Southwest Notes: Rockets, Green, Pelicans-Lakers, Popovich

The Rockets’ 2023/24 season, their first under new head coach Ime Udoka, is now in the books. Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle breaks down how the team showed plenty of promise en route to a 41-41 finish, diminished slightly by the lack of a playoff or play-in berth. The Rockets finished as the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference.

“Happy wouldn’t be the word,” Udoka said. “We are disappointed we didn’t meet our goal. When you are a few games behind, you think of all the tough … games we’ve given away, we understand where we could have been. The goal always was to make the playoffs and the play-in and have that experience for our guys.”

Center Alperen Sengun and shooting guard Jalen Green, who both enjoyed breakout seasons this year, are both set to be extension-eligible when the new league year begins in July.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans head coach Willie Green‘s contract was reportedly extended last year, per Christian Clark of Sources inform Clark that New Orleans also extended the contracts of New Orleans executive executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin and general manager Trajan Langdon. Green, a former journeyman NBA guard as a player, is in his third season with New Orleans and boasts a 127-119 record with the club so far. He has led the Pelicans to three consecutive postseason appearances, though the team was eliminated in the play-in tournament a year ago.
  • The Pelicans struggled to do much of anything against the Lakers in a critical season finale matchup on Sunday, as Rod Walker of details. In falling 124-108 to Los Angeles, New Orleans fell into the play-in tournament with a 49-33 record — the Pels are the West’s No. 7 seed and have a rematch on tap with the eighth-seeded Lakers on Tuesday.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich suggested that he expects return to coach probable Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama for his second season, writes Tom Orbsorn of The San Antonio Express-News. The 75-year-old Popovich inked a five-year deal worth upwards of $80MM to stick with San Antonio last summer. “He made it very clear day one he cares about his guys as people first,” Wembanyama said. “He is there to poke on us sometimes or to correct us. But the way my teammates and I have responded to all the advice it’s just been great and the dynamic is very good.”
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