Alperen Sengun

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 Heavy.com 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:

Rookies:

Sophomores:

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.

Celtics Heavily Involved In Trade Discussions

The Celtics have been extremely active in trade talks with the aim of improving the pieces around stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, longtime beat writer Steve Bulpett reports in a Heavy.com story.

President of basketball operations Brad Stevens is looking to at least improve the team’s salary cap sheet and free up more playing time for young players such as Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford.

The Celtics already made one move this month to improve their salary cap situation and reduce their chances of paying the luxury tax, dealing Juancho Hernangomez and his $7MM salary to San Antonio in a three-team trade.

Boston has been exploring the trade value of Al Horford, who is making $27MM this season and has a partial guarantee of $14.5MM on his $26.5MM contract next season.

Though Bulpett didn’t specify which other players the Celtics are looking to deal, it stands to reason that Dennis Schröder (a free agent again this summer), Josh Richardson and Marcus Smart would have the types of contracts they’d like to move. Richardson’s contract runs through next season and Smart signed a four-year extension last summer.

Another interesting nugget in Bulpett’s report is that Celtics had targeted big man Alperen Sengun if they had kept their first round pick last year. They wound up dealing it to Oklahoma City, which eventually ended up drafting Sengun and trading him to the Rockets. Boston shed Kemba Walker‘s contract in the trade with the Thunder. Sengun is averaging 8.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 2.6 APG with Houston in 39 appearances.

Rockets Notes: Silas, Mathews, Wood, Porter, Sengun

The Rockets lost big on Monday night in Philadelphia with Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. both serving a one-game suspension, but coach Stephen Silas said the game with the Sixers wasn’t a consideration in deciding how to discipline two of his starters, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Both players were suspended for their actions on Saturday, with Wood being late for a COVID-19 test and refusing to enter the game in the second half and Porter leaving the arena at halftime after a confrontation with assistant coach John Lucas.

Silas, the son of former NBA player and coach Paul Silas, said he turned to his father’s advice of “follow your gut” in deciding how to handle the situation. Especially with a young team, he believes it’s more important to set boundaries about proper behavior than to worry about the results of one game.

“There isn’t a balance (between winning and disciplining) to me,” Silas said. “There’s doing what’s right and doing what’s best for this organization. That’s how you build culture. You do it through a lot of different things. Accountability is huge, making sure everybody knows what is acceptable and is not acceptable and learning from that. That’s the big part, learning from those moments and learning from those experiences so we can improve and we can be better.”

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • Garrison Mathews tied his season high with 23 points Monday shortly after clearing the league’s health and safety protocols, Feigen adds in the same story. Mathews described his time off as “boring” and was happy to be back on the court. “From the jump, I felt good,” he said. “Having six, seven days off, it’s hard to take that many days off and come back and get right to it. My body felt fresh. It wasn’t sore like it was before. It was good to have a few days off, but when you take seven days off, your conditioning starts to wear down at the end.”
  • In the wake of Saturday’s incident, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated believes the Rockets should get rid of Porter and Wood as soon as possible, even if that means waiving Porter, whose contract is guaranteed for $3.2MM next season. Mannix also criticizes general manager Rafael Stone for assembling the current roster, which Mannix claims is becoming a distraction for talented young players such as Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Jae’Sean Tate, and for having Silas deal with the media whenever there’s a personnel issue.
  • Fans have been calling for Sengun to get more playing time, but the rookie center told a Turkish magazine that the Rockets are bringing him along slowly so he can adjust to the NBA, relays Matt Young of The Houston Chronicle“(The Rockets) played nine games in 15 days, we used to play nine games in nine weeks in Turkey, we did it in two weeks here,” Sengun said. “It’s hard to get used to it right away.”

Southwest Notes: Jones, Zion, Tillie, Sengun

Pelicans forward Herb Jones has been one of the surprises of this year’s rookie class, and veteran guard Garrett Temple got an early tip about his new teammate, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports serves as the agent for both players, and Temple said Bartelstein was raving about Jones shortly after he was selected with the 35th pick.

Jones has exceeded expectations for a second-rounder, starting 23 of the 32 games he has played and averaging 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per night. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC last season, but there were questions about whether he could provide enough offense to succeed in the NBA. He has been working to develop his jump shot and is connecting at 36.6% from three-point range on 1.3 attempts per game.

“I’ve gotten to know Herb as a person,” Temple said. “He’s the epitome of a great teammate, a great person. He’s someone you want on your team. He’s going to be in the league for a very, very long time.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • There’s an assumption that the Pelicans will offer Zion Williamson a maximum extension this summer, but John Hollinger of The Athletic questions whether that’s wise considering Williamson’s injury history. The third-year forward has only played 85 total games and continues to recover from offseason foot surgery. Hollinger suggests an offer similar to Joel Embiid‘s contract, which protects the team if he can’t play a minimum number of games.
  • The Grizzlies used their room exception to sign Killian Tillie to a two-year contract, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. The former two-way player will become a restricted free agent after the 2022/23 season.
  • Rockets rookie center Alperen Sengun may face an extended absence after spraining his right ankle in Friday’s game, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston (Twitter link). “It’s not day-to-day,” coach Stephen Silas said. “It’s probably about a week and then we’ll see.”

Rockets Notes: Wall, Augustin, Sengun, Simmons, Theis, Gordon

As we previously detailed, John Wall met with Rockets management on Sunday, including general manager Rafael Stone and head coach Stephen Silas. Wall informed his bosses he would like to return to the court and be a starter again. Since the Rockets would prefer to have him play a limited role off the bench, the two sides reached an impasse.

However, the situation remains fluid, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Silas said the Rockets will continue to have conversations with Wall while he works himself into game shape over the next couple weeks.

Rafael and I did meet with John (on Sunday) and he had indicated that he wants to play and work towards that so right now we’re in that phase as far as getting him back in game shape,” Silas said. “He’s been doing a lot of one-on-oh type stuff and one-on-one type stuff but nothing up and down, nothing four-on-four, five-on-five.

Right now is the ramp-up time. That’ll probably take a couple weeks. We’ll continue our conversations and try to determine what it looks like.”

Here’s more from Houston:

  • Silas said backup point guard D.J. Augustin is in the health and safety protocols, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston. It’s unclear how long Augustin will be sidelined.
  • In his latest mailbag, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tackles a number of topics. He believes rookie Alperen Sengun will stay in his current bench role, especially since the Rockets have finally found some success (winning three straight after starting 1-16). He thinks Sengun will eventually get more minutes as the season progresses, but writes that Christian Wood is playing too well right now as the lone big man to disrupt his rhythm.
  • Within the same column, Iko says he doesn’t think the Rockets have any interest in Ben Simmons, but they could potentially help facilitate a deal involving multiple teams. He says Houston is committed to Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green as its backcourt of the future.
  • Iko also believes that offseason addition Daniel Theis and shooting guard Eric Gordon will be available if the price is right. Theis has fallen out of the rotation recently, but he’s a veteran with a proven defensive presence, and his contract (four years, $35MM, with $26MM guaranteed) will likely be easier to move than Gordon’s (two years, $37MM guaranteed).