Rockets Rumors

Rockets Notes: Martin, Chriss, Porter, Outlook

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kenyon Martin Jr. didn’t confirm an offseason report that stated he had talked to Rockets management about the possibility of being traded, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. However, the third-year forward also didn’t exactly deny it.

“Like I keep saying, I’m just here to do my job,” Martin told reporters. “Everything else is between upper management and my agents. This summer, my goal was to get better and try to make the team better. I feel like I got better. So, going into the season, just try to win as many games as possible and keep moving forward.”

Martin is on a guaranteed minimum salary this season and has a non-guaranteed team option worth the minimum in 2023/24. He has been a regular rotation player for Houston over the last two seasons, averaging 9.0 PPG and 4.3 RPG on .524/.360/.667 shooting in 124 games (22.0 MPG), but the depth chart has gotten increasingly crowded at his position, raising questions about where he fits in the team’s long-term plans.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • According to Feigen (Twitter link), the only Rockets player dealing with an injury entering training camp is Marquese Chriss, who is still rehabbing after undergoing knee surgery in June.
  • Kevin Porter Jr. said on Monday that he’s in a “beautiful space” as he prepares to begin his fourth NBA season, and isn’t stressing about a potential rookie scale extension. “I stopped worrying about that last year and it’s been that,” Porter said, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “I still got that mindset. I got a team that represents me and they handle that part. For me, I just come in here and try to become the best player (I can be). It hasn’t been weighing on me because that’s my mindset.” Porter will become eligible for restricted free agency in 2023 if he doesn’t sign an extension with Houston by October 17.
  • After winning 17 games in 2020/21 and 20 games in ’21/22, the Rockets are still a ways off from contending, but center Alperen Sengun is bullish on the long-term potential of the team’s young core. “We’re just going to learn, and then we’re going to be (the) best in this league one day,” Sengun said on Monday, according to Feigen. “I really believe this.”
  • In his training camp preview for The Athletic, Iko poses three questions facing the Rockets, including how long Eric Gordon will remain on the roster and whether the club can improve its defense this season after ranking dead last in the NBA in 2021/22.

Examining Jabari Smith, Alperen Sengun's Offensive Fit, More

Stephen Silas Discusses Unexpected Challenges With Rockets

Stephen Silas didn’t know he was walking into a rebuilding situation when the Rockets hired him as their head coach prior to the 2020/21 season. Silas was taking over a team that had two perennial All-Stars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook and was coming off a long string of playoff appearances.

Both players recommended Silas for the job, but they both issued trade requests before the start of training camp, with Westbrook being shipped to Washington during the preseason and Harden forcing his way to Brooklyn after eight regular season games. Silas discusses that sudden transition, and all the challenges that followed, in an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic.

“You’re trying to just tackle each situation as it came, whether it was the (Harden) stuff that you read in the paper or online and then having to answer questions about it, or the Russ stuff,” Silas said. “All those things weren’t exactly the things that I thought I was going to be talking about in my first few days as a head coach, and my first few days of training camp having to answer all those questions. But the task is there, and you just kind of do it. It’s hard to say that it was especially hard because I think it’s always going to be hard (laughs). But a task comes, there’s a mountain to climb, so you climb it. There’s a big wave coming in; you move out of the way.”

Silas also credited the Rockets’ ownership and general manager Rafael Stone for supporting him amid the turmoil.

“We were tested early, but my relationship with ownership, my relationship with management is good,” he added. “Through all of this kind of stuff that was going on, that was the thing that I was able to grasp onto and hold onto was knowing that they were in my corner because they selected me.”

Silas addressed several other topics during the interview:

On the progress of his young backcourt, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.:

“I think Jalen Green’s growth and improvement encapsulates our season. Early in the season, he was really struggling. He was pressing, not doing what he was used to doing, which is scoring points easily. And it was hard for him. But he worked through it. We stuck with him. And he got better slowly but surely as the season went along and ended up where at the end of the season, he was playing great. Same thing with Kevin Porter Jr. He started the season off turning the ball over quite a bit, learning how to play the point guard position. I think he led the league in turnovers early in the season, but as the season went along, he started to understand.”

On the challenges faced by center Alperen Sengun as he adjusted to the NBA during his rookie season:

“He makes things happen when he has the ball in his hands, whether he’s in the low post, scoring or making passes in the high post, at the elbow, making plays for his teammates. He does a good job of helping his teammates play well. But part of that growth and part of that struggle at the beginning of the season is that nobody knew how to play with him, and he didn’t know how to play with our guys. So as the season went along, it became more natural for guys to know when those passes are coming, and for him to know that this is where you’re gonna most likely get the ball and this is where you can be effective.”

On what he likes about Jabari Smith, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft:

“He is a two-way player and very much a difference-maker as far as his length and his defensive instincts and his rebounding and his grit. He’s a quiet kid, and he can fool you sometimes. When he gets on the court, he is intense and competitive and has an edge to him — which I love. So yeah, his shooting is very good, and that will be his thing offensively, as well as his ability to shot fake and drive the ball and get to the rim, use his length, his offensive rebounding and whatnot. But it’s not very often when you have a high, high pick where you can say ‘Wow, he’s really good on both ends.’ And you can see it, where he could be a difference-maker on both ends of the floor.”

On his relationship with Harden and Westbrook, considering the circumstances of their departure:

“All three people who you mentioned (including former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey) had a big part in me being here and being a head coach in the NBA. So when I see them, there’s definitely no ill will. I’ve been around the NBA my whole life, so I understand the business part of it and everything that goes into that. But yeah, I’m good. I’m good with those guys, and I appreciate them for putting their stamp on my head coaching career.”

Rockets Notes: Offseason, Tate, Porter, Smith

Rockets players spent most of their summer training together in Houston, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Instead of holding mini-camps at popular vacation sites, as the team has done in the past, virtually the entire roster has been working out at the Toyota Center.

“It’s been a good summer,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “I’m very happy. The summer is really about individuals. It’s less about the team. It’s more about where a specific guy, he saw a weakness; he worked on it. We identified something we wanted him to focus on; he did. We’ve seen that.”

After back-to-back years of posting the NBA’s worst record, the Rockets are rebuilding around youth, with seven total first-round picks in the last two drafts. Kevin Porter Jr. believes the offseason workouts have been beneficial for this year’s first-rounders, Jabari Smith, Tari Eason and TyTy Washington, as they prepare for their rookie season.

“We’ve been together for a couple months now,” Porter said. “I’ve been seeing growth and development. The new guys have been learning fast. I’ve been learning fast. So, it’s been good. They fit right in. They fit already.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Jae’Sean Tate, whose offseason included a new three-year, $20.6MM contract, believes the Rockets are moving in the right direction, Feigen adds in the same piece. “I definitely think we’ve been on the bottom the last couple years so there’s only (one) way we can go and that is up,” Tate said. “Just getting more experience with our rookie class from last year. I’m going into my third year and Kevin is going into his fourth. I just think that experience is going to help us out this year and getting that year under our belt but also continue to build a culture with this new class coming in.”
  • The most important question for the organization is determining whether Porter is the right point guard for the future, Kelly Iko of The Athletic states in a preseason preview of the Rockets. Porter got off to a shaky start in his first full season at the position, but he showed improvement as the year wore on. Iko believes Porter and the Rockets both want to get a rookie scale extension worked out before the new season begins.
  • Smith will be a better fit at power forward than the traded Christian Wood because he won’t demand the ball on offense, Iko adds in the same story.

Eight NBA Teams Have Open Two-Way Contract Slots

As of Friday evening, 52 of the NBA’s 60 two-way contract slots are filled. Given how flexible those two-way slots are, it’s possible – and, in fact, very likely – that not all 52 of those players will still be under contract when the regular season begins in a month. But for now, there are just eight two-way spots up for grabs around the league.

[RELATED: 2022/23 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]

A team with a two-way opening doesn’t necessarily need to decide how it will fill that spot before training camps begin in 10 days. Some of those clubs may decide to bring a handful of players to camp on Exhibit 10 contracts and then let those players compete for a two-way deal, since Exhibit 10s can be converted into two-ways before opening night.

Listed below are the eight teams that still have open two-way slots, along with some potential candidates to fill those openings.

Charlotte Hornets

With second-round pick Bryce McGowens occupying one two-way slot, the Hornets have no obvious candidate to fill the other, so it’s possible the team will hold a preseason competition. Currently, Jalen Crutcher, Jaylen Sims, Anthony Duruji, and Isaiah Whaley are signed to Exhibit 10 contracts, and all are eligible to have those contracts converted into two-way deals.

Dallas Mavericks

With their first two-way slot, the Mavericks signed Tyler Dorsey, who has high-level international experience and could earn a rotation role in Dallas this season. We’ll see if the team wants to use its second slot on another player who could contribute right away or if that spot will go to someone who is more of a developmental project.

McKinley Wright IV, Mouhamadou Gueye, and Tyler Hall are signed to Exhibit 10 deals and Marcus Bingham will reportedly receive one as well. All could be two-way candidates.

Houston Rockets

Bruno Fernando is the only Rocket who currently has an Exhibit 10 contract, and he remains eligible for a two-way deal. However, Houston has some roster cutdowns to make, which could open up opportunities for other camp invitees to emerge as two-way contenders. For now, undrafted rookie Trevor Hudgins is the club’s lone two-way player.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers were the last team to sign a player to a two-way contract this offseason, completing a deal with Kendall Brown on Friday. With Brown holding one two-way slot, the other remains open.

Deividas Sirvydis, Gabe York, Bennie Boatwright, and David Stockton are the two-way candidates currently on the roster, but the team has also reportedly agreed to Exhibit 10 contracts with Tevin Brown, Eli Brooks, Fanbo Zeng, and Jermaine Samuels, so there will be no shortage of options.

Los Angeles Clippers

Moses Brown, who has 92 career regular season appearances under his belt and could provide much-needed frontcourt depth, is the most intriguing two-way candidate on the roster at the moment, but he’s hardly the only one. Like Brown, Xavier Moon and Keaton Wallace also have Exhibit 10 deals, while Justin Bean, Lucas Williamson, and Michael Devoe will reportedly receive them too.

For the time being, second-rounder Moussa Diabate is Los Angeles’ only two-way player.

Portland Trail Blazers

Given that the Trail Blazers don’t have a G League affiliate, it’s hard to see why they’d sign four players to Exhibit 10 contracts unless they want to have the option to convert one or more into a two-way deal. None of those four players – Jared Rhoden, Isaiah Miller, Devontae Cacok, and Olivier Sarr – has more than three years of NBA experience, meaning all of them are two-way eligible.

Portland’s lone current two-way player, Brandon Williams, is a holdover from last season, so his roster spot may not be as secure as a player who has signed a two-way deal since the offseason began.

Utah Jazz

Like Williams in Portland, Xavier Sneed was in the second year of his two-way contract before he was waived on Friday. The move leaves Johnny Juzang as the only two-way player on the Jazz’s roster.

Utah has a roster logjam to clear and could still make a trade or two before the regular season begins, so it’s too soon to name an obvious candidate to take Sneed’s spot. However, the team has reportedly agreed to sign Kofi Cockburn, Darryl Morsell, and Jeenathan Williams to Exhibit 10 contracts.

Washington Wizards

Jordan Schakel is in the second year of his two-way deal, so he may have to prove this preseason that he deserves to make the 17-man roster. Makur Maker, Quenton Jackson, Davion Mintz, and Jordan Goodwin are all on Exhibit 10 contracts in D.C. and could be in the two-way mix. Second-rounder Yannick Nzosa is also unsigned, but is expected to spend the 2022/23 season in the Spanish League.

Sengun, Garuba Look Sharp In EuroBasket

The Rockets are pleased with the offseason efforts of young big men Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes.

“Our guys have really been in the gym. They’ve been working really hard,” Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said. “Even the guys that haven’t been here, which is Alperen and Usman, have done great overseas. So, it’s been a good summer.”

Sengun and Garuba have been playing in Eurobasket, and Sengun projects as a starter this season for the Rockets. “I think both of them have gotten better game-by-game-by-game, and that’s rewarding,” Stone said. “Some of the stuff we’ve asked them to work on, they’ve worked on, and in real time, you can see some of the results.”

Rockets' G League Team Hires New Head Coach

  • The Rio Grande Valley Vipers — G League affiliate of the Rockets — have hired Kevin Burleson as head coach, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). Burleson replaces Mahmoud Abdelfattah, who was promoted to become a Rockets assistant coach. Burleson was most recently an assistant coach with the Timberwolves.

And-Ones: Expansion, Seattle, Vegas, Draft Assets, Ignite

Is the NBA ready to move forward on its long-rumored plans to expand to Seattle and Las Vegas? Willie G. Ramirez of The Associated Press (Twitter link) says he has heard from multiple sources that the league wants to announce expansion when those two cities hosts preseason games this fall. The Clippers will play in Seattle on September 30 and October 3, while the Lakers are set to play in Vegas on October 5 and 6.

Despite Ramirez’s report, it’s still probably premature to get excited about an impending announcement. Rumors of possible expansion have simmered off and on for years, and the NBA has repeatedly shot them down, indicating that any plans to add more teams are on the back-burner. Still, it seems increasingly likely that expansion is coming sooner or later, with Seattle and Las Vegas atop the league’s list of potential destinations.

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

  • As rumors about expansion resurface, Evan Sidery of considers what an expansion draft might look like if the NBA uses the same rules it did for its last expansion draft (the Bobcats in 2004). Of course, Sidery’s hypothetical expansion draft is based on teams’ current rosters, and any expansion team is unlikely to enter the league for a few years, but it’s still an interesting exercise that shows what kinds of players might go unprotected.
  • Following the Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell blockbuster trades, the Jazz have the strongest collection of future draft picks of any NBA team, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link), who ranks Utah’s draft assets slightly ahead of the Thunder‘s. The Spurs have the third-best stash of future picks, per Marks. The Pelicans, Rockets, Knicks, Magic, and Pacers round out his top eight, in that order.
  • The G League Ignite have officially announced the additions of Australian prospect Mojave King and Canadian prospect Leonard Miller, confirming the signings today in a press release. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony previously reported that King and Miller would be joining the Ignite.

2022/23 NBA Over/Unders: Southwest Division

The 2022/23 NBA regular season will tip off next month, so it’s time to start getting serious about predictions for the upcoming campaign and to continue an annual Hoops Rumors tradition.

With the help of the lines from a handful of sports betting sites – including Bovada, BetOnline, and Betway – we’re running through the predicted win totals for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division. In a series of team-by-team polls, you’ll get the chance to weigh in on whether you think those forecasts are too optimistic or too pessimistic.

In 2021/22, our voters went 16-14 on their over/under picks. Can you top that in ’22/23?

We’ll continue our series today with the Southwest division…

Memphis Grizzlies

Dallas Mavericks

New Orleans Pelicans

  • 2021/22 record: 36-46
  • Over/under for 2022/23: 44.5 wins
  • Major offseason moves:

Houston Rockets

San Antonio Spurs

Previous voting results:


  • Miami Heat (50.5 wins): Under (56.6%)
  • Atlanta Hawks (46.5 wins): Over (53.6%)
  • Charlotte Hornets (36.5 wins): Under (63.0%)
  • Washington Wizards (35.5 wins): Under (50.8%)
  • Orlando Magic (26.5 wins): Over (55.3%)

Iko Examines Second Part Of Rockets Fans Survey

  • In the second part of a series, Kelly Iko of The Athletic examined the results of his Rockets fans survey. Among the questions Iko asked was which Rockets player needs to take the biggest leap next season, with Jalen Green finishing first. Green averaged 17.3 points during his rookie campaign last season, shooting 43% from the floor and 34% from deep.