Rockets Rumors

Raptors’ Nurse Says He’ll Evaluate Future After Season

Nick Nurse‘s future in Toronto has been a subject of speculation as of late, with multiple reports this week suggesting there has been some league-wide chatter about Nurse’s status. Asked on Friday about those rumors, the Raptors head coach could have poured cold water on them, but his response only added more fuel, writes Josh Lewenberg of

“I think when this season gets done, we’ll evaluate everything,” Nurse told reporters. “Even personally, I’m going to take a few weeks to see where I’m at, where my head’s at, and just see how the relationship with the organization is and everything. It’s been 10 years for me now, which is a pretty good run.”

Nurse has been the head coach in Toronto since 2018 and was an assistant with the franchise under Dwane Casey for five years before that. It has been the Raptors’ most successful decade since entering the NBA in 1995, and Nurse has had a major hand in that success, leading the team to its first ever championship in 2019 and a 224-161 (.582) record across his five seasons.

However, the last three years have been more up and down than the first two. Toronto was just 27-45 in 2020/21 — that appeared at the time to be an aberration due to the fact that the team was forced to play its home games in Tampa due to COVID-19. Following a 48-win showing in 2021/22 though, this season has also been an underwhelming one. The Raptors currently sit under .500 (38-39) with just five games left to play, resulting in speculation about Nurse’s future.

Nurse’s contract expires after the 2023/24 season, and sources with knowledge of the situation tell Lewenberg that the 55-year-old doesn’t want to go into next season as a “lame-duck” coach. So, assuming he wants to continue coaching in Toronto, he’ll be seeking an extension this spring.

That means the Raptors will essentially have to make a decision this year, one way or the other, on Nurse’s future. Both directions – retaining Nurse or making a change – seem plausible at this time, Lewenberg writes, while Eric Koreen of The Athletic says a coaching change feels more likely than not.

Determining Nurse’s future will be just one part of a big offseason for the Raptors, who also have Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Gary Trent Jr. facing potential free agency.

Ime Udoka has been linked to the Raptors as a possible target if they do move on from Nurse. As Koreen points out, Udoka interviewed for the team’s head coaching job in 2018 and has been associated with Basketball Without Borders, which works closely with Masai Ujiri‘s Giants of Africa initiative. Of course, the off-court incident that ended Udoka’s tenure in Boston would be a complicating factor for the Raptors or any other team interested in pursuing the former Celtics head coach.

Nurse, meanwhile, has been linked to Houston, where head coach Stephen Silas isn’t a lock to return next season. Nurse coached the Rockets‘ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, from 2011-13 before joining the Raptors.

Grizzlies’ Lofton Named G League Rookie Of The Year

First-year forward Kenneth Lofton Jr., who is on a two-way contract with the Grizzlies, has been named the G League Rookie of the Year for the 2022/23 season, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Lofton has appeared in just 19 games and averaged only 5.5 MPG at the NBA level in his first professional season after signing with the Grizzlies as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. However, he played a major role for the Memphis Hustle, the team’s G League affiliate.

In 17 regular season games for the Hustle, Lofton averaged a double-double (20.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG) despite logging a modest 28.6 minutes per night. He shot 53.9% from the floor and also chipped in 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. Lofton’s performance helped the Hustle secure the No. 2 seed in the NBAGL’s Western Conference with a 23-9 record.

Lofton will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, since his two-way contract only covers the 2022/23 season.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), Warriors two-way guard Lester Quinones and Rockets two-way forward Darius Days finished second and third, respectively, in Rookie of the Year voting.

Quinones averaged 21.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 4.8 APG in 31 G League regular season games (32.0 MPG) for the Santa Cruz Warriors, while Days put up 24.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG on .486/.371/.857 shooting in 29 contests (35.6 MPG) for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Doncic, Kennard, Rockets

All-Star Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving acknowledged that things have not gone smoothly since he arrived in Dallas last month and teamed up with fellow All-Star guard Luka Doncic, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I think that now, again, just where we are in the season, and where other teams are positioned already, it kind of looks like a bit of a clusterf—, to be honest with you,” Irving said. “Because we’re 37-40, and we’re trying to fight to get into the play-in game. It’s not the expectations I don’t think any of us had in that locker room.”

The team has gone 6-14 across its last 20 games and is currently on the outside of the Western Conference looking in, as the No. 11 seed.

“I just have to be at peace with where I am and which I am, and trust of the guys that I’m going to be in that war room with every single day,” Irving said. “So, I’m appreciative of them giving me the opportunity. It’s been nothing but great here. And I’ve been at peace.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks‘ most recent loss, a 116-108 defeat Wednesday against the Sixers, could help accelerate the end of the burgeoning on-court partnership of Doncic and Irving, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. The team has just five games left and is currently one game behind the West’s tenth-seeded Thunder. As Cato notes, Irving could leave in free agency, which would be an indictment of the Mavericks’ team-building, coaching, and extant personnel.
  • Grizzlies reserve guard Luke Kennard may not have been the buzziest trade deadline roster addition, but he could be a crucial X-factor for Memphis in the playoffs, opines Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • Like every other tanking team this season, the rebuilding 18-59 Rockets are hoping to nab the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft, almost certain to be high-upside prospect Victor Wembanyama. Kelly Iko of The Athletic takes a look at a variety of lottery selection scenarios for the Rockets, who are in position to claim – at worst – a top-six or -seven pick.

Rockets’ Martin Meets RFA Starter Criteria

Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. has met the “starter criteria” for potential restricted free agents by being part of Houston’s starting lineup for at least 41 games this season.

When a player meets the starter criteria, the value of his qualifying offer increases. Martin’s QO at the end of this season would now be $5,216,324 (up from approximately $2.3MM), the equivalent of 100% of the rookie scale amount for a No. 21 pick from the 2019 draft class.

However, there’s no guarantee that Martin will actually become a restricted free agent at season’s end. The Rockets hold a $1.93MM team option on the 22-year-old for the 2023/24 season and could simply exercise that option to keep him under contract for another year.

That decision won’t be as simple as it appears on the surface though. Because this is Martin’s third NBA season, he would be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, but he’d become unrestricted if Houston picks up his option and postpones his free agency until 2024. In situations like this one, it can make sense for the club to turn down a team-friendly option in order to exert control over the player’s free agency process, rather than risk having him walk for nothing in a year.

In fact, the Rockets took that exact approach a year ago with Jae’Sean Tate, who had a 2022/23 team option but would have become an unrestricted free agent in 2023 if that option was picked up. After declining his option, Houston made Tate a restricted free agent and locked him up to a three-year, $20.6MM contract.

It remains to be seen what direction the Rockets will go with Martin, but the increased value of his qualifying offer will add a new wrinkle to the decision. If Houston turns down its team option on Martin, then tenders him a qualifying offer, he could accept the QO and put himself on track for unrestricted free agency in 2024 anyway. That’s a more plausible path now that the QO has risen in value by nearly $3MM.

Martin has played in all 76 of the Rockets’ games this season, establishing new career highs in points (12.6), rebounds (5.5), and assists (1.5) per game, as well as field-goal percentage (57.2%). There were whispers in the fall that he spoke to management about a possible trade, but those rumors died down as he took on an increased role.

Martin was said in November to be open to a contract extension, so if they want to keep him, the Rockets will likely try to engage in extension negotiations to get a sense of his price before making a decision on his 2023/24 option.

Martin is the fourth potential restricted free agent to meet the starter criteria this season, joining P.J. Washington, Tre Jones, and Ayo Dosunmu. Cameron Johnson, Matisse Thybulle, and Grant Williams all still have a chance to get there before the regular season ends.

Raptors, Rockets Could Have Interest In Ime Udoka

Former Celtics coach Ime Udoka could draw the attention of the Raptors and Rockets, depending on how their coaching situations shake out after the season, according to Steve Bulpett of

There have been some rumblings regarding Nick Nurse’s status in Toronto and if the two parties decide to separate, Udoka would be a candidate to replace him, a league executive told Bulpett.

The Rockets would be interested in Nurse guiding their young, rebuilding team if he becomes available and they decide to change coaches, according to Bulpett, who adds that Houston would also explore the possibility of hiring Udoka if don’t retain Stephen Silas.

Bulpett previously reported that teams had begun the vetting process regarding Udoka. He won’t return to Boston’s bench after Joe Mazzulla had the interim tag removed. Udoka was rumored to be a candidate for the Hawks’ vacancy before they hired Quin Snyder.

Udoka was suspended for reportedly having an improper relationship with a subordinate. Udoka former boss, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, is hopeful he will get a second chance to be a head coach.

“Ime was and is and always will be a great friend, and so you can imagine that I was deeply disappointed and hurt for him, for everybody involved,” Popovich said. “It’s a difficult situation for him, and my hope is that he will bounce back and find a home.”

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Kyrie, Sochan, Porter

In his latest diary entry for Andscape, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum discussed a handful of topics, including injured teammates Zion Williamson and Jose Alvarado and his expectations for the home stretch of the season. Perhaps most notably, he confirmed that his own right thumb injury will require surgery during the offseason.

“I knew the final outcome would probably be surgery, and I was notified that that’s what it’s going to have to be,” McCollum wrote. “It’s my shooting hand, so you’re always a little nervous. So, I’ve just been checking in with a hand specialist out of New York and just making sure things are progressing and continue to get images every couple weeks to track the progress as to what type of surgery I may need, what’s the process going to look like and I’m comfortable with what I’ve been hearing so far, so I’ll be all right.”

McCollum acknowledged that it hasn’t been ideal playing through the thumb injury, which has “affected how I dribble, shoot, pass, (and) absorb passes.” However, he said that shutting it down for the season has never been an option he seriously considered, since he believes he can still be effective.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Dallas is just 7-12 since Kyrie Irving made his Mavericks debut and has slipped out of the top 10 in the West, but Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) has heard only positive things about the guard’s professionalism and locker room presence since last month’s trade. Blaming Irving for Luka Doncic‘s recent frustration wouldn’t be “fair or accurate,” MacMahon adds.
  • A nagging right knee injury will sideline Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan on Sunday for the seventh time in his last 11 games. However, the rookie has downplayed the issue as “nothing serious” and head coach Gregg Popovich said the team “probably” won’t shut down Sochan for the season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). It sounds like there’s no concern that the knee problem will turn into a major injury, and the Spurs want to give Sochan all the reps they can before his first NBA season ends.
  • Despite the way in which his time in Cleveland ended, Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. still values the time he spent with the Cavaliers and said he’s looking forward to playing in Cleveland on Sunday, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “I would say that’s the first time I learned about the business of the NBA,” Porter said of the trade that sent him to Houston following a locker-room incident with the Cavs. “But we’re all still close, still. Those relationships are still there and very valuable to me, and (to) the other side, too. Definitely, a lot of people would say it was bad, a bad (ending). It was (for) the best for both of us.”

Texas Notes: Mavericks, Hardaway, Irving, Rockets, Spurs

Despite falling below .500, the 36-37 Mavericks remain intent on competing for a title this season, writes Eddie Sefko of

“The standings are going to change to the last game of the season,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “If we can get healthy and have everyone on the court, that gives us the best chance to win… We feel we have the pieces to be a championship team. We’re playing for a championship. But we just right now have to focus on the game that’s in front of us and that’s Charlotte.”

Over the past two weeks, Dallas has gone just 2-5, while slipping from the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference to No. 9. They have been without one or both of their two All-Star guards, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, in each of their past six games.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. are both questionable to suit up for the Mavericks in their next game, Friday against the Hornets, the team has announced (Twitter link). Irving is dealing with a sore right foot, while Hardaway continues to struggle through a non-COVID illness.
  • Two Rockets players may not be available for Houston on Friday against the Grizzlies, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Small forward Jae’Sean Tate will miss another game due to his sore left knee, while center Frank Kaminsky is considered questionable to play due to migraines.
  • Several key Spurs players will be sidelined Friday night against the Wizards, as the team continues to tank. Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News reports (Twitter link) that rookie Jeremy Sochan will be shelved with a sore knee and guard Romeo Langford will miss the action with an adductor injury. The team’s second-leading scorer, Devin Vassell, is questionable with a knee injury, as is center Zach Collins, who is dealing with a biceps bruise.

Rockets Sign D.J. Augustin For Rest Of Season

MARCH 23: The Rockets have officially signed Augustin for the remainder of the season, the team announced today (via Twitter).

MARCH 22: The Rockets are signing free agent point guard D.J. Augustin for the rest of the season, agent Raymond Brothers tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). It will be a minimum-salary contract, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

It will be Augustin’s second stint with the Rockets. He was acquired by Houston in a March 2021 trade and spent nearly a year with the organization before being waived in February 2022 at the trade deadline. He finished last season with the Lakers, but has been out of the NBA so far in 2022/23.

A reliable backup point guard for much of his career, Augustin has averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists per game in 976 career regular season appearances (23.4 MPG). At age 35, he may not have a whole lot left in the tank, but the Rockets are presumably adding him to their roster to serve as a veteran mentor for their young players rather than expecting him to play big minutes down the stretch.

The Rockets have two openings on their standard 15-man roster, so no corresponding moves will be necessary to make room for Augustin.

In fact, since it has nearly been two weeks since Willie Cauley-Stein‘s 10-day contract with Houston expired, the team was just about due for a mandatory roster move in order to get back to the NBA minimum of 14 players on standard contracts. Teams can only dip below that minimum for up to two weeks at a time.

Augustin’s exact rest-of-season salary will depend on when he officially signs his contract, but he’ll earn $16,700 per day.

Iko, Vecenie Evaluate Rockets' Youngsters, Preview Draft

  • Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic take a closer look at the progress some of the Rockets‘ young players have made this season and explore how the team will approach this year’s draft. According to Vecenie, if Houston gets the No. 2 pick, Scoot Henderson would be a better fit for the current roster than Brandon Miller. If their pick lands outside of the top three, the Rockets should either shop it or take a shot on a high-upside player in the next tier, says Vecenie.

Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks Suspended One Game

Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks has been suspended one game without pay for receiving his 18th technical foul this season, the league’s PR department tweets.

Brooks will serve his suspension on Wednesday when the Grizzlies host the Rockets.

Brooks has already served a one-game suspension for racking up excessive technicals. For every two additional technical fouls he receives, he’ll be subject to another automatic suspension.

He’ll lose $78,621 for the latest suspension and has now been fined a total of $336,863 this season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, via Spotrac (Twitter link).

Brooks’ latest technical was assessed during the third quarter of the Grizzlies’ 112-108 victory over the Mavericks on Monday. He was T’d up for for taunting Dallas’ bench after a dunk and the league chose to not rescind the technical.