Southwest Notes: Green, Ivey, Wemby, Popovich, Pelicans

Early-morning workouts and late-night phone calls with assistant coach Royal Ivey have been a factor in Jalen Green breakout this season, according to the Rockets guard, but Ivey is happy to give all the credit to Green, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

“It’s all kudos to Jalen,” Ivey said. “I’m just empowering him and encouraging him. He’s doing the work. At the end of the day, that’s a credit to his resiliency, his determination. And not being in that situation before, facing adversity, sitting down at the end of games, not being in (the game) in defensive possessions, he took that personally. This is the result of that.”

Green’s play earlier in the season was up and down, but he has been one of the league’s top scorers in recent weeks, averaging 28.0 points and 3.9 assists on .479/.394/.798 shooting in his past 17 games. Ivey said the former No. 2 overall pick has had the ball in his hands more lately and has looked more comfortable reading defenses and being aggressive.

“I can say his decision-making is A-1, making the right reads,” Ivey said. “And the finishing, it’s been (about) concentration, not looking for fouls. He’s so athletic, if he gets to his launchpad, good things happen. He’s working with his finishing every day. He’s been more assertive to get to that rim. I just think it’s confidence. It goes back to his mindset. That’s everything.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Spurs star rookie Victor Wembanyama admitted he was a bit surprised to be hit with a $25K fine for throwing the game ball into the stands at the end of last Friday’s win over New York, calling it “funny,” according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “When I threw the ball, I thought, ‘Yeah, I remember players being fined for this,'” Wembanyama said. “But they always threw it in a bad way. I threw it to please somebody. It’s not like I was trying to hurt anybody.”
  • Warriors head coach Steve Kerr doesn’t expect long-tenured Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call it a career anytime soon, as Orsborn relays. “He was supposed to have retired five years ago, so why would we predict he is going to retire any time soon?” Kerr said when asked if he expects Popovich to fulfill the five-year contract he signed in 2023. “He is still going strong and still doing a great job and loving his work, so I can see it.”
  • Pelicans head coach Willie Green is still figuring out how to distribute minutes at center as the postseason nears, writes Christian Clark of The team has gone back and forth between Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance Jr. at the five for much of the season, depending on the matchup. However, Green has also experimented with other options, including using Zion Williamson in that role for the last five minutes of Monday’s game vs. Phoenix, Clark notes.
  • Green was critical of his defense after it allowed Devin Booker to score 52 points in New Orleans for a second time this season on Monday. “Quite frankly, we were soft guarding him,” the Pelicans‘ head coach said after the game, per William Guillory of The Athletic. “We just had a soft mentality.”
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