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Southwest Notes: Zion, Burke, Doncic, Harden

Zion Williamson played just 14 minutes in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Clippers, and his time is expected to remain limited in Monday’s showdown with the Grizzlies, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Williamson was barely a factor yesterday, making 3-of-7 shots and committing three turnovers in the 23-point defeat. The Pelicans came to Orlando with hopes of reaching the playoffs, but have now dropped to 12th place with six games remaining.

The team was heavily criticized for not using Williamson down the stretch of its opening loss to the Jazz, but vice president David Griffin explained yesterday that the star rookie didn’t have much practice time to get back into game shape after the four-month hiatus. Williamson briefly left the Walt Disney World campus to tend to a family matter and was quarantined upon returning.

“It makes sense to me that there’s so much attention — obviously, he’s a phenom,” Griffin said. “The league office itself takes as much interest in this as the fans do, and I’m grateful, frankly, that the fans take as much interest as they do. What I’m frustrated by is that there has to be a conspiracy theory involved when literally there’s not one thing different that’s being done with him than was done for every player on this roster when we got here, and he missed 13 days of what those guys got. Now all of the sudden, because the stakes are raised and because, unfortunately, we were selected for seven national (television) games, we’re supposed to reinvent the wheel.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Trey Burke had a memorable debut with the Mavericks, scoring 31 points and hitting eight 3-pointers Friday night, but barely played in the fourth quarter as Dallas saw a big lead slip away, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “I think some of the guys on the side were wondering the same thing,” Burke said, referring to his teammates. “I just got here. I know Coach has a lineup at the end of the game that he trusts at this point.” Coach Rick Carlisle explained that Burke, who was signed as a replacement player for Willie Cauley-Stein and has only been in Orlando for about a week, was tired late in the game.
  • The Mavericks feature an offense that statistically ranks as the NBA’s best ever, but they have trouble holding onto leads, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Luka Doncic believes that will eventually change with experience. “We’re a young team. We’ve got a lot to learn,” he said. “We’ll get better for sure. I know we’re going to get together when it matters most in the playoffs, so I’m not worried about that.”
  • Ahead of their meeting tonight, McMahon examines the history of the feud between Rockets star James Harden and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, which began with last year’s MVP race.

Western Notes: Murray, Doncic, Lakers, Fertitta

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is confident the team can win the NBA championship this season, explaining his thoughts to reporters on a Zoom call last week.

“We know we can go win the title,” Murray said, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “Me and Joker (Nikola Jokic) have been in Denver this whole time, working out.

“Why not?” Murray later replied upon being asked whether Denver could win it all. “We have proven to be one the best teams year in and year out since we have been building. We have beaten good teams consistently. We shouldn’t have lost to Portland (last year in the Western Semifinals). That was more on us, our inexperience and they are a good team. But we don’t think that there is a team that can beat us in a seven-game series when we are playing at our best.”

The Nuggets are 43-22 on the season, good for the third-best record in the Western Conference behind the Lakers (49-14) and Clippers (44-20). Murray’s confidence lies in the team’s offensive capabilities, coupled with how Jokic has slimmed down significantly during quarantine.

“If we can just find that consistency and play at a high level,” Murray said of the Nuggets’ biggest issue. “When me and Joker are on, I don’t think there is anybody that is going to stop us. And if they do, then good game.”

Denver has consistently been one of the NBA’s best regular-season teams in recent seasons, though the franchise has failed to achieve playoff success. The Nuggets will be among the 22 teams slated to play in Orlando when the league resumes later this summer.

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Barring a new setback or injury, Mavericks star Luka Doncic will be healthy for the NBA’s restart, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News writes. Doncic has dealt with a sprained ankle, an illness and various thumb and wrist injuries in 2020. Caplan also examines other Mavs-related notes, including the team’s starting lineup and who could be a potential X-factor in the playoffs.
  • The Lakers will be ready to build on their previous hot streak once the NBA returns, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. Los Angeles was firing on all cylinders before the season was suspended, winning 11 of their its 13 games and holding a 49-14 record. “There will be a lot of focus for the Lakers and all the teams on basketball only, with the family not being there right away,” an official for one NBA team told Turner. “I think that they will be really in-tuned. I think the basketball will be sloppy in the beginning, but it’ll be good as it goes along.”
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta discussed a number of subjects in an interview with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, including his team’s title hopes, the NBA return, and more. Houston is among the 22 teams set to return in Orlando this summer, playing an unprecedented version of small-ball before the season was officially halted.

Western Notes: D’Antoni, Jazz, Doncic, Thunder

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who has traditionally played a short rotation in meaningful games, sounds like he’s going to experiment with playing more guys once the NBA returns from hiatus.

“With (GM) Daryl (Morey) and data, with how we think gives us the best chance to win, it probably comes down to nine guys. Now, who those nine are they could change, and maybe early we experiment, practice and watch,” D’Antoni tells Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

D’Antoni acknowledged that many of the players won’t be in peak regular-season form, adding that “it’s something that you have to play through.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have had numerous conversations since the pair tested positive for COVID-19 and team sources are “adamant” that the two will be able to coexist without issue, Tim MacMahon writes in a collaborate piece with other writers on ESPN.com. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay previously said that the two players were ready to put it behind them.
  • The time off has allowed Luka Doncic‘s thumb, wrist and ankles to heal and while there were rumors that he gained some weight during the hiatus, sources tell MacMahon (same piece) that the Mavericks star has been working out diligently in Slovenia.
  • The Thunder‘s biggest concern coming back from the hiatus could be their chemistry, ESPN’s Royce Young contends in the same piece. OKC compiled a 34-13 record since Thanksgiving, which was second in the league over that span. However, the club needed the first month of the season to get its three-guard lineup in sync.

Western Notes: Warriors, Hill, Doncic, Pelicans

Warriors head of basketball operations Bob Myers offered assurances that his team will be in a competitive mode if play resumes this season, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports. Coach Steve Kerr raised some eyebrows last week when he said the franchise was already in “offseason mode.” But Myers indicated his team will give its best. “The truth is we have the worst record in the league. … It’s hard to motivate in our unique position,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean players don’t have pride and won’t come back and play and care about the league as a whole. We want to be good partners and we will be good partners.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Clippers won’t allow assistant Armond Hill to coach when the team reopens its practice facility, according to The Athletic’s David Aldridge. Hill is the team’s oldest coach at 67 and head coach Doc Rivers doesn’t want to put him at immediate risk. “He wants to go work,” Rivers said. “And I said, ‘Well, I understand that. But we’re not going to let you do it. We just can’t. I can’t live with that.’”
  • Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic flew home to Slovenia on a private jet shortly after the NBA suspended the season, Shelburne reveals in a separate story. Doncic will have to go into quarantine once he returns to the U.S., though domestic players who flew out of state during the shutdown will also have to quarantine.
  • Meyers LeonardJaMychal Green and Alex Len are some of the free agent targets the Pelicans could explore to fortify their frontcourt, William Guillory of The Athletic opines. New Orleans could also pursue a deal for the Nets’ Jarrett Allen if Brooklyn decides to make DeAndre Jordan its starting center, Guillory adds.

Porzingis, Doncic Starting To ‘Click’ As Teammates

Although injuries have limited their time together on the floor this season, Mavericks All-Stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have started showing signs of becoming an elite duo.

In Dallas’ final game before the All-Star break, Doncic (33 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists) and Porzingis (27 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) led the team to a blowout win over the Kings. While Doncic has played at an MVP-caliber level when healthy, Porzingis is playing his first season since tearing his ACL as a secondary option.

Despite both players missing some time with injuries, Porzingis says he and his new teammate are starting to mesh together, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon writes.

“Luka’s done a great job communicating to me [about] where I wanna get the ball,” Porzingis said. “He’s also getting used to playing with me and he’s really starting to find me in those spots where I’m comfortable, that midrange area. And slowly these things are starting to click. I think as we keep working, playing together, it’s going to get better and better and better.”

At 33-22, the Mavericks are the current seventh seed in the Western Conference. A lot of that success has hinged – and will continue to hinge – on the health of Doncic and Porzingis. As MacMahon noted, after an inconsistent 10-game stretch to start the season, the Mavericks have been a scoring force when both of their young stars have shared the court. Moving forward, Doncic feels things will only improve.

“It’s great that we both had those nights,” Doncic said. “We’ve got to keep working, and we’re going to get better and better.”

And-Ones: Doncic, Crawford, Cook, Edwards

Luka Doncic, who played in both the Rising Stars and All-Star games this weekend, has another non-Mavericks event circled on his calendar for later this year. Asked about his potential participation for Slovenia in this June’s Olympics qualifying tournament, Doncic responded, “I’m gonna play for sure” (Twitter link via Donatas Urbonas).

The Mavericks star didn’t get the chance to suit up for his home country during the 2019 FIBA World Cup, since Slovenia wasn’t able to qualify for the event. This June’s tournament will represent the last chance the squad has to earn a spot in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Doncic and the Slovenians won’t have it easy — they’ll have to beat Lithuania and Poland, among others, in that qualifying tournament to secure one of four Olympic berths up for grabs this summer.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Jordan Crawford is working out for German team Brose Bamberg, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. If the audition – which will take place within the next 10 days – goes well, Crawford will sign a rest-of-season deal with the German club, Borghesan adds.
  • In a conversation with Ian Begley of SNY.tv, veteran NBA agent Todd Ramasar provided an interesting, behind-the-scenes look at his typical approach to the NBA trade deadline.
  • The Canton Charge and Oklahoma City Blue completed a trade sending Tyler Cook to the Thunder‘s G League affiliate and Vince Edwards to Cleveland’s NBAGL team (Twitter link). Both players have some NBA experience, with Cook having spent time with the Cavaliers this season on a two-way deal, a standard contract, and a pair of 10-day pacts.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony examines a few of the notable prospects who took part in the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp during All-Star weekend in Chicago.

Luka Doncic Set To Return Wednesday

FEBRUARY 11: After practicing today, Doncic told reporters that he’s ready to return on Wednesday, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Barring any setbacks, the star guard will participate in this weekend’s All-Star Game. He also plans to play in Friday’s Rising Stars game, per Sefko (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 10: Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told reporters that the team hopes All-Star guard Luka Doncic will be able to return to the court on Wednesday for a tilt against the Kings, per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com.

“He’s progressing, he’s continuing to ramp up his activity over the last week,” Carlisle said. “He scrimmaged yesterday (Sunday) for a significant amount of time. He scrimmaged today (Monday) for a significant amount of time.”

The news that Doncic practiced with the Mavericks for consecutive days is encouraging.

Doncic was diagnosed with a moderate ankle sprain in late January, and has been sidelined for the past seven games, including tonight’s contest. The second-year Mavericks player was voted to start in his first All-Star game appearance by fans, players and media. A Wednesday return would put him on track to participate in that game.

The 20-year-old Doncic has led the upstart Mavs to a solid 32-21 record, good for the current No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. The Kings are 21-32, 5.5 games out of the No. 8 seed and a playoff berth.

Community Shootaround: Doncic Or Young?

The careers of the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic and Hawks’ Trae Young will be forever linked.

They were traded for each other, with the Hawks receiving an additional first-round pick in a draft-night deal that allowed Dallas to move up two notches.

Initially, the Mavericks looked like they had fleeced the Hawks. Doncic, who had been playing at the highest level of competition in Europe for years, made an immediate impact while Young struggled with his shooting and turnovers during the first half of last season.

Perceptions quickly changed when Young grew more comfortable with the NBA game. After averaging 16.9 PPG, 7.6 APG and 3.9 TPG while shooting 31.2% from long range, Young sliced up defenders after the All-Star break to the tune of 24.7 PPG, 9.2 APG and 34.8% shooting beyond the arc while reducing his turnovers (3.4).

Young came up short in the Rookie of the Year voting to Doncic but it was clear that both teams had franchise players on their hands.

During the early going this season, they have seemingly upped the ante. Now partnered with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, Doncic has averaged 25.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.8 APG and 2.0 SPG, an increase in each category from his final totals last season (21.4/7.9/6.0/1.1). Dallas is off to a 3-1 start and has the look of a playoff contender.

In Young’s first two games this season, he spoiled the Pistons’ home opener with a 39-point, seven-rebound, nine-assist performance, then posted nearly identical numbers against the Magic in another Hawks victory (38 points, seven rebounds, nine assists). He suffered a minor ankle sprain in the team’s fourth game but should be back soon.

Young’s speed, ankle-breaking moves and unlimited shooting range, a la Stephen Curry, make him a nightmare for defenders. Doncic’s guile, creativity and sneaky athleticism, a la James Harden, provide a different set of headaches for opponents.

Safe to say, both franchises are thrilled with the player they wound up with last June.

That brings us to our question of the day: If you were starting a franchise, which young floor leader would you choose — Luka Doncic and Trae Young — and why?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to what you have to say.

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Bryant, Kidd-Gilchrist, Sonju

Luka Doncic is a little bit starstruck as prepares for his first experience in the All-Star Game, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic will start for Team LeBron in tonight’s game, but first came a weekend that included the Rising Stars Challenge, practice sessions with a more experienced group of All-Stars and a chance to interact with legends of the game, including a Jordan Brand party Friday night where he met Michael Jordan for the first time.

“It was something amazing,” Doncic said. “I was too nervous. I forgot to ask him for a picture.”

A few days shy of his 21st birthday, Doncic will become the youngest European to ever play in the All-Star Game, Townsend notes. He’s the sixth-youngest starter in the game’s history and the youngest since LeBron James was a starter 15 years ago. His coaches will include former Mavericks guard and current Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, who will help run Team LeBron as part of Frank Vogel’s staff.

“I told [Doncic] we’re going to play him 40 of the 48 minutes,” Kidd joked. “When you’re young, you can play all the minutes in the world. So there won’t be any load management.”

There’s more Mavericks news to pass along:

  • One of the most memorable moments of Doncic’s second NBA season was the night in Staples Center when Kobe Bryant trash talked him in Slovenian. The encounter took on added significance with Bryant’s death a few weeks later. Marc Stein of The New York Times says Bryant picked up the off-color phrases from former teammate Sasha Vujacic. “It’s going to be one moment that I remember for the rest of my life,” Doncic said. “Obviously I was hoping there would be more times with him, maybe even practice with him some day, but a terrible thing happened.”
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is grateful for the opportunity to restart his career in Dallas after reaching a buyout with the Hornets, relays Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News, and the Mavs believe he can be a valuable contributor as the games become more important. “The guy has a reputation for being a gamer and a hell of a competitor,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
  • Mavericks co-founder Norm Sonju received the Jerry Colangelo Award at Saturday’s All-Star breakfast, according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com. The award recognizes someone in management who lives an exemplary life on and off the court and while expressing high character, leadership and faith. Sonju served as team president and general manager before retiring in 1996.

Luka Doncic Expected To Return For Mavs

There is good news out of Dallas for Mavericks fans. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (Twitter link), the team is planning for Luka Doncic to make his return to the lineup against the Spurs tonight.

Doncic has been sidelined since December 14 with an ankle sprain. He’s missed four games – and most of a fifth – with the ailment.

In 25 games for the Mavericks this season, Doncic has been electric. He’s scoring 29.3 points per game, grabbing 9.6 rebounds and dishing out 8.9 assists. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden have a higher TPA this season despite Doncic’s time away from the court.

Luka Doncic To Undergo MRI On Injured Ankle

Mavericks star Luka Doncic turned his right ankle during a practice on Thursday, according to head coach Rick Carlisle (Twitter link via Bobby Karalla of Mavs.com).

While Carlisle said that Doncic’s status for Friday’s game in Houston is unknown, Marc Stein of The New York Times reports (via Twitter) that the 20-year-old will undergo an MRI exam on the ankle on Friday to determine the severity of the injury. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) hears Doncic won’t travel to Houston.

A source who spoke to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) described Doncic’s ankle injury as similar to the one he suffered earlier in the season. As MacMahon points out, that ankle sprain cost the MVP candidate four games and sidelined him for about 10 days.

With the 29-18 Mavericks in a tight race for playoff seeding in the Western Conference and Doncic on track to be an All-Star starter in Chicago in a couple weeks, the hope is that the injury isn’t serious. If Doncic does miss time, Dallas will lean more heavily on the likes of Jalen Brunson, J.J. Barea, and Delon Wright for ball-handling and play-making purposes.

Western Notes: Warriors, Beasley, Covington, Doncic

An abbreviated regular season if the season is restarted wouldn’t do teams like the Warriors much good, Anthony Slater of The Athletic argues. It would be easier for the teams currently owning a playoff berth to play some tuneup games while ending the season for the 14 lottery-bound teams. That would allow their front offices to focus on their roster remakes and players to work on their games, Slater adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves will undoubtedly want to re-sign restricted free agent Malik Beasley, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Beasley averaged 20.7 PPG and 5.1 RPG while shooting 42.6% from long range in 14 starts since being acquired from the Nuggets. Beasley’s price tag has risen, with Krawczynski speculating that his original projection of four years and $48MM is probably not high enough. There aren’t many teams with significant cap room but the Knicks could make a run at him, he adds.
  • While the Timberwolves’ defense has suffered by trading Robert Covington to the Rockets, they got a much-needed infusion of offensive talent with the additions of D’Angelo Russell, Beasley and Juan Hernangomez in the four-team deal, Krawczynski writes in a separate story. They now have a point guard in Russell that can score and pass as well as any they’ve ever had, a shooting guard in Beasley who can score in bunches and a solid rotation player in Hernangomez.
  • Several members of the Mavericks’ front office and scouting staff believed Luka Doncic would have been viewed as the undisputed top prospect in the 2018 draft if he had played in the United States or attended the pre-draft workouts, according to an in-depth piece from Tim Cato and Sam Amick of The Athletic. GM Donnie Nelson was completely sold on Doncic and owner Mark Cuban wasn’t going to pass him up, since he ignored Nelson’s advice on Giannis Antetokounmpo five years earlier. The Mavs’ front office was confident Doncic wouldn’t be drafted earlier than third overall, allowing them to arrange a trade with the Hawks to move up and nab the eventual Rookie of the Year.

Injury Notes: Doncic, Isaac, Holmes, Bowman

While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic seems to be over the ankle issues that bothered him earlier in the season, he’s missing Sunday’s game vs. Minnesota with a new injury — a left thumb sprain. Doncic played through the injury on Friday, but struggled to work around it, per an ESPN report.

“I didn’t know how important the thumb was to hold the ball,” Doncic said on Friday. “It was tough. … I wasn’t myself today. Just have to learn from that and move on.”

Head coach Rick Carlisle said that he’s not sure about Doncic’s status for Monday’s game against Chicago.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Although Jonathan Isaac has started doing some rehab work with the Magic, there’s only an outside chance of him playing this spring, according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, who says that Isaac’s knee injury is still expected to keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
  • Kings center Richaun Holmes, who hasn’t played since January 6 due to a shoulder injury, is getting closer to being able to take full contact, and hopes to resume practicing with the team this week, the team announced today in a press release.
  • Warriors guard Ky Bowman, who is currently on the shelf with a sprained right ankle, will be monitored for the next few days before the team provides another update, per a press release.
  • It’s not an injury, but Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein is missing his fourth consecutive game for personal reasons today. According to Dwain Price of Mavs.com (Twitter link), Rick Carlisle expects the big man to return to Dallas’ active roster on Monday. We’ll try to get him prepared to play some minutes if needed tomorrow,” the Mavs’ head coach said of Cauley-Stein.

Western Notes: Burks, Williams, Doncic

When Alec Burks signed with the Warriors, not many people expected him to play 27.0 minutes per game. Even fewer expected him to be one of the most reliable scorers on the team. However, injuries have opened the door for him to take on a greater role.

“I definitely knew he could score,” Draymond Green said (via Logan Murdock of NBCSports.com). “When he’s been on any team, he comes off the bench and he gets it going. Going downhill, getting to the basket and I think he’s definitely improved his jump shot”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Pelicans have endured a bevy of injuries this season and Kenrich Williams has stepped up when they needed him the most, as Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com relays. “He makes winning plays, and that’s why we have to have him on the court,” said coach Alvin Gentry. “So we inserted him back into the lineup. I never even look at his stat line, because he just helps you win basketball games.”
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com details the ever-evolving relationship between Rick Carlisle and Luka Doncic. Some within the league were skeptical that the pairing would work long-term given Carlisle’s propensity to be harsh on point guards, but the Mavericks are confident that the right coach is in place. “When we had people here who didn’t think they needed to learn anything, that’s when we’d run into conflicts,” Owner Mark Cuban said. “Luka is a sponge, on the court and off.”
  • Carlisle believes in Doncic, which wasn’t the case for Dennis Smith Jr. and Rajon Rondo were they were on the Mavericks, MacMahon passes along in the same piece. The ESPN scribe hears that Carlisle expressed concern about Rondo’s fit before the Mavs traded for him.

Luka Doncic Diagnosed With Moderate Ankle Sprain

4:21pm: Coach Rick Carlisle said in an ESPN 103.3-FM interview that Doncic will miss at least six games, frequent ESPN contributor Tim Cowlishaw tweets.

12:17pm: Following an MRI today, Mavericks star Luka Doncic has been diagnosed with a moderate right ankle sprain, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). Charania and Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) each cite a source who describes the injury as “manageable.”

As we relayed on Thursday, Doncic turned the ankle in a practice, and there was a belief that it was similar to the injury he suffered earlier in the season, which sidelined him for four games. A source confirms to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) that today’s MRI confirmed this is in fact a similar sprain.

According to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter links), the Mavs are relieved the injury isn’t any more serious, viewing the diagnosis as a best-case scenario. One source estimates to Townsend that Doncic could miss about two weeks, “give or take.”

With Doncic expected to miss some time, Dallas will lean more heavily on the likes of Jalen Brunson, J.J. Barea, and Delon Wright for ball-handling and play-making purposes. The Mavs have a firm hold on a playoff position but will want to get Doncic back soon to help them jockey for seeding.

The injury may also jeopardize Doncic’s availability for All-Star weekend. He was voted an All-Star starter and named to the Rising Stars game, but with the festivities in Chicago set to get underway two weeks from tonight, the second-year star may end up playing it safe and pulling out. That’s yet to be determined.

Texas Notes: J. Green, Carroll, Cousins, Doncic

Jeff Green looked right at home in his debut with the Rockets, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. In his first game since being waived by the Jazz on December 24, Green scored 17 points in 24 minutes as Houston won big Thursday night at Golden State.

“I just came ready to play,” he said. “I mean, I’m in shape, so I just tried to do whatever I needed to do to help the team win. I have a beautiful wife who allowed me to do what I needed to do and that’s all I need to say about that. I have great trainers at home and when I was home for this time, my wife allowed to me to really focus on what I needed to do.”

The Rockets are Green’s ninth NBA team since entering the league in 2007, making him one of seven active players to be with that many organizations, Feigen adds. Ish Smith is the active leader with 11 teams.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • DeMarre Carroll, another new Rocket, had a disappointing stay with the Spurs, but his presence on the team will be missed, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News (Twitter link). “I’ve known DeMarre since college, we came in together, played with him in Toronto,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Just a great guy. It’s part of the league. Everyone comes and goes, but friendships and memories last forever.”  Carroll appeared in just 15 games after signing with the Spurs last summer.
  • The Mavericks might have been willing to gamble on DeMarcus Cousins, but they don’t want to part with anyone on their current roster, owner Mark Cuban tells Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). The veteran center has missed the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee, but recently offered hope that he might be ready for the playoffs. The Lakers plan to waive Cousins and add Markieff Morris once he clears waivers tomorrow. “We don’t have any roster spots,” Cuban said. “If we had a roster spot, we would probably do something, but we don’t. And there’s nobody we want to release.”
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic sat out tonight’s game with a sore ankle, but coach Rick Carlisle doesn’t expect it to be a long-term issue, Townsend tweets.

Southwest Notes: Holiday, Covington, Doncic, Lyles

Pelicans shooting guard Jrue Holiday was excited to remain in New Orleans through the trade deadline this season, as he explained to The Athletic’s William Guillory. The 29-year-old Holiday, considered one of the best defensive guards in the league, is on the third year of a fairly reasonable five-year, $126MM contract.

Holiday held appeal for several contending teams looking to shore up their backcourt ahead of a playoff push, including the Heat and Nuggets. The Pelicans themselves are just 4.5 games out of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. With 2019 No. 1 draft pick  Zion Williamson finally debuting on January 22, New Orleans valued Holiday too much to make a deal just yet.

“I feel like what we’re doing here is something promising,” Holiday told Guillory of his season with the new-look Pelicans. “Obviously with the new management and the new guys coming in, we’re fairly young but we’re all very, very hungry. What we have here, we can build together.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • New Rockets forward Robert Covington and his very reasonable four-year, $47MM contract took him from overlooked role player to highly coveted glue guy very quickly ahead of this season’s trade deadline, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle details.
  • Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is optimistic that All-Star guard Luka Doncic will return to the court ahead of the All-Star break, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “That’s not definite, but that’s the hope,” Carlisle said.
  • The future of Spurs bench big man Trey Lyles in San Antonio is appraised by the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald. Lyles is averaging a robust 5.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 18 minutes per game for the club. He has suited up 51 games, including 41 starts. The 6’9″ Kentucky alum signed a two-year, $11MM contract with San Antonio this summer. Only $1MM of his $5.5MM salary next year is guaranteed.

Doncic, Young, Zion Headline Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has officially announced the 20 rookies and sophomores who have been named to the league’s Rising Stars game for All-Star weekend. Those 20 players, selected by assistant coaches from around the league, will be divided into a U.S. Team and a World Team, as follows:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

Williamson’s inclusion is notable since he has appeared in just four games due to injuries. It’s not surprising that the NBA found a way to get him into the game, since he’s one of the most exciting prospects to enter the league in years, but it’s a tough break for youngsters who have been on the court since the fall for contenders, such as Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle. or Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Snubbed players like Thybulle, Porter, and others could eventually make their way into the Rising Stars game if players have to pull out due to injuries, or if All-Stars like Doncic and Young opt not to play in both events.

The Rising Stars game will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14.

Mavericks Notes: Porzingis, Nowitzki, Doncic

Kristaps Porzingis‘ camp contends that a story suggesting that Porzingis didn’t like the idea of playing in New York alongside Kevin Durant is “utter nonsense,” according to Frank Isola of The Athletic. In fact, Isola writes that Porzingis would welcome Durant with “open arms” if the Mavericks were to pursue and land 2019’s top free agent.

While Dallas created additional cap flexibility by trading Harrison Barnes to Sacramento at last month’s trade deadline, the idea of the Mavs signing Durant remains extremely unlikely. It’s possible that Dallas could make a splash in free agency this summer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the top available players remain a little wary of joining the Mavs until they see Porzingis back on the court — and until Luka Doncic gets a little more NBA experience under his belt.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Although it’s not clear yet whether this will be Dirk Nowitzki‘s final NBA season, David Aldridge of The Athletic takes a look back at the German’s career and assesses his place in team – and league – history.
  • Within Aldridge’s story, Nowitzki says he believes the Mavs are set up well for the future: “Luka has obviously exceeded all expectations — we didn’t think he would be this good. We were hoping he would be this good. But he’s been tremendous, and it’s obviously something to build around. And we had a chance to go for a franchise-like talent like KP; you gotta go for it. Most of the league didn’t even know he was available. That was a steal for us. It obviously hurt, trading some of our guys, basically trading four of our five good starters, but with those two around for a long time, hopefully, it will be good for our franchise.”
  • Doncic has been considered a lock for the 2019 Rookie of the Year award for most of the season, but with Trae Young putting up huge numbers in Atlanta, Zach Harper of The Athletic revisits the race to determine whether Doncic still has it sewn up.
  • A 30-point home loss to Memphis on Saturday was embarrassing, but the matchup provided a reminder that things could be worse for the Mavericks. As Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News observes, well-paid Grizzlies veterans Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons were two of the free agents that the Mavs either missed out on (Conley) or opted not to sign (Parsons) in 2016. If that summer had gone differently in Dallas, there’s a good chance that Doncic and/or Porzingis wouldn’t be on the roster now, Townsend writes.

Kings Notes: James, Giles, Playoff Changes, Doncic

Second-round pick Justin James made an impression Friday with 14 points, three rebounds and three assists in his first significant playing time of the season. Before that, the Kings guard was mostly known for his non-stop chatter, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic.

James is talkative and opinionated, something that has been evident since the start of training camp. It’s his way of showing that he belongs in the league, and his teammates have noticed.

“He has that ‘it’ factor — he’s not shy,” Buddy Hield said. “From Day 1 when he first came in, he was not too shy to talk back, shy to voice his opinion … but he means well, and that comes from being confident.”

Sacramento took James with the 40th pick in June, and some draft experts were surprised he was selected at all. However, a series of injuries has provided him with an opportunity, and he played 33 minutes against Brooklyn after getting just 15 total minutes before that game.

“Every practice, he never shuts up, really,” coach Luke Walton said. “I think because of that, he knows the offense, he knows the play calls. There was one play out there he was directing veterans out there where to go. I think he knows what an amazing opportunity this is for him, and he’s doing everything in his power to make it work. He made a nice case for himself.”

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • The Kings haven’t given up on Harry Giles, even though they decided not to pick up the fourth year of his rookie scale contract last month, according to James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. Giles, who has been plagued by injuries since high school, provides another dimension with his ability to run the offense through the high post. Knee soreness caused him to miss all of training camp and the first eight games of the season.
  • Proposed changes to the NBA’s playoff format could have helped the Kings reach the postseason last year, Ham notes in a separate story. The play-in system that the league is considering would have matched the Kings and Lakers in a one-game format to take on the loser between the Spurs and Clippers for the eighth seed.
  • The Kings passed on Luka Doncic in last year’s draft in part because general manager Vlade Divac doesn’t like Doncic’s father, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon claimed on a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski (hat tip to Jesse Reed of Sportsnaut). “My understanding is that him (Divac) being so close to Luka and knowing his dad so well factored into their decision,” MacMahon said. “Basically he didn’t think a whole lot of Luka’s dad, and the whole like father like son … well … no, this is a different dude. You messed that one up, Vlade.”
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