Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Hornets recalled Cody Martin from the Greensboro Swarm, the team announced. The move concluded Martin’s fifth stint in the G League this season.
- The Rockets have sent Isaiah Hartenstein down to the G League, Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston relays (Twitter link). The big man has appeared in eight games for Houston this season.
- The Kings have assigned Wenyen Gabriel to the Stockton Kings, the team announced on its Twitter feed. The power forward has seen action in seven games for Sacramento this season.
- The Magic have sent Melvin Frazier Jr. and Amile Jefferson to the G League, the team’s Twitter feed reveals. Frazier and Jefferson suited up for the Lakeland Magic earlier tonight.
A day after Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Rockets were willing to surrender future assets for help on the wing, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer identifies one specific target Houston is eyeing. League sources tell O’Connor that the Rockets have “serious interest” in Timberwolves forward Robert Covington.
Houston isn’t the only team with interest in Covington — O’Connor hears from multiple sources that playoff teams are monitoring the availability of the veteran, who will turn 29 on Saturday. As a very effective three-and-D player with a favorable contract, Covington could net a strong package for the Wolves if they decide to move him before this year’s deadline, O’Connor writes.
In 22 games (all starts) this season, Covington is averaging 12.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.3 SPG with a .455/.369/.902 shooting line for Minnesota. He has an $11.3MM cap hit, with guaranteed salaries of $12.1MM (2020/21) and $13MM (’21/22) to follow.
For the Rockets, putting together a trade package for Covington might be tricky. While Houston could offer its first-round pick in 2020 and/or 2022, matching salaries would be an issue. The team signed Nene to a contract loaded with incentives in the hopes of using him as a salary-matching piece in a deal for a player like Covington, but the NBA ruled that Nene’s outgoing salary in a trade can only be $2.56MM (his guaranteed base) rather than $10MM (his actual cap hit), limiting the club’s options.
The Rockets are also right at the tax line, meaning they could face stricter salary-matching rules, depending on how a deal is structured. If Houston is unwilling to trade one of its five highest-paid players (James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker), the club would have to package at least three smaller contracts for someone like Covington, which would be difficult for Minnesota to accommodate.
For what it’s worth, new Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas was Daryl Morey‘s top lieutenant for years in Houston, so Rosas will be very familiar with the Rockets’ roster.
- Carmelo Anthony said on Sunday that he wasn’t surprised by the way Chris Paul‘s stint with the Rockets ended, given the way the team handled his own exit, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. “When my situation happened in Houston… I told him, looked him in his eyes and said, ‘Look, just be careful.’ You know what I mean? Just be careful,” Anthony said. “And damn sure if [the same situation] didn’t happen to him.”
The Rockets‘ protest of their 135-133 loss to the Spurs on December 3 has been denied, commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA announced today in a press release.
Houston argued in its protest that a “missed” dunk by James Harden with 7:50 left should have counted and that the referees’ decision not to award the Rockets those two points had a clear impact on the outcome of the game, which the Spurs won in double overtime. Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni wanted to challenge the call, but wasn’t allowed to do so.
The NBA conceded that the referees missed the call and misapplied the coach’s challenge rules. However, Silver determined that the Rockets had sufficient time in regulation and in the subsequent overtime periods to overcome the error — at the time of Harden’s dunk, the Rockets had a 13-point lead.
The league therefore ruled that the “extraordinary remedy” of replaying the game’s final eight minutes – or awarding Houston a victory – wasn’t warranted.
The three referees who worked last Tuesday’s game have been disciplined by the NBA for misapplying the coach’s challenge rule, according to the league’s press release.
The Rockets are off to a reasonably strong start this season, with their 15-7 record good for fourth in the Western Conference. However, Houston’s play hasn’t necessarily made Mike D’Antoni‘s position as head coach any more secure.
According to John Hollinger and Sam Amick of The Athletic, a source with direct knowledge of the Rockets’ situation expressed “serious skepticism” that D’Antoni will still be the head coach in Houston beyond this season. In the view of that source, any result short of a Rockets championship this season probably means the odds are “slim” that D’Antoni returns in 2020/21.
While it seems unlikely that the Rockets would make an in-season coaching change unless things really go south, a few teams around the NBA may look ahead to next spring and consider the possibility of pursuing D’Antoni should he become available, according to Hollinger and Amick.
- The Rockets, who are likely to target wings on the trade market, are open to surrendering future assets for immediate help, according to Charania.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News wonders if Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes can retain the deft stroke he employed in the team’s recent 135-133 double overtime defeat of the Rockets. Forbes racked up 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, including a sparkling five-of-six from deep.
- Ahead of what would become a 115-109 Rockets victory last night, guard Austin Rivers had high praise for current Suns coach Monty Williams. Williams served as Rivers’ first head coach when both were with the Pelicans (then the Hornets). “I’ll tell you, in terms of on-the-ball defense, I think I’m as good as anybody,” Rivers said, per The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. “I really do give credit to Monty. He was so on me about defense, it’s all I thought about.” Rivers re-signed with the Rockets this summer on a two-year,$4.5MM veteran’s minimum contract.
The Rockets have a challenging case to prove now that their protest of Tuesday’s game is official, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Houston must provide “clear evidence” that the outcome in San Antonio was affected by a James Harden dunk that was disallowed. Stein calls it a “high bar” to convince the league that a single basket with 7:50 left to play would have made the difference between winning and losing (Twitter link).
Harden scored on a breakaway that would have given Houston a 104-89 lead, but he dunked the ball so hard that it popped in front of the rim after going through the hoop, leading to confusion over whether it was a made shot. Officials disallowed the basket and refused to let Mike D’Antoni use a coach’s challenge because a 30-second time limit had expired. The Rockets lost in double overtime.
The team has five days to submit evidence after filing the protest, then commissioner Adam Silver has five days to issue a ruling, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). The Rockets also had to pay a $10K protest fee that will be refunded if they are successful, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
There’s more from Houston:
- Ben McLemore has been effective as a starter, but he appears headed back to the bench now that Danuel House is healthier, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. McLemore has performed far better in the starting lineup, including a season-high 28 points Thursday night in Toronto, but D’Antoni prefers the defense and versatility that House brings. “He plays hard and he’s coachable,” D’Antoni said of McLemore, who is in his first season with the team. “He does have a nice shot. He needs confidence. He needs to play. He needs to feel wanted. Hopefully, he will continue to get better.”
- Management isn’t concerned over Russell Westbrook‘s inconsistent play so far, states Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Westbrook’s shot has been misfiring and his win shares are at a career-low 0.7, but he has multiple dislocated fingers and is still being managed for knee pain. The team isn’t expecting Westbrook to fully be himself until after the All-Star break.
- Gary Clark‘s surprising contributions at the start of last season were part of the reason the club moved on from Carmelo Anthony, but the second-year forward hasn’t been able to carve out a regular role, Iko adds in the same piece. Between Clark’s poor shooting and the Rockets’ deep rotation, it appears he’ll have to wait his turn for regular minutes, even though D’Antoni likes what he brings to the team.
Sources have informed Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that the Rockets intend to file a league protest with the NBA over referees’ controversial ruling on a James Harden dunk in an eventual 135-133 double overtime loss to the Spurs Tuesday.
Harden slammed home the jam with 7:50 left in regulation and Houston still up by 13 points, but game officials ruled that the basket did not count when it popped out in front of the basket upon getting caught in the net. Had Harden’s dunk been tallied, it would have boosted the Rockets’ advantage to a 15 points. When the dust had settled, the team would go on to blow a 22-point lead in San Antonio.
Additionally, sources tell ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that the Rockets hope to have the final 7:50 of regulation be replayed in the future, with Houston up 104-89 and the dunk being counted for two points. Houston does not anticipate an automatically-rewarded win.
Replaying game action is not wholly unprecedented, though it is exceedingly rare. Due to this, the Rockets’ request faces an uphill battle for acceptance. The final 51.8 seconds of a Hawks–Heat game were replayed in 2008 during a subsequent meeting between both teams. Two other partial game replays over reversed rulings transpired in 1982 and 1979.
Both the Rockets and Spurs have five days to provide necessary evidence in support of their claims. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver then has five days after receiving all evidence to make a ruling.