Rockets Rumors

Udoka Decides To Stick With Usual Lineup

Rockets head coach Ime Udoka said he was considering making changes to the starting lineup just before the All-Star break, but with the opening night starting five healthy again, he wants to give the group more time to show what it can do, at least for now, according to Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link).

As Lerner writes, the Rockets are 18-17 with VanVleet, Jalen Green, Brooks, Smith and Alperen Sengun starting, but just 6-13 with any other lineups. They’ve also gone 1-6 without VanVleet this season. The veteran guard will be active for the back-to-back set Thursday and Friday after missing Houston’s previous five games with a left adductor strain.

And-Ones: Holland, Toscano-Anderson, All-Star, MVP Race, Reid

G League Ignite forward Ron Holland underwent surgery on his injured right thumb on Tuesday in order to repair a complete tendon rupture, a source tells Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link). Spears had reported over the weekend that Holland would miss the rest of the NBAGL season due to the thumb injury, but didn’t say at that time that the young prospect would be going under the knife.

Based on Holland’s projected recovery timeline, he should be back on the court within six-to-eight weeks, according to Spears, which will allow him to participate in the pre-draft process this spring.

Although Holland’s stock has slipped a little over the course of the 2023/24 season, he still looks like a probable lottery pick if he’s fully healthy, ranking 10th on ESPN’s latest big board.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran swingman Juan Toscano-Anderson, who played for the Mexico City Capitanes earlier in the season, has rejoined the G League club following a stint in Sacramento, per a press release (Twitter link). The Capitanes have a 10-6 regular season record, good for fourth place in the NBAGL’s Western Conference.
  • The NBA has updated its criteria for hosting an All-Star weekend, requiring a city to reach certain benchmarks in terms of hotel rooms, convention center space, and flights, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City, one of the league’s smallest markets, doesn’t meet any of the three requirements, making it unlikely that the Thunder will host an All-Star game anytime soon, Mussatto notes.
  • With the schedule set to resume following the All-Star break, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press checks in on the contenders for Most Valuable Player, suggesting that it could be one of the most wide-open MVP races in years.
  • Former NBA wing Robert Reid, who played in the league from 1977-91, passed away this week at age 68 after a battle with cancer, according to Jyesha Johnson of FOX26 Houston. Reid appeared in over 900 regular season games, primarily with the Rockets, averaging 11.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per night. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Williams, Jones, Brooks, Sochan

The Grizzlies upset the Bucks on Thursday, with young forwards GG Jackson and Vince Williams playing big parts in the victory. Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes that breakout years from Jackson and Williams are silver linings in an injury-riddled season from Memphis.

Jackson scored a career high-tying 27 points in the win over Milwaukee.

I try to be as coachable as possible,” Jackson said. “My high school coach called me a sponge back in the day. Not back in the day, it was like two years ago. I try to pick up on things as fast as I can, but not too fast to make sure I get every little detail.

Meanwhile, Williams finished that game with 18 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Both players look like they’ll fit perfectly on a fully healthy version of the Grizzlies. Williams gives Memphis another capable perimeter defender while Jackson’s ability to bring instant offense to the bench will be valuable.

Jackson in particular drew praise from Milwaukee’s stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard after the game, according to The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Jonah Dylan. “I thought he had a great game,” Lillard said. “He came out, he was letting it fly, no hesitation.

Antetokounmpo said he liked Jackson “a lot.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans wing Herbert Jones is shining from beyond the arc in his third season in the league,’s Christian Clark observes. Jones is shooting a career-high 40.7% from deep and is connecting on 52.6% of his threes since the New Year. “Herb has been shooting the ball well lately,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He is getting more and more confident in his shot.
  • Rockets wing Dillon Brooks‘ worst shooting season came last year with the Grizzlies, but he’s experiencing his best efficiency ever in his first year with Houston, Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicle writes. Overall, he’s taking smarter shots and helping Houston get into an offensive flow. “In general this year, I think he’s done a good job of really expanding his game and not getting pigeonholed into (the) defensive side only,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “… It’s a lot to play both sides of the ball, not just be a scorer or a defensive guy only. I think he welcomes that role this year. It was good carryover from the Canadian national team and the things he did with them.
  • Jeremy Sochan has had somewhat of a roller-coaster season with the Spurs this year. Sochan took over point guard duties to begin the season, an experiment that was taxing on him and wasn’t producing San Antonio’s best offensive product, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News. However, Sochan seemed to have no regrets about going through with the position change, even if temporarily, and expressed the need for outsiders to have patience while this core grows together. “I always had the mentality that the only way is up,” Sochan said. “Everything I do is for a reason, to learn and grow. So, yeah, I feel good. It’s just growing and learning even more. The sky is the limit.

Nerlens Noel Has Reportedly Drawn Interest From Knicks, Rockets, Hornets

Free agent center Nerlens Noel has received “exploratory” interest from the Knicks, Rockets, and Hornets, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

The sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Noel is known for his athleticism and versatility, especially on the defensive end of the floor. However, the 29-year-old hasn’t been on an NBA roster since being waived in September by the Kings. Last season, he appeared in 17 total games for the Pistons and Nets, but played limited minutes, averaging 2.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.9 steals in 11.5 minutes per night.

The Knicks have two open spots on their 15-man roster and have dealt with multiple injuries in their frontcourt as of late. According to Scotto, head coach Tom Thibodeau is a fan of Noel, who was with the team for two seasons from 2020-22. New York checked in on him prior to signing Taj Gibson to a second 10-day contract, Scotto adds.

Prior to the trade deadline, the Rockets were in the market for a center to back up and complement Alperen Sengun. They acquired Steven Adams from Memphis, but he’s out for the rest of the season, so he’s more of a long-term option up front. Houston currently has a full 15-man roster but may still be in the market for a big man who can help in the short term.

As for the Hornets, they’ve been missing starting center Mark Williams for much of the season and don’t have much depth at the position beyond Nick Richards, who has taken over the starting job. With no timeline for Williams’ return, they may want to add some reinforcements at the five. However, it’s worth noting that while the Knicks are a playoff team and the Rockets still have play-in aspirations, the Hornets are out of the postseason hunt, so they might prefer to rely on young players for those minutes.

Sixers Came Close To Trading For Andre Drummond

The Sixers thought they had a trade in place to acquire center Andre Drummond from the Bulls prior to last Thursday’s deadline, but Chicago pulled out of those talks hours before the deadline, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

League sources tell Scotto that Chicago had been seeking three second-round picks in exchange for the veteran center. It’s not clear if Philadelphia was unwilling to meet that asking price or if the Sixers’ offer wasn’t to the Bulls’ liking for another reason (such as perhaps the perceived quality of the second-rounders or a requirement that Chicago take back an unwanted contract in return).

The Celtics and Mavericks also made offers for Drummond, per Scotto, but ultimately went in different directions at center, with Boston trading for Xavier Tillman and Dallas landing Daniel Gafford. The Lakers, Suns, and Rockets were among the other clubs to express interest in the big man, sources tell HoopsHype.

Drummond, who is on an expiring $3.36MM contract, was considered the Bulls’ top trade candidate leading up to the deadline after Zach LaVine underwent season-ending foot surgery. The 30-year-old has averaged 8.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game across 55 appearance (nine starts) this season, and Chicago has posted a better net rating when he’s on the court than when he isn’t.

In the end, the Bulls stood pat at the trade deadline for a third consecutive year, while the Sixers are believed to still be on the lookout for a center to provide depth up front during Joel Embiid‘s injury absence.

Ime Udoka Considering Lineup Changes

  • Rockets coach Ime Udoka said lineup changes may be necessary following Wednesday’s loss at Memphis, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston faced an early 23-point deficit as its pattern of slow starts continued. Jalen Green sat out the entire fourth quarter for the second time in four games, and Feigen notes that little-used Nate Hinton played more second half minutes than Green did. “Maybe I have to look at the rotation and the lineup I have out there starting and try to get five competitors out the court at one time to avoid poor starts like that,” Udoka said. “I will look at all of that over the break, look in the mirror myself and figure out the best way to move forward to get us off to better starts.”

Knicks Intend To Protest Controversial Loss To Rockets

The Knicks are filing a protest with the league, disputing their controversial 105-103 loss to the Rockets on Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Both the NBA’s L2M (last two minutes) report and crew chief Ed Malloy acknowledged that the foul call on Jalen Brunson in the final second, leading to Aaron Holiday’s two winning free throws, was erroneous. Had the call not been made, the game would have gone to overtime.

Teams have 48 hours to file a protest with the league office and five days to provide evidence of the protested action. The league office has five more days to make a decision.

Only six protests in league history have been upheld. It’s unlikely the Knicks’ will be the seventh, since a successful protest requires the team to prove that a rule was misapplied, not just that the officials got a judgment call wrong, notes Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link).

An example of that is the last protest that was upheld. Miami protested a Dec. 19, 2007 loss to Atlanta, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (Twitter link). Shaquille O’Neal was removed from the game when he supposedly fouled out with 51.9 seconds left overtime. Upon review, he only had five fouls, not six, and those last 51.9 seconds were replayed.

New York and Houston are not scheduled to play again this season, so there could be complications with rescheduling the OT session in the unlikely event that the Knicks win the protest.

Rockets’ Stone Discusses Adams Deal, Green, Deadline Talks

After the Rockets acquired Steven Adams a week before the trade deadline in a move with next season in mind, the front office had plenty of discussions about deals that would’ve helped the team more in the short term, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Houston kicked the tires on players like Kelly Olynyk, Andre Drummond, Jericho Sims, and Xavier Tillman, among others, but couldn’t find a trade that worked for both sides.

“We certainly weren’t going to do something that would hurt us on a going-forward basis,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “The moves we were the most excited about were moves where we thought that could help us in the short term and also the long term, the moves subsequent to (the trade for) Steven.
We were very excited about acquiring Steven. Subsequently, a lot of the ones we had long discussions about were moves that would have provided elements this year maybe that we don’t have, as well as stuff for the future.

“But they didn’t happen, and we’re fine with that. We like our group, and this gives everybody on our current roster an opportunity to shine.”

If the Rockets had wanted to make a more significant deal, it would’ve likely required them to part with a player from their young core: Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Tari Eason, Amen Thompson, or Cam Whitmore. But Stone said the team wasn’t looking to move on from any of those youngsters, adding that he and head coach Ime Udoka were in agreement on the deals they pursued and those they didn’t.

“We’re looking at the long term more so than anything,” Udoka said. “When you have that many young, talented players, you want to see what they become and not rush to judgment on anything.
As far as those guys, everyone’s going to check in when you have this amount of young talent. We’re trying to win. We’re in the development and winning stage at the same time, so people checked in. We knew they would. They are talented young guys, and we have some duplicated positions there. We like what we’re seeing from those guys and want to see what we are as a whole unit.”

Here are a few more of Stone’s most notable comments from Monday’s post-deadline media session:

On the acquisition of Adams:

“I think we got a really high-level basketball player. A guy who’s been a dominant rebounding force in the NBA for the last five, six years. One of the best defenders in the NBA. We obviously feel great with Alperen, but now we have two truly starter-level centers next year. Depth is extraordinarily important. On top of that, he’s a very different player and will be a good complement on and off the court for our group.”

On the long-term fit of Jalen Green, whose name popped up in some predeadline rumors:

“Jalen has been and continues to be, on paper, a great fit with us. He has a skill set that isn’t really replicated on our roster. My expectation of him – and he knows this, and I think he echoed in his postgame comments – my expectation is that the defense, which has gotten better, is still going to get a lot better. That the physicality and the efficiency are all going to get better. He needs to take those steps. That’s extraordinarily important. He’s aware of it. We’re aware of it. And that’s the challenge for him and for us.”

On Stone’s assessment of his own job performance in the past year:

“I’m happy with the choices we made. I think for the most part, we’ve gotten what we want. And the additions of Fred (VanVleet) and Dillon (Brooks) were necessary and really important. I like that we brought Boban (Marjanovic) back. I like that we have Jeff (Green). I love the hire of Ime. And then I think we did well drafting Cam and Amen. So we had a very successful offseason, which set us up to make the right steps for this season.

“But I would say for myself, similar to our young guys, it’s not good enough. And so they need to improve. Our front office — not just me, all of us, our coaching staff, all of us — we’ve got to continue on the grind and make sure the choices we make between now and the end of the season, the ones in the offseason all set us up to have the best possible chance to win a championship in the short term. Not meaning like a year or two, but not 20 years either. And that’s very much our goal. And my goal.”

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

A number of free agent signings have been finalized in the days since last Thursday’s trade deadline, but there are still many teams around the NBA with one or more open spots on their respective rosters.

For clubs with just a single standard or two-way opening, there’s not necessarily any urgency to fill those spots, especially ahead of the All-Star break. But the clock is ticking for teams who have two or more openings on their standard rosters to make a move, since clubs are only permitted to carry fewer than 14 players on standard contracts for up to two weeks at a time.

With the help of our roster count tracker, here’s where things stand for all 30 teams around the NBA as of Tuesday afternoon. As a reminder, teams are typically permitted to carry up to 15 players on standard contracts and three on two-way deals.

(Note: Teams marked with an asterisk have a player on a 10-day contract.)

Teams with multiple open roster spots

  • Brooklyn Nets
    • Note: One of the Nets’ roster openings is a two-way slot.
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Milwaukee Bucks
    • Note: Both of the Bucks’ roster openings are two-way slots.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks *
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Phoenix Suns

The Warriors, Timberwolves, and Pelicans are all currently carrying 13 players on standard, full-season contracts, with all three of their two-way slots filled. That means they’ll have to add a 14th man at some point in the not-too-distant future to adhere to the NBA’s minimum roster requirements.

Golden State and Minnesota made trades on February 8 that dropped them below 14 players, so those two teams have until Feb. 22 to add a player. New Orleans’ deadline is coming a little earlier, since the club dipped to 13 when Malcolm Hill‘s 10-day contract expired on Feb. 6.

No roster moves are required for the Nets and Bucks, as both teams have at least 14 players on standard contracts, with one or more two-way openings. I’d expect Brooklyn and Milwaukee to fill those two-way slots before the two-way signing deadline in early March, though they don’t necessarily have to.

The Knicks and Sixers currently only have 12 players on standard, full-season contracts. New York also has Taj Gibson on a 10-day deal, while Philadelphia is poised to sign Kyle Lowry to a rest-of-season contract. Both teams will need to make at least one more roster move by Feb. 22 after dipping down to 12 players on trade deadline day last Thursday.

As for the Suns, they’re currently carrying just 13 players on standard contracts, but it sounds like they’ve already lined up a deal with a 14th man — a report earlier today indicated that they’re preparing to sign Thaddeus Young.

Teams with one open roster spot

  • Boston Celtics
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Cleveland Cavaliers *
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Miami Heat
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards

One of the 14 players on the Cavaliers‘ standard roster is Zhaire Smith, who is on a 10-day deal. Once his contract expires next week, the Cavs will have to either re-sign him or add another 14th man — and they’ll have to do it right away.

In addition to being prohibited from carrying fewer than 14 players on standard deals for more than two weeks at a time, NBA teams are limited to 28 days of carrying fewer than 14 players over the course of a season. The Cavs have already reached that 28-day limit, having carried just 13 players from January 4-18 and again from January 28 until February 11.

The rest of these teams have 14-man standard rosters with no two-way openings, meaning there’s no urgency for them to make any moves, though they’ll likely fill those open roster slots at some point between now and the end of the season in April.

Teams with no open roster spots

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Detroit Pistons *
  • Houston Rockets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies *
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Portland Trail Blazers *
  • Sacramento Kings
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors *

Twelve of these 13 teams have full 18-man rosters, with 15 players signed to standard contracts and three to two-way deals. However, the Pistons, Trail Blazers, and especially the Raptors are worth monitoring here, since they all have players on 10-day contracts and can open up roster spots when those deals expire.

Detroit and Portland are each carrying a single player on a 10-day deal, while Toronto has two, meaning the Raptors will dip down to 13 players on standard contracts during the All-Star break. They’ll have up to two weeks to get back to 14.

The Grizzlies are actually carrying 19 players at the moment, with 16 players on standard contracts (15 full-season deals, plus Jordan Goodwin on a 10-day) because they’ve been granted a hardship exception due to all the injured players they’re missing.

Officials Admit To Missed Last-Second Call In Knicks Loss

The Knicks lost their third consecutive game on Monday night, as their comeback effort in Houston fell just short. However, the outcome might have been different if not for an error by the officiating crew during the game’s decisive final seconds.

With the score tied at 103 on the final possession of regulation, Rockets guard Aaron Holiday corralled a loose ball and fired up a desperation fade-away three-pointer as time expired (Twitter video link). The shot missed, but Knicks guard Jalen Brunson was called for a foul and Holiday made two game-winning free throws with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

After the final buzzer sounded, crew chief Ed Malloy admitted in an interview with pool reporter Fred Katz of The Athletic that Brunson should not have been whistled for a foul. A no-call would have sent the game to overtime.

“After seeing it during postgame review, the offensive player was able to return to a normal playing position on the floor,” Malloy said. “The contact, which occurred after the release of the ball, therefore is incidental and marginal to the shot attempt and should not have been called.”

Knicks players and head coach Tom Thibodeau were relatively muted in their criticisms of the officiating after the game, clearly not looking to give the NBA a reason to fine them. Brunson repeatedly – and sarcastically – referred to the game-deciding foul as a “great call,” while Thibodeau said, “If you look at the film, you see it.”

After watching the Rockets go to the foul line 33 times while the Knicks attempted just 12 free throws, Thibodeau offered some broader thoughts about the way the game is refereed, as Katz details.

“The thing with the officials — this is the way I feel about that, in general — is I don’t really care how tight the game is called,” Thibodeau said. “You can call it tight or you can call it loose. I just want consistency to be the same. And they have a job. They have to control and manage the game. That’s their No. 1 responsibility. They have to use their judgment, and I have respect for that. It didn’t go our way tonight.”

As Katz notes, the Knicks could technically file a protest, but a successful protest requires the team to prove that a rule was misapplied, not just that a judgment call was wrong, so it would almost certainly be futile.

The banged-up Knicks, who lost yet another player – Donte DiVincenzo (hamstring) – on Monday due to an injury, have one more game on their schedule before the All-Star break. They’ll play on Wednesday in Orlando, then hope to come back healthier when their schedule resumes on February 22 in Philadelphia.