Alperen Sengun

Stephen Silas Discusses Unexpected Challenges With Rockets

Stephen Silas didn’t know he was walking into a rebuilding situation when the Rockets hired him as their head coach prior to the 2020/21 season. Silas was taking over a team that had two perennial All-Stars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook and was coming off a long string of playoff appearances.

Both players recommended Silas for the job, but they both issued trade requests before the start of training camp, with Westbrook being shipped to Washington during the preseason and Harden forcing his way to Brooklyn after eight regular season games. Silas discusses that sudden transition, and all the challenges that followed, in an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic.

“You’re trying to just tackle each situation as it came, whether it was the (Harden) stuff that you read in the paper or online and then having to answer questions about it, or the Russ stuff,” Silas said. “All those things weren’t exactly the things that I thought I was going to be talking about in my first few days as a head coach, and my first few days of training camp having to answer all those questions. But the task is there, and you just kind of do it. It’s hard to say that it was especially hard because I think it’s always going to be hard (laughs). But a task comes, there’s a mountain to climb, so you climb it. There’s a big wave coming in; you move out of the way.”

Silas also credited the Rockets’ ownership and general manager Rafael Stone for supporting him amid the turmoil.

“We were tested early, but my relationship with ownership, my relationship with management is good,” he added. “Through all of this kind of stuff that was going on, that was the thing that I was able to grasp onto and hold onto was knowing that they were in my corner because they selected me.”

Silas addressed several other topics during the interview:

On the progress of his young backcourt, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.:

“I think Jalen Green’s growth and improvement encapsulates our season. Early in the season, he was really struggling. He was pressing, not doing what he was used to doing, which is scoring points easily. And it was hard for him. But he worked through it. We stuck with him. And he got better slowly but surely as the season went along and ended up where at the end of the season, he was playing great. Same thing with Kevin Porter Jr. He started the season off turning the ball over quite a bit, learning how to play the point guard position. I think he led the league in turnovers early in the season, but as the season went along, he started to understand.”

On the challenges faced by center Alperen Sengun as he adjusted to the NBA during his rookie season:

“He makes things happen when he has the ball in his hands, whether he’s in the low post, scoring or making passes in the high post, at the elbow, making plays for his teammates. He does a good job of helping his teammates play well. But part of that growth and part of that struggle at the beginning of the season is that nobody knew how to play with him, and he didn’t know how to play with our guys. So as the season went along, it became more natural for guys to know when those passes are coming, and for him to know that this is where you’re gonna most likely get the ball and this is where you can be effective.”

On what he likes about Jabari Smith, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft:

“He is a two-way player and very much a difference-maker as far as his length and his defensive instincts and his rebounding and his grit. He’s a quiet kid, and he can fool you sometimes. When he gets on the court, he is intense and competitive and has an edge to him — which I love. So yeah, his shooting is very good, and that will be his thing offensively, as well as his ability to shot fake and drive the ball and get to the rim, use his length, his offensive rebounding and whatnot. But it’s not very often when you have a high, high pick where you can say ‘Wow, he’s really good on both ends.’ And you can see it, where he could be a difference-maker on both ends of the floor.”

On his relationship with Harden and Westbrook, considering the circumstances of their departure:

“All three people who you mentioned (including former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey) had a big part in me being here and being a head coach in the NBA. So when I see them, there’s definitely no ill will. I’ve been around the NBA my whole life, so I understand the business part of it and everything that goes into that. But yeah, I’m good. I’m good with those guys, and I appreciate them for putting their stamp on my head coaching career.”

Western Notes: Sengun, Garuba, Edwards, Doncic, Brunson

The Rockets are pleased with the offseason efforts of young big men Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes.

“Our guys have really been in the gym. They’ve been working really hard,” Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said. “Even the guys that haven’t been here, which is Alperen and Usman, have done great overseas. So, it’s been a good summer.”

Sengun and Garuba have been playing in Eurobasket, and Sengun projects as a starter this season for the Rockets. “I think both of them have gotten better game-by-game-by-game, and that’s rewarding,” Stone said. “Some of the stuff we’ve asked them to work on, they’ve worked on, and in real time, you can see some of the results.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly expressed disappointment regarding Anthony Edwards‘ homophobic comments on social media. The team released a statement from Connelly, which read, “We are disappointed in the language and actions Anthony Edwards displayed on social media. The Timberwolves are committed to being an inclusive and welcoming organization for all and apologize for the offense this has caused to so many.” Edwards earlier issued an apology for his “immature, hurtful, and disrespectful”comments.
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic sat out practice on Monday ahead of Slovenia’s quarterfinal matchup with Poland on Wednesday, relays. Doncic had his right ankle wrapped in ice but the severity of the injury is unknown. Doncic has been setting scoring records in the tournament.
  • Doncic’s former Mavericks teammate, Jalen Brunson, said his backcourt partner will be a lock for the Hall of Fame, Dalton Trigg of relays. Brunson made those comments with USA Today’s Sports Seriously. “I truly loved playing with him because we were in a position to win every night, because of him,” Brunson said. “I’ve said this numerous times and I’ll continue to say it until I speak it into existence; That dude is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

EuroBasket Notes: Brown, Vezenkov, Sengun, Micic, Fernandez

Mike Brown is among the NBA head coaches who fully endorse having their players take part in international competitions, writes Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. Brown is attending the EuroBasket tournament to watch and support two Kings players, Domantas Sabonis of Lithuania and Alex Len of Ukraine.

“There’s nothing better in my opinion than getting yourself ready for an NBA season than playing and practicing at the level that these guys [in the EuroBasket] do,” Brown said. “You know you always worry about injury and that’s a concern of all of ours, but these guys are so passionate about playing for their country that it’s hard to not support them. You want them to do what they’re passionate about because that’s what life is about.”

Stroggylakis notes that the Kings had interest in signing another international player, Sasha Vezenkov, for the upcoming season after acquiring his rights from the Cavaliers on draft night. Brown said the organization invited Vezenkov to visit Sacramento this summer, but he declined due to his commitment to the Bulgarian national team. Vezenkov will play this season for Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece.

“We were hoping he could come out so we’d get to know him a little bit and take a look at him, but he had other commitments this summer, especially with the national team and all this stuff,” Brown said. “We have his rights, so we’ll circle back at him next summer. He’s big and versatile. He can shoot the ball, he’s a veteran, he’s smart. He just knows how to play the game.”

There’s more from EuroBasket:

  • Rockets center Alperen Sengun is turning Turkey into a medal contender, per Semih Tuna of Eurohoops. The Turkish team is off to a 2-0 start and appears ready to challenge Spain for the top spot in Group A. “In the NBA we play a lot of games against legendary players,” Sengun said after Saturday’s win over Bulgaria. “We are learning constantly everything. We are learning about that busy schedule too, which I am used to it. Here, we play two back-to-back games and then have a day of rest, so we are ready for this. In the next season, things will be even better for me.”
  • Vasilije Micic won’t be coming to the NBA this season, but he’s enjoying the chance to play alongside two-time MVP Nikola Jokic with Serbia, according to a Eurohoops story. The Thunder were willing to trade Micic’s draft rights this summer, but no one offered the first-round pick they were reportedly seeking.
  • Former Trail Blazers and Nuggets guard Rudy Fernandez is nearing the career record for games played for the Spanish national team, Eurohoops notes in another piece. The 37-year-old moved into second place Saturday and is now just 13 games behind Juan Carlos Navarro.

More Than 30 NBA Players On Track To Suit Up For EuroBasket

The first EuroBasket tournament in five years will tip off in two weeks and there are currently 34 NBA players on track to participate in the event, representing 17 different countries, according to Johnny Askounis of

EuroBasket is a 24-team international basketball competition also known as the European Basketball Championship. It historically took place every two years, but that gap was recently adjusted to four years, emulating the FIBA World Cup schedule.

The last EuroBasket tournament was played in 2017 — the next one had been scheduled for 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, after being played every two years since 1947, it has now been five years since the last EuroBasket tournament, easily the longest layoff since World War II.

It’s possible that some NBA players will be cut from their teams’ rosters or will have to drop out due to injuries or personal reasons before the event begins on September 1, but in general enthusiasm to participate in the long-awaited event appears high.

Here’s the list of NBAers currently set to play in EuroBasket, per Eurohoops:

There are also multiple NBA free agents on EuroBasket rosters, including French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and German guard Dennis Schröder.

A number of young NBA players, such as 2022 draftees Jeremy Sochan and Nikola Jovic, have dropped out to focus on getting ready for the 2022/23 season, while others, including Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) and Frank Ntilikina (France), were ruled out due to injuries.

Round robin play will begin on September 1, with each team facing the other five clubs in its group once. The top four teams in each group will advance to a 16-team bracket that begins on September 10. The final will take place on September 18, just over a week before NBA training camps get underway.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Murray, Sengun, Pera

Luka Doncic ranks among the top five in the league in scoring and assists but he’s getting very little Most Valuable Player buzz. The Mavericks guard shrugs it off, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News.

“We’re winning. That’s what I care [about]. Our goal is to get home advantage,” he said. “We’re so close. We’ve got three games left, and that’s our goal right now.”

Assistant coach Peter Patton said Doncic deserves more consideration. “If you watch every game since the All-Star break or just before the All-Star break, it’s been go time,” he said. “I mean, he’s been outstanding. Arguably, you can say he’s the best player in the league. He is the most valuable player in the league, in my opinion, because he can score, he can pass, he can defend, he can rebound. He makes his teammates better, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs will be without their top player, Dejounte Murray, for the third consecutive game when they face the Nuggets on Tuesday, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. Murray is battling an upper respiratory illness. Currently holding the 10th and final spot in the Western Conference play-in picture, San Antonio has won its last two games without the All-Star guard.
  • Rockets rookie big man Alperen Sengun said he will play for the Turkish National Team at EuroBasket 2022 this summer, Adam Spolane of SportsRadio 610 tweets. Sengun plans to participate in Houston’s Summer League minicamp prior to playing in the international tournament.
  • The Grizzlies’ Robert Pera is the third-richest owner in the league and his deep pockets will help the much-improved team maintain its new standing as a Western Conference contender, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. The Grizzlies haven’t spent into the luxury tax since 2005, but Pera is willing to do that, according to Windhorst. The team has also been sending signals that it intends to be aggressive in retaining and acquiring talent, Windhorst adds.

Texas Notes: Green, Rockets, Schröder, Luka, Dragic

After a relatively lackluster showing in a relatively lackluster AT&T Slam Dunk Contest this weekend, Rockets rookie shooting guard Jalen Green is hoping to get another crack at the competition in the years to come, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I for sure need a run-back,” Green said. “I messed up.”

In one of the stranger moments of the evening, Green handed Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, a judge for the contest, a necklace holding a cell phone displaying an NFT, then went on to botch his first eight dunk attempts before finally converting his ninth look, a slick windmill whose impact had been diluted, given that he failed to convert it earlier. Green was quickly eliminated.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • The rebuilding Rockets boast several solid prospects, to the point that the NBA has taken notice, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Rookies Green, Alperen Sengun and Jae’Sean Tate all were honored with selections to the Rising Stars Game on Friday at All-Star Weekend, and Green made an aforementioned (ill-fated) appearance in the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday. “We are having a difficult season,” Sengun said. “We lost a bunch of games. I’ve learned how to stay focused during those lost games. I got a lot of experience.” At 15-43, the Rockets aren’t on track to qualify for the playoffs this season.
  • New Rockets reserve point guard Dennis Schröder is bringing his veteran experience and playoff pedigree to bear for a developing young Houston club, opines Kelly Iko of The Athletic. With John Wall inactive, Schröder has helped the Rockets with his speed and his defensive assertiveness, according to Houston head coach Stephen Silas. “(Schröder) adds to our depth, our guard rotation,” the head coach said. “There was actually a point [during the Rockets’ 124-121 loss to the Suns on Thursday that] I tried to take him out of the game, and he was like, ‘Just leave me in, let me see if we can get back into it.’ I like that competitiveness about him.”
  • Mavericks All-Star point guard Luka Doncic confirmed that he would enjoy playing with his countryman Goran Dragic, currently a free agent garnering plenty of buzz on the buyout market, but said he’s not pressing the Dallas front office to make a deal with the veteran point guard, writes Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News.

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Rockets, Brooks, McCollum, Murray

The Mavericks project to go well into the luxury tax in 2022/23 if they re-sign point guard Jalen Brunson, but team owner Mark Cuban sounds prepared for that scenario.

“We’re going to be in luxury tax hell next year, but that’s OK; it frees up the year after that,” Cuban said after the trade deadline, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

The Mavericks have several contracts on their books that expire in 2023, including Dwight Powell‘s and Maxi Kleber‘s. Additionally, Spencer Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock only have partial guarantees for 2023/24 on their respective deals.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Rockets general manager Rafael Stone explained after the trade deadline that the decision to move Daniel Theis was related in part to the emergence of rookie Alperen Sengun. “Positionally, it makes sense for us,” Stone said, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “It’s not a secret that Alperen has been really good, really early. It has been since his first practice a priority to play him. That made it challenging to play Daniel Theis the amount we wanted, he wanted, that he should be playing. He’s a really, really good established NBA player.” Stone added that the team is excited about acquiring Dennis Schröder and has liked him for “a long time,” suggesting a buyout probably isn’t in the cards for the veteran point guard.
  • A handful of teams have inquired on Armoni Brooks, who cleared waivers over the weekend after being waived by the Rockets, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko adds that the door remains open for Brooks to return to Houston. The team will have an open spot on its 15-man roster once Enes Freedom is officially waived.
  • CJ McCollum did plenty of research on the Pelicans before signing off on the trade sending him to New Orleans. According to Will Guillory of The Athletic, McCollum spoke to Chris Paul about Pelicans head coach Willie Green, talked to J.J. Redick about his experience with the franchise, and got intel about the roster from current Pelicans wing Garrett Temple. McCollum didn’t have a no-trade clause, but told reporters last week that Portland involved him in the trade process.
  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray was initially shocked that the team traded away his backcourt partner, but by the time he spoke to reporters about the Derrick White trade, he had come to terms with it, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “You start to realize you’re a player and not the GM or the front office,” Murray said. “You realize, just be a player and focus on that.”

2021/22 Rising Stars Team Rosters

As we previously relayed, the NBA announced a new format for its Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend, which will take place on Friday, February 18. The event will feature four seven-player teams competing in a three-game tournament (two semifinals and a final).

The player pool is comprised of 12 NBA rookies, 12 sophomores, and four players from the G League Ignite, while the games will be played to a target score: 50 points in the semifinals and 25 points in the final, in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary season.

The rosters were announced on February 1, but now the four honorary coaches (75th anniversary team members Rick Barry, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton and James Worthy) have selected their seven-man teams, per our JD Shaw (Twitter link). Here are the rosters:

Team Barry:

Team Isiah:

Team Payton:

Team Worthy:

James Ham of ESPN 1320 and The Kings Beat provides (via Twitter) the full draft results.

The top 10, in order, were: Edwards, Mobley, Ball, Anthony, Giddey, Barnes, Cunningham, Bey, Bane, and Wagner. It’s worth noting that Worthy and Anthony both went to the University of North Carolina, so Anthony’s selection at No. 4 is less surprising given that context.

What do you think of the teams? Who do you think will come out on top? Head to the comments section and let us know your thoughts!

Rockets Notes: Wood, Green, Stone, Sengun

Steve Bulpett of is the latest reporter to state that the Heat have been linked to Rockets big man Christian Wood, confirming that a framework involving Duncan Robinson has been discussed. However, Bulpett says people involved in the situation have downplayed the idea that any substantive progress was made.

One general manager who spoke to Bulpett suggested that Houston would want far more than Robinson in a deal with the Heat and expressed a belief that the Rockets’ asking price for Wood and other players has been too high.

“Houston’s really been overvaluing Wood and Eric Gordon,” the GM said. “They think they’re going to get back a major piece, but they’re unrealistic with their expectations. I’ve looked around the league at what they’re putting out there — and I know they have, too. And no one is willing to give up a cornerstone player.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Rockets rookie Jalen Green will take part in the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend later this month, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link). Green will be reportedly be going up against Juan Toscano-Anderson, Obi Toppin, and Cole Anthony.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic conducted an extensive Q&A with Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, discussing Stone’s experience since taking over as the head of basketball operations in 2020, Houston’s rebuilding process, the team’s plan for the trade deadline, and much more. Stone said he always wants to be aggressive but doesn’t feel compelled to be active in the next eight days if the right deal doesn’t materialize. “We do have a lot of picks out in the future, so there’s not some huge need that we have either on our current roster — or in terms of future assets — that we need to be aggressively pursuing,” Stone said. “Leading into this year, we were hoping, planning, tracking to be in the area where we’re at now. So, we’re not feeling any particular need to do X deal or Y deal.”
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Iko and Danny Leroux chatted about the Rockets’ approach to the trade deadline and the John Wall situation.
  • Rockets head coach Stephen Silas didn’t like what he saw earlier this season when Christian Wood and rookie Alperen Sengun were on the court at the same time, which is why he hasn’t used that frontcourt combination lately, writes Rahat Huq of The Houston Chronicle. “It’s a tough position for (Sengun) because he’s playing behind one of our better players in Christian, and I don’t feel comfortable at this point playing Christian and Al-P together,” Silas said last week. “The numbers, the eye test have shown that those two together hasn’t been that great.”

NBA Announces 2021/22 Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has revealed the 28 players (12 rookies, 12 sophomores, and four G League Ignite players) who will suit up for the 2022 Clorox Rising Stars Game in Cleveland this year, per its official PR account (Twitter links). There are a few intriguing surprises among the first-year NBA players.

Here are the players who made the cut:



Additionally, four players from the G League Ignite will participate in the Rising Stars Game based on voting from NBA G League head coaches. The NBAGL has announced (Twitter link) that MarJon Beauchamp, Dyson Daniels, Jaden Hardy and Scoot Henderson will partake in the action. Players will be separated into four teams, and each G League player will be drafted to join one of the teams later this week.

Among the rookie NBA players, the additions who would be most surprising ahead of the 2021/22 season would be Dosunmu and Jones, both of whom were second-round draft selections. 2021 lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga, Ziaire Williams, James Bouknight, Joshua Primo and Moses Moody were all omitted from inclusion this year.

Among the second-year players, Ball could be appearing on multiple nights during All-Star Weekend this season, as he appears to be a very possible first-time All-Star this year thanks to his outstanding work with the upstart Hornets.

The lottery-bound Magic, Pistons, and Rockets can boast having the most inclusions here, with three players apiece.

As we detailed last week, this year’s Rising Stars event will look a little different, with the four teams taking part in a mini-tournament and playing to a target score in each game: 50 points in the semifinals and 25 points in the final, in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary season.