Houston Rockets

Raptors’ Affiliate Wins NBA D-League Championship

Thursday was a good night for the Raptors’ organization. Not only did the NBA squad pull out a Game 6 victory in Milwaukee to make it through to the second round, but Toronto’s D-League affiliate, Raptors 905, won its first NBADL championship.

The Raptors’ affiliate dropped the first game of the D-League’s best-of-three Finals to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets’ NBADL team, on Sunday. However, the club bounced back with a win on Tuesday and a resounding 122-96 victory on Thursday night to clinch the series.

While many of the contributors to the championship roster aren’t under contract with the Raptors, former first-round picks Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam played major roles in the team’s postseason run, as did undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet. The trio combined for 76 points on Tuesday, with Caboclo (31 points, 11 rebounds) and VanVleet (28 points, 14 assists) leading the way. All three players remain under team control for the Raptors through at least next season.

While D-League excellence doesn’t necessarily translate to NBA success, the development of their young players is certainly a positive sign for the Raptors, who could be at risk of losing NBA rotation pieces this summer — Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker, and Patrick Patterson will all be eligible for free agency, and re-signing them would likely take Toronto deep into luxury-tax territory.

Meanwhile, the championship win is another major step forward for Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse, who was named the D-League’s Coach of the Year last week. Stackhouse will be looking to join the NBA’s head coaching ranks at some point, and his first-year performance for Toronto’s affiliate will look pretty good on his résumé.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Raptors’ affiliate figures to officially go down as the last D-League champion in league history. Starting next season, the NBADL will be re-branded as the NBAGL — the NBA Gatorade League.

Zhou Qi Hoping To Sign With Rockets For 2017/18

One of the Rockets’ second-round picks from 2016, Chinese big man Zhou Qi, is in Houston to train with the team’s staff and hopes to initiate contract talks for the 2017/18 season, agent Tony Leng suggests to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“We will be training with the Rockets,” Leng said. “We are looking forward to sitting down and talking and seeing what might happen in the future. His dream is to one day play in the NBA. Right now, we are focused on training.”

Zhou, the 43rd overall pick in the 2016 draft, reportedly remains under contract with China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers for another four years beyond this season. However, he is said to have an NBA out clause worth $650K this year, opening the door for him to come stateside.

Zhou, a 7’2″ center, is still just 21 years old, so it remains to be seen if the Rockets will want to bring him over for the 2017/18 season, since he’s not likely to play a meaningful role in Houston quite yet. The Rockets’ decision may hinge on whether they want to take on Zhou’s developmental years themselves or wait until he becomes more of a finished product.

The league’s new two-way contracts, which essentially allow NBA teams to open up an extra pair of roster spots, could create some added flexibility for the Rockets should they decide to sign Zhou.

For now, Zhou remains focused on working with the Rockets’ training staff and rehabbing a thumb injury. The big man suffered a left thumb fracture when he collided with Guangdong’s Carlos Boozer during the Chinese Basketball Association Finals earlier this month, Feigen writes. Zhou averaged 16.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 2.3 BPG for the season in China.

OKC Could Learn From Houston's Star, System Balance

  • If we learned anything from the Rockets/Thunder series in the first-round of this postseason, it’s that a franchise need not choose between investing in either a system or a superstar. Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni did both. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN writes about how Oklahoma City may be wise to embrace a similar attitude heading forward as opposed to so heavily relying on Russell Westbrook.

Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander Fined $100K

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has been hit with a $100K fine by the NBA for confronting a referee during live game action in Game 5 of his club’s first round series, the league announced today in a press release.

The incident occurred near the end of the first quarter of the Rockets’ series-clinching win over the Thunder on Tuesday night. With the Thunder controlling the ball, Alexander got up from his courtside side, walked over to referee Bill Kennedy, and appeared to express his displeasure with a call before walking back to his seat (video link).

While we’ve seen a number of players and coaches fined already during the NBA postseason, the $100K fine for Alexander is the largest penalty handed out by the league since the playoffs begin. Of course, as the Rockets’ owner, Alexander is more equipped to pay that fine than any player or coach.

Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale was docked $30K for criticizing officials in his post-game press conference, while Marcus Smart, Rajon Rondo, Patrick Beverley, and Kelly Oubre were each fined $25K for various infractions.

Nene Contemplated Retirement In 2016; Rockets Eyeing Campazzo

While much of the praise this year for Daryl Morey‘s work in the 2016 offseason has focused on the Rockets‘ additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, the team’s decision to sign Nene to a modest one-year contract has also paid off in a huge way.

In a piece for The Undefeated, Marc J. Spears takes a closer look at the impact the veteran center has had in Houston, and shares an interesting tidbit: Nene actually contemplated retirement before deciding to sign with the Rockets last summer. Having battled injuries for much of his career, Nene has managed to stay healthy this season, and Houston’s success has him “loving basketball again,” according to Spears.

  • The Rockets and a handful of other NBA teams are “gathering intel” on Argentinean point guard Facundo Campazzo, according to international basketball journalist David Pick (Twitter link). Campazzo, whose contract with Real Madrid is ending, doesn’t have an interest in extending that deal, per Pick, and the 26-year-old has been talking since last year about making the leap to the NBA.

League Dishes Out Pair Of $25K Fines

The NBA handed out two $25K fines, one to Rajon Rondo and one to Patrick Beverley, for separate incidents over the weekend.

Beverley got into a verbal altercation with Stuart Scaramucci, who is the son of Thunder minority owner Jay Scaramucci, after Game 3 of the Rockets-Thunder playoff series, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com details. Beverley fell near the younger Scaramucci during the game and immediately got up and started to complain about him to officials. The point guard said that Scaramucci was screaming obscenities and waved a clapper in his face while he was on the ground.

“If the NBA won’t or help protect players in situations with fans, I’m okay with the hazing, I’m okay with the boos, I’m okay with the other fans rooting for their team but I’m not okay with the blatant disrespect,” Beverley said (via ESPN’s Calvin Walkins). “…I’m not comfortable with that.

“So if the NBA won’t protect the players in that manner, I feel the need as a man, as a grown man who has children, who has morals, stand up for the right thing. I have to protect myself and I felt like I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I felt like I addressed him and (said), ‘At the end of the day this is a basketball game this is a game, I’m a grown man, your a grown man, let’s keep it professional.’ Just like that. There’s no need for plant disrespect, and that’s all.”

Rondo was fined for something completely different. He wasn’t able to play in the Bulls’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics, but he was sitting courtside with his team. During the game, Rondo extended his leg and it appeared that he was attempting to trip Jae Crowder. After the game, he said he was not trying to trip anyone.

“When you tear an ACL, your legs get stiff on you every once in a while,” Rondo said (via ESPN’s Nick Friedell). “I stretched my leg out. I also do that throughout the game. I guess he was so deep into our bench, it looked maybe whatever may have happened.

Crowder’s teammate, Gerald Green wouldn’t completely discount Rondo’s excuse.

“He may have had to stretch his leg out. I don’t know,” Green said. “I ain’t no snitch, so I don’t know. That’s not something I grew up being a part of. Where I’m from, they know snitches get stitches. So I don’t know.”

As a reminder, the money which the league generates from fines goes to charities chosen by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. The NBPA has its own foundation and half of the money goes to that charity, while the NBA’s half goes to it NBA Cares community partners. Some of those partners included the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, UNICEF and Share Our Strength, according to Ahiza Garcia of CNN Money.

Mike D’Antoni Talks Lakers’ Failures, Rockets’ Success

Mike D’Antoni knew he wanted to coach again following his departure from the Lakers, but he was simply waiting for the right spot, as he tells Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. D’Antoni found success with the Rockets this season, but he admits that prior to arriving in Houston, he had concerns about the fit.

“I knew that they liked to play the way that I liked to play. I didn’t know [James Harden], and I didn’t know the other guys on the team,” the coach said. “So, there was always that moment of, will this fit? Will this work? Will James accept being point guard? Will [Patrick Beverley] accept being the 2-guard instead of the 1-guard? Will [Eric Gordon] accept coming off the bench? That’s where you run into problems with coaching. But when everybody said “yeah, this is great,” and then we started off pretty quick, that was an easier sell. Then, management, ownership, they all want the same thing. Then it’s that your star player wants the same thing, then now it becomes just coaching and doing what you do.”

“That’s where you run into problems with coaching. But when everybody said “yeah, this is great,” and then we started off pretty quick, that was an easier sell. Then, management, ownership, they all want the same thing. Then it’s that your star player wants the same thing, then now it becomes just coaching and doing what you do.”

Here’s more from Shelburne’s piece:

  • D’Antoni was never able to win a playoff series with the Lakers and he blames the team’s injuries as well as his player’s unwillingness to buy into his system. “There were just injuries, and people were pretty stubborn in their roles, and it’s like ‘sorry guys, this is not me. It’s not going to work right here,'” D’Antoni said of his time in Los Angeles. “So, things happen, and you coach, you learn, you go on and you hope for a better situation.”
  • D’Antoni applauds Harden’s determination to win, something that propelled the guard to consider switching positions. “I would have never got the job if his reaction was ‘No, I’m not playing point.’ So, let’s not kid ourselves. He was open to it, and it took a little, just showing him film and talking about it. James is willing to try anything to win.”
  • Harden was always meant to play the point guard position and his prior coaches weren’t using him correctly, according to D’Antoni. “He was spending a lot of time off the ball, and he was spending a lot of energy trying to get the ball. It’s like, why go through all that? Just give it to him,” D’Antoni said.
  • D’Antoni believes most Coach of the Year winners receive the award because they’ve overachieved and that sometimes comes with consequences. “That’s why most Coach of the Years get fired the next year. You overperform, then you come back to normal and they fire you,” D’Antoni said. You can check out Hoops Rumors’ picks for the COY award here.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Capela, Mavericks

The Pelicans will look to add outside shooting this offseason, John Reid of The Times-Picayune relays.

”We’re going to look at all options,” GM Dell Demps said. ”We’re going to be broad in our search to find the best possible outcome for the season. Obviously shooting, I think that’s the big importance. We have to be creative and you know putting the right mix around those guys is going to be important.”

Reid names J.J. Redick, Kyle Korver, Andre Iguodala and P.J. Tucker among the unrestricted free agents who could be a fit in New Orleans. It’s worth noting that Iguodala coming to Louisiana is unlikely, as the Warriors plan on keeping him in Golden State beyond this season.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Clint Capela is both a long-term project and a key piece to the Rockets‘ chances at success this postseason, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. The center scored 14 points in Game 1 against the Thunder and protected the rim with great defense. The big man is eligible for rookie scale extension this offseason.
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com believes the Mavericks will have trouble landing marquee free agents while Dirk Nowitzki is still on the team (h/t The Dallas Morning News). The analyst compares Nowitzki’s situation to Kobe Bryant‘s in that it’s hard to build a winning roster around an aging superstar who’s getting paid like a current one.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 4/16/17

Here are Sunday’s D-League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Celtics are in action in the first round of the NBA playoffs tonight, but Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey aren’t with them, having been assigned to the Maine Red Claws, per the team (Twitter link). Jackson and Mickey are playing in Maine’s game against the Raptors 905 today in the D-League postseason.
  • The Rockets have assigned Chinanu Onuaku, Isaiah Taylor, and Kyle Wiltjer to the D-League, the team announced today (Twitter link). Like Boston, Houston has both its NBA team and its D-League affiliate playing postseason games today, so Onuaku, Taylor, and Wiltjer will suit up for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers rather than the Rockets.
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