part of the three-team trade featuring Pascal Siakam, New Orleans moved under the luxury tax. However, the Pelicans still face long-term financial challenges with Trey Murphy III eligible for a rookie scale contract extension this summer and generally trying to retain all the key pieces on arguably the league’s deepest roster.

The Pelicans are one of two NBA franchises to never pay the luxury tax.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans’ starting unit has not fared well in the second half of games and coach Willie Green is open to making changes, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune. “We have enough data to know that it’s an issue, and we are working on it,” Green said. “Right now, we want to give them a chance to correct it. But we’re at the point where anything is on the table.”
  • With Fred VanVleet, Jeff Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason sitting out on Sunday, the Rockets started rookie first-rounders Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore. In the last few weeks, both have earned more playing time due to their attention to detail and physical traits, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes. They got a defensive education trying to guard Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis. “They did pretty well,” forward Dillon Brooks said. “Most of the time, they were on Porziņgis because (Boston) was trying to get the switch, but they played them well and physical enough. They should take that and bring it to every game.”
  • The first half of the Spurs’ season is over and The Athletic’s Mike Monroe takes a closer look at how Victor Wembanyama fared up to the midway point, noting that the rookie big man has produced despite being on a minutes restriction. Wembanyama has not played more than 27 minutes in his last 12 appearances after suffering minor ankle sprains, but has averaged 21.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game during that stretch.
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