Chris Paul

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Grizzlies, Walker, Rockets

It’s certainly hard to build playoff contenders in the NBA on a regular basis, but the Pelicans have failed to have much meaningful playoff success throughout Anthony Davis‘ career.

As Martin Rogers writes for USA Today Sports, if Davis does indeed leave in the near future, the Pelicans have no one to blame but themselves due to struggles in constructing a competitive team around him.

Pelicans GM Dell Demps has certainly tried to make significant moves to build a contender around Davis, most notably the Pelicans’ trade for DeMarcus Cousins two seasons ago.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

Southwest Notes: Mirotic, CP3, DSJ, Grizzlies

The Pelicans, already missing star big man Anthony Davis, will be without another key frontcourt player for at least the next week. The club announced in a press release on Thursday evening that Nikola Mirotic is dealing with a right calf strain and will be re-evaluated in a week. Shams Charania of The Athletic suggests (via Twitter) that Mirotic may end up missing a week or two due to the injury.

Meanwhile, a division rival got some promising injury news this week. The Rockets are expected to get Chris Paul back in their lineup on Sunday, head coach Mike D’Antoni confirmed today (Twitter link via Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun). While Paul isn’t quite ready to return from his hamstring ailment on Friday night against Toronto, he’d play if it were a playoff game, D’Antoni said.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

Rockets Notes: House, Paul, J.R. Smith, Anthony

The Rockets have opened talks on a standard contract for Danuel House, who will soon run out of NBA days on his two-way deal, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. House sat out Thursday’s practice to keep from using up another day, but will reach his limit if he plays in the team’s next three games.

House came to Houston in late November when the team was low on players because of injuries. He was waived December 4 to open a roster spot so the Rockets could sign two-way player Gary Clark to a standard contract. House re-signed on his current two-way deal after clearing waivers two days later.

He has since earned a spot in the starting lineup and is averaging 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting .367 from 3-point range. Feigen notes that the urgency to get a deal done with House might be lessened by James Ennis‘ recent return from a hamstring injury and Eric Gordon‘s expected return next week. If House doesn’t agree to a new contract and the Rockets don’t decide to convert his current deal, he will have to remain with the team’s affiliate in Rio Grande until the G League season is over.

There’s more today from Houston:

  • House’s ability to learn quickly has helped the Rockets turn around their season, Feigen writes in a separate story. He had played in just 24 NBA games prior to this year, but coach Mike D’Antoni has been impressed with House’s ability to adjust his game on the fly. “The coaching staff tells him something and he puts it into his game,” D’Antoni said. “That’s unique. It’s not easy to be able to do that and just put it in your game and not think about it, because if you think and play at the same time, it’s hard. It has to become natural and he does that.”
  • Chris Paul has intensified his workouts, but the estimate of a late January return from a strained hamstring hasn’t changed, Feigen reports in another piece. “We’re going to be careful with him,” D’Antoni said. “… Obviously, we’re a lot closer to the end than the beginning. We’ll bring him back at an opportune time.”
  • The Rockets are the only team to express any interest in trading for Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops, who says they would insist that Cleveland take Carmelo Anthony as part of any deal.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Gordon, MCW Trade

The Rockets and Austin Rivers seemed like an unlikely match, given his up-and-down history with former Clippers teammate Chris Paul. However, Rivers is thriving so far in Houston, with coach Mike D’Antoni calling him a “godsend” (Twitter link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston) and Rivers telling Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he’s “the happiest I’ve been in my career.” The veteran guard also clarified that he “never had a problem” with CP3, and took the blame for the perception that there was a rift between the two ex-Clippers.

“Everything that happened was so silly and so stupid,” Rivers said. “A lot of it was on my part in terms of I let a lot of things that were said in the media about me and Chris affect me and his relationship. I accepted it like as if Chris was saying that s—, when he wasn’t doing [anything]. It ended up kind of messing us up at the time, because there was all this stuff about how we were interacting that wasn’t true.

“Me and Chris haven’t even had to say [anything] about it because we both moved on. I was just with [him] at an event at his house. It’s just crazy how in today’s age everything does revolve around social media. Social media is so powerful.”

Rivers’ conversation with Spears is worth reading in full, as the 26-year-old also discussed how being Doc Rivers‘ son affects the perception of him, why it’s a good thing that he and Doc are in separate organizations, and why he decided to sign with Houston.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Speaking today to reporters, Mike D’Antoni said that Eric Gordon might be able to return in about a week, while Chris Paul will likely miss another two or three weeks, according to Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Rockets have been playing well without Gordon and Paul, but would surely welcome the opportunity to get their roster back to full strength.
  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders provides some specific details on the Rockets’ Michael Carter-Williams trade, reporting (via Twitter) that Houston received the Grizzlies’ top-55 protected 2020 second-round pick in the deal and sent $1,065,966 to the Bulls. Chicago will receive that money in five installments of approximately $73K apiece, followed by a final payment of $700K next July.
  • Pincus also recently shared the unusual salary guarantee details on Gary Clark‘s contract (all Twitter links). As Pincus explains, the following things must be true for Clark’s 2019/20 salary to become guaranteed before next January 10:
    • He appears in at least 37 games for the Rockets during the 2018/19 regular season.
    • The Rockets miss the playoffs OR Clark appears in at least two postseason games OR Clark is cut by April 10, 2019.

Injury Updates: LeBron, Cousins, Paul, Gordon, Fultz

Lakers superstar LeBron James did some shooting but little else during practice on Tuesday, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. He will miss his fourth straight game on Wednesday due to a groin strain suffered on Christmas Day. It remains uncertain how much more time he’ll need to return. “He’s working on his body, his game, himself all the time. But that’s the first time I’ve seen him shoot [since the injury],” coach Luke Walton said. The Lakers are 1-2 without James.

We have more injury news from around the league:

  • DeMarcus Cousins is still uncertain when he’ll make his debut with the Warriors, Marc J. Spears of ESPN writes. Cousins has practiced with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors and was involved in private 5-on-5 scrimmages with Warriors teammates last week, Spears notes. “It will mean everything when I get back,” Cousins said. “All the hard work. The dedication. Good and bad days. Tears, cramps and pain. Everything.”
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul has “no clue’ when he’ll return from his left hamstring strain, according to Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle. Paul has missed the team’s last eight games.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon is hopeful his bruised right knee will heal fast enough to allow him to play against Golden State on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Gordon, who suffered the injury on Saturday, is waiting for the swelling to go down. “I can’t really do a whole lot,” Gordon said. “They didn’t tell me an actual time frame. I know if I’m able to run. I don’t care how much pain I have, I’m going to play.”
  • Sixers second-year guard Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated early next week for his thoracic outlet syndrome condition, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The top pick in the 2017 draft hasn’t played since November 19th. Philadelphia remains hopeful that Fultz can return this season.
  • Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday after missing the last 10 games with a quad strain, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Knight, Mbah A Moute

Austin Rivers is downplaying talk of a feud with Chris Paul during their five years as Clippers teammates, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Rivers, who officially signed with the Rockets yesterday, points out that he never would have been welcome in Houston if Paul hadn’t agreed to the move.

“I have no problems with Chris, as you guys will see,” Rivers said. “Obviously, if I had a problem with Chris I wouldn’t be here. Chris has a huge input on this team as he should. He’s a Hall of Fame point guard. If that was that serious, I wouldn’t be here. That will show you that’s not real.”

Paul’s latest hamstring injury, suffered last Thursday, opened the door for Rivers to become a Rocket. Houston needs backcourt help with Paul out of action for at least two weeks, and Rivers was looking for playing time on a contending team after agreeing to a buyout with the Suns, who acquired him from the Wizards earlier this month.

“This is a team I always admired and wanted to play for with (coach Mike) D’Antoni and the way they play, getting up and down,” Rivers added. “It’s a very fitting place.”

There’s more today from Houston:

  • Even though he just joined the team and hasn’t played in more than a week, Rivers won’t be on a minutes restriction as he makes his debut with the Rockets today, tweets Houston play-by-play man Craig Ackerman.
  • The addition of Rivers will cut into Brandon Knight‘s playing time, but that was the plan all along, Feigen writes in a question-and-answer column. Knight missed a year and a half with an ACL tear and only had a couple of practices before taking the court. The Rockets intended to bring him along slowly and didn’t want to increase his minutes because of Paul’s injury.
  • Rockets management had concerns about the condition of Luc Mbah a Moute‘s shoulder, which limited what they were willing to offer him in free agency, Feigen adds in the same piece. Mbah a Moute, who got $4.3MM to rejoin the Clippers, has only played four games this season, but it has been a knee issue rather than the shoulder that has limited him.

Rockets Sign Austin Rivers

DECEMBER 24, 11:09am: The Rockets have officially signed Rivers to a rest-of-season deal, announcing the news in a press release. 

DECEMBER 23, 1:34pm: Rivers will get back the $650K he gave to Phoenix in his buyout agreement, plus nearly $500K more from the Rockets, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Houston’s cap hit will fall between $914K and $931K, depending on when his signing becomes official. The Rockets don’t play again until Tuesday.

DECEMBER 23, 12:53pm: Former Wizards guard Austin Rivers has reached an agreement to join the Rockets, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

His contract will be fully guaranteed for the rest of the season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Houston has an open roster spot, so no corresponding move will be necessary. The Rockets have part of their mid-level exception remaining, but there’s no word on whether Rivers will receive more than a veteran’s minimum contract. His new salary will cut into the $12MM still owed to him by the Suns, who waived him earlier this week.

Houston has a need for guard help with Chris Paul sidelined for at least the next two weeks with a strained hamstring. The move reunites the former Clippers teammates, who had an uneasy relationship when they were together in L.A. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Paul had no objections to signing Rivers, understanding that the team needs immediate backcourt help (Twitter link).

The agreement with the Rockets caps an eventful nine days for Rivers, who was involved in a canceled three-team trade, then was dealt to the Suns the next day. He reached a buyout agreement with Phoenix and has been looking for an opportunity with a contending team that could offer him consistent playing time. Houston qualified when Paul got injured Thursday night.

Rivers was having a productive first year in Washington after being acquired from the Clippers in an offseason trade. Used mainly in a reserve role, he posted a 7.2/2.4/2.0 line through 29 games.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Knight, House, Doncic

Despite all of the attention on Anthony Davis and the speculation about his long-term future, Scott Kushner writes for The Journal Times that the Pelicans have more pressing issues to solve, most notably their inability to close out games.

As Kushner points out, the Pelicans are the worst clutch team in the NBA, as they are 5-11 in games that are within five points in the final five minutes. In fact, during those situations the Pelicans are outscored by 28.6 points per 100 possessions, the worst net rating.

This is a stark contrast to last season, when the Pelicans led the league in clutch wins with 30. Before they have to deal with Davis’ future, the Pelicans have to figure out how to win this season, which will often come down to their ability to close out games in crunch time.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • With Chris Paul out for the next couple of weeks, Brandon Knight is ready to step up and contribute if given the playing time. As Jonathan Feigen writes for The Houston Chronicle, Knight has struggled to find his shot since returning from injury, and with the Rockets adding Austin Rivers earlier today, Knight may find himself short on minutes in the rotation.
  • Danuel House has provided an unexpected lift for the Rockets off the bench in recent weeks, and he even started against the Spurs this weekend due to Paul’s injury. As Feigen reveals for The Houston Chronicle, starting in his hometown was a meaningful experience for House.
  • When asked about his comments regarding his desire to play with Anthony Davis, LeBron James mentioned several other great players in the league that he would love to play alongside. As SportsDay Dallas points out, James included Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic in that list, highlighting his respect for the rookie’s strong start to the season.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Paul, Parsons, Brooks, Smith

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry believes LeBron James‘ comment that it would be “amazing” to play with Anthony Davis constitutes tampering, William Guillory of The Athletic tweets. An NBA statement on Friday indicated the James’ statement did not rise to the level of tampering. Gentry vehemently disagreed. “It’s tampering,” Gentry said. “Should we have AD say, ‘Why don’t we trade for LeBron?'” Gentry went on further to say, “I thought if you talked about a player under contract, it’s tampering. That’s just me. I’ve only been in the league for 31 years, so what would I know?”

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets All-Star guard Chris Paul has a Grade 2 hamstring strain and will be reevaluated in two weeks, according to a team press release. Paul suffered the injury against Miami on Thursday.
  • The Grizzlies are hopeful that forwards Chandler Parsons and Dillon Brooks will return to action soon, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Parsons hasn’t played since the third game this season due to knee and back soreness but has ramped up his workouts lately. Brooks, who has not played since November 10th due to a Grade II MCL sprain, should return before the New Year. They could boost an offense that has reached 100 points just once the past 10 games, Cobb adds.
  • On that same topic, Michael Wallace of the team’s website notes that rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and veteran combo guard Shelvin Mack have slumped recently. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes confidence is a factor for the team in general. “We can come up with schemes and tricks and all that, but on the offensive end of the floor, we’ve got to take the shots that are available to us,” he said. “We’ve got to believe the shots are going in. Guys are working their tails off, taking their reps. We’ve got to get them those shots, and when they get them, they’ve got to take them and knock them down.”
  • Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. probably won’t play again until after Christmas, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports.  Smith has missed six of the last seven games due to a wrist injury. He’s unlikely to return until after the team’s road trip, which concludes Sunday.  Their next home game is Wednesday against the Pelicans.
  • Davis’ decision whether to sign a Designated Veteran extension with the Pelicans looms as one of this summer’s biggest stories, as Danny Leroux of The Athletic notes. Davis has no financial incentive to wait until potential free agency the following summer, so if he doesn’t sign it, that probably means he wants out of New Orleans, as Leroux details.

Chris Paul Out For “Some Time” With Hamstring Injury

The Rockets entered Thursday night’s action having apparently turned a corner, riding a five-game winning streak and getting back into the playoff picture in the Western Conference. However, the team suffered a pair of losses last night — in addition to falling to the Heat, the Rockets also lost All-Star point guard Chris Paul to a strained left hamstring.

Paul will reportedly undergo an MRI this morning to determine the severity of the injury, but the diagnosis was confirmed after the game by head coach Mike D’Antoni, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. According to D’Antoni, CP3 will be sidelined for “some time” due to his hamstring issue.

As Reynolds notes in his full story on Paul’s injury, the injury is bad news for the Rockets, who have struggled without the veteran point guard since he arrived in Houston in 2017. The Rockets are 0-5 this season in games without Paul. That figure doesn’t include Thursday’s game, which Houston led by eight points when CP3 went down.

Last season, the club was 15-9 in games Paul didn’t play — that’s not bad, but it certainly pales in comparison to the 50-8 record the team posted when he was healthy. Of course, the Rockets also lost the last two games in the Western Conference Finals to the Warriors when Paul was on the shelf with a hamstring strain.

“It’s definitely tough because he’s a big-time play-maker and ball handler for us,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said, per Reynolds. “In this offense you need all of the play-making that you can have and usually me, Chris, and James [Harden] have the ball in our hands trying to play-make for other people and provide good scoring.”

As Gordon notes, he and Harden figure to take on some added responsibility with Paul out of action. Michael Carter-Williams, who hasn’t been a regular part of the rotation since October, may also get another look, and Brandon Knight‘s ability to contribute could be put to the test as well.