Rockets Rumors

Rockets’ Tari Eason To Undergo Season-Ending Leg Surgery

Tari Eason‘s second NBA season will come to an early end, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, who reports that the Rockets forward will undergo surgery to treat a growth on his left leg. The procedure will take place on Monday and will sideline him for the next four months, per head coach Ime Udoka.

“He had obviously been going through some things through the year and had a benign growth on the shin bone, the tibia I think,” Udoka said. “Took that blow early in the season. Flared up. He played through it with some pain. Never had a chance of fracturing. It was a pain tolerance thing. Once the pain got too high, he shut it down.

“We thought rest and rehab, he could get over it that way, but every time he ramped up, the pain came right back. After seeing all the specialists and decision makers, came to the decision that it’s best to have surgery Monday. He’ll be ready for the start of the season. A little bone graft put in there and he’ll be ready in four months.”

The 17th overall pick in the 2022 draft, Eason was a model of health in his rookie year, appearing in all 82 games in 2022/23. He showed promise by averaging 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per night, posting a shooting line of .448/.343/.752 and flashing significant defensive upside.

Eason was on track to be a key part of Houston’s wing rotation this season, but he was limited to just 22 appearances due to his health issues, which began when Pacers big man Jalen Smith fell on his leg in a preseason game. He hasn’t suited up for Houston since January 1.

Eason will be entering the third season of his four-year rookie contract in 2024/25 and is locked in on a cap hit of approximately $3.7MM. The Rockets will have until October 31 to exercise his $5.7MM fourth-year option for ’25/26. Assuming that option is picked up, which is a safe bet, the former LSU standout will become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2025 offseason.

Rockets Notes: Smith, Green, Trade Assets, Udoka

Jabari Smith spent the All-Star break figuring out how to have a strong finish to his second NBA season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. While Smith has improved since his rookie year, especially in terms of shooting, he still believes he can take his game to new levels. He has responded to the week of introspection by averaging 20.0 points and 15.3 rebounds over his last three games.

“For sure, it was an examination, just trying to figure out how can I improve, how can I help the team win,” Smith said. “I’m a big part of the team, and I feel like my play affects winning a lot. I just tried to figure out ways I can affect the game and ways I can improve and ways I need to improve. (Self-examination) is something that’s just natural at the break. You kind of just see the first half of the season and find things to improve. Us finishing going into the break how we did (with a loss at Memphis), you kind of look in the mirror.”

The third pick in the 2022 draft, Smith earned second-team All-Rookie honors last season. However, he struggled with his three-point shot early in his career and wasn’t able to find a consistent role the Rockets’ offense.

“I feel more sure, more like I belong,” Smith said. “Last year, I was very unsure, floating around, not knowing what to do. Now I have more knowledge, and I’m more confident. I feel like it’s been not what I want it to be, but it has been better than last year. There’s definitely some bright spots to it, but definitely not where I want to be.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • There’s not much chance Jalen Green will be moved to the bench for the rest of the season, Kelly Iko of The Athletic states in a mailbag column. Coach Ime Udoka refused to discuss the possibility when Iko asked about it earlier in the year, and Iko doesn’t believe Udoka would consider the move now, even though Green has frequently been sitting out the fourth quarter in favor of rookie Amen Thompson. Iko acknowledges that Green is frustrated about his current situation, but notes that his decision-making is improving and he benefits from playing alongside the other starters.
  • Although the Rockets are counting on more internal improvement, a trade is their best path toward improving this summer, Iko adds in the same piece. They have plenty of young talent and veteran contracts to match salaries if a star becomes available, along with a Brooklyn first-round pick that appears likely to land in the top 10 in this year’s draft.
  • Udoka picked up a technical foul Tuesday at Oklahoma City and now leads all NBA coaches with 10, Feigen writes in a separate story. Udoka will receive an automatic one-game suspension if he reaches 16.

NBA Denies Knicks’ Protest Of Loss To Rockets

The NBA has denied the Knicksprotest of their February 12 loss to the Rockets, the league announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

The Knicks lost the game 105-103 after Knicks guard Jalen Brunson was called for a foul on Rockets guard Aaron Holiday as Holiday launched a desperation three-pointer in the game’s final second. Holiday made two game-winning free throws with 0.3 seconds left on the clock (video link).

Both the NBA’s L2M (last two minutes) report and crew chief Ed Malloy later acknowledged that the foul call was incorrect. Had the call not been made, the game would have gone to overtime.

However, as expected, the Knicks’ protest was unsuccessful. Only six protests in league history have been upheld and it hasn’t happened since 2007.

“Under the standard for NBA game protests, New York was required to demonstrate that there was a misapplication of the official playing rules, as opposed to an error in judgment by game officials,” the league said in its statement today. “Because the foul call at issue reflected an error in judgment, New York did not demonstrate a misapplication of the playing rules, and the extraordinary remedy of upholding a game protest was not warranted.”

Had the protest been upheld, the two teams would’ve resumed the game where it left off and played an overtime period. Instead, the game’s result will stand.

The Knicks benefited from a missed foul call on Monday that helped them secure a tight win over the Pistons. Detroit head coach Monty Williams referred to it as “the worst call of the season” in his postgame comments.

Thompson Receiving Crunch Time Minutes

  • Amen Thompson, the fourth pick of last year’s draft, has seen his role expand this month, including crunch-time minutes, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle notes. Thompson is averaging 13.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 30.6 minutes per game across nine February outings. He played 20 second-half minutes in a four-point win over Phoenix on Friday. “He’s growing on a nightly basis,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “He gives us some versatility.”

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, NOLA.com’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.”