Rockets Rumors

Dante Exum Close To Joining Spanish Team

Former NBA guard Dante Exum is close to signing a three-month contract with Barcelona, Sportando relays via a Chema de Lucas tweet.

Exum was waived by the Rockets during training camp. Exum signed a three-year deal with Houston in September that had a base value of $8.1MM and included another $8MM+ in likely and unlikely incentives. But the contract was non-guaranteed and the Rockets had 15 other players with guaranteed deals.

Exum, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, finished last season with Houston after being acquired in the four-team James Harden trade, but he didn’t play any games for the franchise. He appeared in six games for Cleveland last season, when he had an expiring $9.6MM contract, before being sidelined with a calf injury.

Exum played a prominent role on Australia’s bronze medal-winning squad at the Tokyo Olympics, averaging 9.0 PPG and 2.8 APG.

Still just 26 years old, Exum has seen his NBA career sidetracked by injuries. He’s appeared in 245 career games, averaging 5.6 PPG and 2.1 APG in 18.6 MPG.

Jalen Green Out Another Week

  • Rockets coach Stephen Silas says rookie Jalen Green isn’t close to returning from his strained hamstring, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “Nothing really new,” Silas said on Friday. “He is still injured. He is progressing in a good manner but slowly. We’re just going to continue to evaluate week-by-week. But he’s not going to play any time soon.”

Rockets Notes: Wall, Mathews, Green, Augustin

The Rockets and John Wall are still trying to figure out the next steps in his possible return to the court, but David Aldridge of The Athletic believes that Wall needs to maximize his window of opportunity and accept any role the club is offering.

Aldridge acknowledges that coming off the bench for a Rockets team that has struggled to win games (currently 5-16) would be very difficult for a competitor like Wall, but he thinks the only way for the point guard to show his value to other teams is by proving his effectiveness on the court — no matter the minutes.

Other teams are still interested in Wall as a player, but not with the enormous amount of money remaining on his contract ($44.31MM this season and a $47.37MM player option next season).

He’s still really good,” a GM texted Aldridge. “Just not at the number he currently makes.”

Aldridge thinks the trade market for Wall could develop in the summer of 2022, once he picks up his player option. A huge expiring contract could create cap flexibility in the summer of 2023 for a team looking to pursue free top agents.

Aldridge writes that Wall should look at Derrick Rose‘s path in order to revive his career. Both players were extremely athletic and unfortunately derailed by injuries, but after bouncing around for a few seasons on minimum deals, Rose was able to rebuild contractual value by becoming a more efficient scorer off the bench. The Knicks re-signed Rose to a three-year, $43.5MM ($28MM guaranteed) contract last summer.

It’s an interesting piece and worth checking out in full for any Athletic subscribers — Aldridge knows Wall very well and covered him for years in Washington.

Here’s more from Houston:

  • Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle explores shooting guard Garrison Mathews‘ journey to the NBA. The Tennessee native has averaged 16.3 PPG and 3.0 RPG on .568/.516/.778 shooting during Houston’s four-game winning streak.
  • Number two overall pick Jalen Green may be sidelined at the moment, but if he’s been paying attention, it’s still an opportunity to learn and grow as a player, as Jerome Solomon of The Houston Chronicle details. The Rockets haven’t lost a game since Green was injured a week ago, so he’s been able to watch what it takes to win at the NBA level.
  • Backup point guard D.J. Augustin has been cleared to play Friday night against the Magic, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Augustin had been in the league’s health and safety protocols after COVID-19 a test came back inconclusive. Augustin is fully vaccinated, but his daughter contracted the virus and he was a close contact. Feigen writes that Augustin produced two negative tests 24 hours apart and thus was cleared to return.

Wood Probable To Play Friday, Porter Questionable

  • If the Rockets get a solid offer that includes a prospect or two, they should consider trading Christian Wood, Rahat Huq of the Houston Chronicle opines. The club has to look at the big picture and the next two drafts are crucial to the franchise, due to the picks owed in the ill-fated Russell Westbrook trade, Huq notes. A report earlier this week declared the Wood would generate significant trade interest before the deadline.

Wood And KPJ Both Injured Weds

  • Rockets starters Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. were both injured in Wednesday night’s game against the Thunder and did not return. Wood suffered a sprained ankle, while KPJ has a left thigh contusion, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link).

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).

Southwest Notes: M. Brown, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Wall

Mavericks fans have been clamoring for Moses Brown to get a longer look at center, but head coach Jason Kidd appears in no rush to insert the 22-year-old into the rotation, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Dwight Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein remain ahead of Brown on the depth chart, Boban Marjanovic is still in the mix, and Kidd also sounds interested in experimenting more with Maxi Kleber in the starting lineup, shifting Kristaps Porzingis to the five. As a result, the Mavericks’ head coach isn’t making any promises to the fans who want to see more of Brown.

“He could get a chance,” Kidd said, per Townsend. “I think for fans, or for anybody, if they look at our roster we have quite a few centers. So there’s a committee of centers. And at some point, maybe he [Brown] has an opportunity to play.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal takes a look at what’s next for the Grizzlies with Ja Morant sidelined due to a sprained knee. Morant has the league’s third-highest usage rate among point guards, so Memphis will try to replace him using a committee, with Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, and Kyle Anderson all taking on added ball-handling responsibilities.
  • Jaxson Hayes opened the season as the Pelicans‘ primary backup center, but Willy Hernangomez has taken over that role in New Orleans’ last four games. Scott Kushner of writes that Hayes was handed his minutes, while Hernangomez – who re-signed with the team over the summer – has fought to earn his.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic is confused about why John Wall and the Rockets are at an impasse over whether or not he starts. Hollinger thinks Houston should be open to putting Wall in the starting lineup, where he could make life easier for Jalen Green, but also believes Wall shouldn’t be too hung up on starting, since potential suitors aren’t going to view him any differently if he’s coming off the bench.

Christian Wood Expected To Generate Significant Trade Interest

There’s an expectation around the NBA that Rockets big man Christian Wood will generate “significant” trade interest this season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who adds that people around the league believe Houston will consider offers.

Wood, 26, parlayed a strong 2019/20 season in Detroit into a three-year, $41MM deal with the Rockets during the 2020 offseason. He has outperformed that deal so far, averaging 19.5 PPG and 10.2 RPG on .499/.362/.612 shooting in 60 games (32.5 MPG) in Houston. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

As O’Connor notes, one reason Wood chose to sign with the Rockets a year ago was to play with James Harden, which obviously didn’t last long. That doesn’t necessarily mean Wood wants out now, but he’d be more valuable to a playoff team than a rebuilding club. Rival executives have wondered whether Houston will be motivated to trade its veteran bigs – Wood and/or Daniel Theis – in order to open up more minutes for promising rookie Alperen Sengun, O’Connor writes.

I’d be a little surprised if the Rockets look to move Theis this season — the team signed him to a long-term deal in August after having drafted Sengun and fully committed to the rebuild, so he doesn’t fall into the same category as vets like Wood, John Wall, and Eric Gordon, who were on the roster before Harden was dealt. For what it’s worth, O’Connor says Theis will receive “mild” trade interest from teams in need of a reliable backup center.

While it remains to be seen whether either Wood or Theis will be dealt, the 3-16 Rockets should certainly be sellers at the February deadline — Wall, Gordon, D.J. Augustin, and Danuel House are among the other vets who could be shopped.

John Wall Wants To Start, Rockets Disagree; Will Continue To Sit Out

November 28: Wall met with the Rockets on Sunday and informed the team he would like to be a starter again and have a chance to compete to keep a starting role, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic.

However, the Rockets disagreed, and want Wall to come off the bench in order to return to play. Wall will continue to sit out until the two sides find a resolution, per Charania.

After the news broke, Wall reportedly posted an Instagram video with the hashtag “#FreeMe”, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

November 27: Rockets guard John Wall has expressed a desire to return to the court and start playing again, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Wall and the franchise had mutually agreed that he would sit out until a trade was found back in September.

For a return to happen, Wall and Houston may need to compromise and solidify his role, Wojnarowski writes. At 31 years old and playing in a backcourt that consists of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green, Wall doesn’t exactly fit with Houston’s current direction.

His massive salary of $44.31MM this season and a $47.37MM player option next season also make it difficult to find a trade partner. A five-time All-Star, Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game with the Rockets last season, shooting 40% from the field.

Wall never asked to be traded this fall, but it became clear that he was no longer part of the team’s plans. He talked to general manager Rafael Stone on Friday and the two sides plan to speak again on Sunday to further discuss a potential return, according to Wojnarowski.

Rockets Notes: Wood, Mathews, Wall, Silas

After losing 15 straight games, the Rockets have now won two in a row and the turnaround started with a lineup change, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Free agent addition Daniel Theis, who had been the starting center, hasn’t played the last two games as coach Stephen Silas opted for a smaller starting lineup with Christian Wood in the middle. Wood set two career highs this week with six assists Wednesday and 33 points Saturday.

“We’re moving the ball, we’re taking open shots and we’re making shots,” Silas said after Saturday’s win over Charlotte. “How many games in a row did we shoot under 30% from three? We shot 47 (percent) tonight. Part of it is playing Armoni (Brooks) a little bit more, playing Garrison (Mathews) a little bit more. But also having some space out there so we can get our drive-and-kicks. Once a few go, you get a lot more confident about shooting your shots. Pretty confident shooting right now.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Another part of the new lineup is Mathews, who was claimed off waivers before the start of the season and given a two-way contract, Feigen adds. With Jalen Green sidelined by a strained hamstring, Mathews made his first start Saturday and provided 20 points while going 5-of-9 from three-point range. “He’s showing up when his name is called,” Wood said. “That’s all you can ask for a guy like that. He’s shooting the ball great. I told him, whenever he sees the rim and he’s open, let it go. Same with Armoni Brooks. Whenever those two guys see it, shoot it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t try to take a dribble. Just shoot it. That’s what you’re on the floor for. That’s what you’re great at.”
  • Silas told reporters that he hasn’t talked to John Wall about his interest in starting to play again, Feigen states in a separate story. Wall spoke to general manager Rafael Stone on Friday, and another meeting is planned today. According to Feigen, it will focus on what Wall’s role might be on a team that remains committed to its young backcourt. “Being around John and him working out all the time and him being around the team and him being the competitor that he is, John just being John, of course you know that he is itching (to play),” Silas said. “As far as a conversation between he and I as far as him wanting to come back, no.”
  • Saturday’s game against the Hornets was special for Silas, who still feels a strong connection to the organization after spending 10 years there as an assistant coach, Feigen adds in another piece.