Jalen Green

Texas Notes: Green, Garuba, Bertans, Finney-Smith, Holt

Rockets rookie power forward Usman Garuba has great expectations for the future of fellow Houston first-year player Jalen Green, projecting Green’s scoring to ascend in the coming seasons, per Raul Barrigon of HoopsHype. The second pick in the 2021 draft, Green averaged 17.3 PPG on .426/.343/.797 shooting across 67 contests this year.

“He’ll be an All-Star for sure,” Green raved. “And I think he’s going to be the NBA’s leading scorer in a few years. We have to help him to achieve those goals. He’s by far the player that has surprised me the most this year. We all know how good was Anthony Edwards this season, right? Green will play like him next year, maybe even better.”

The 6’8″ Garuba, selected with the No. 23 pick by Houston in the 2021 draft, did not get a ton of run during his first year on a developing Rockets club. The 20-year-old averaged just 10.0 MPG across 24 games in 2021/22. He confirmed his interest in a return to the Summer League and to Spain during the 2022 offseason, with the blessing of the Houston front office.

“What I need now is to play games,” Garuba said. “After a season where I suffered some injuries, I started to play regularly by the end of March. Just when we played the last game I was like ‘Is that it? I want to play more!’ The Rockets know that if I’m healthy, I want to play for the Spanish team (in EuroBasket) – if they call me – and they’re OK with it.”

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Sharpshooting new Mavericks big man Davis Bertans has made his mark for Dallas in the playoffs thus far, writes Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. Bertans was fairly demure in addressing his postseason performances, particularly a strong Game 4. “That is always a big deal every game, not just the playoffs,” Bertans said. “You have the guys bailing out the starters. Very often that boost comes when the team is leading, and the second unit comes in and lifts the team up even more. That just gives more confidence to the team and the starters for the rest of the game.”
  • The $55MM contract extension the Mavericks lavished on forward Dorian Finney-Smith earlier this year is looking better as the playoffs progress, writes Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Finney gave the Mavs a much-needed boost in Game 4 of their second-round series against the Suns on Sunday, scoring 24 points while going 8-of-12 from long range. “When he’s playing like that, when he’s aggressive and not thinking about the shot and just catch-and-shoot, he’s as good as anyone,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “We needed that lift, and he picked us up.” Finney-Smith’s two-way play has been a massive help to Dallas throughout the postseason. In the first round of the playoffs, he averaged an efficient 13.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG across 43.3 MPG while guarding All-Star Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell the majority of the time.
  • Spurs owner Peter J. Holt has reiterated to Spurs fans that he intends to keep the club in San Antonio for the long haul in a statement published on the team site. “There are no Spurs without the city and the people of San Antonio,” Holt wrote. “Your team, our team, together we are the silver and black. Spurs fans – we are here to stay, Por Vida.” The letter reassured Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). “It makes one feel better,” Calvert said. Fears of the team possibly relocating may have been stirred after news broke that the team wants to play four “home” games away from their home arena during each of the next two NBA seasons. The Spurs are eyeing home games elsewhere in Texas (Austin and San Marcos) and in Mexico (Mexico City and Monterrey).

And-Ones: Cotton, 2021 Re-Draft, Pro Days, G League Camp

Veteran guard Bryce Cotton, the top player in Australia’s National Basketball League, isn’t planning a return to the NBA. The Perth Wildcats have reached a contract extension agreement with the three-time NBL MVP, Sportando’s Dario Skerletic reports. Cotton, 29, averaged 22.7 PPG and 4.8 APG last season. He played a total of 23 games for Utah, Phoenix and Memphis from 2014-16.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • How would last year’s draft look if it were held now? The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie explores that topic, ranking those players on how they performed this year, whether they can improve upon their weaknesses and how they figure to grow and mature. The top five, in order, would be Cade Cunningham, Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Franz Wagner, Vecenie says.
  • The NBA has sent memo to teams informing them that agency Pro Days will only be permitted during two windows — the week of the NBA Combine from May 16-21 and in Southern California from May 25-27, Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets.
  • The NBA G League Elite Camp will have workouts May 16-17 in Chicago and the Combine will run workouts from May 18-20, Adam Zagoria tweets.

And-Ones: Monthly Awards, Hollis-Jefferson, Cooper

Rockets guard Jalen Green and Raptors forward Scottie Barnes were named the Rookies of the Month for March/April in the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, respectively, the NBA announced on Monday (via Twitter).

Green got off to an up-and-down start this season but finished strong, averaging 22.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.2 APG on .484/.395/.763 shooting in 22 games in March and April. Barnes helped the Raptors secure the No. 5 seed in the East by putting up 16.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 4.0 APG on 50.5% shooting in his last 22 contests.

The NBA also announced its Coaches of the Month for March/April on Tuesday (Twitter link). Mavericks coach Jason Kidd won the Western award for a 16-5 run to the end of the season; Ime Udoka, whose Celtics finished with a 15-4 stretch, earned the honor in the East.

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

Rockets Rumors: Wall, Wood, Tate, Porter, Green

While there was never any real doubt, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype confirms that Rockets guard John Wall is going to exercise his player option for the 2022/23 season. That option is worth approximately $47.4MM, which is far more than Wall could realistically expect to earn next season if he were to opt out of his deal to become a free agent.

The Rockets were unable to work out a trade involving Wall last offseason or during the 2021/22 season, but will try again this summer, according to Scotto, who says Wall’s reps at Klutch Sports would likely engage in buyout talks with Houston if the club still can’t find a viable trade. Wall’s preference would be to have a role on a winning team, Scotto adds.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Scotto, Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire said he gets the sense from conversations with people around the league that there are still some off-court concerns with Christian Wood. The big man might be a better fit in a contender’s locker room with a clear veteran star and leader in place, per DuBose.
  • Also on the HoopsHype podcast, Scotto noted that the Rockets are prioritizing cap room for 2023, which means that they may prefer to wait to lock up players like Jae’Sean Tate and Kevin Porter, who will be extension-eligible this offseason and could be long-term pieces.
  • Jalen Green got off to a slow start this season, but his strong second-half play – including an ongoing streak of five straight games with 30+ points – bodes well for the Rockets’ rebuild, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, who says there should be “no denying his status or stature” going forward.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks previewed the Rockets’ offseason, touching on Porter’s case for an extension, Wall’s status, and what the team will do with Wood and Eric Gordon, among other topics.
  • Within his own look ahead to the Rockets’ offseason at The Athletic, Iko says he’d be surprised if Wood is still with the team after next season’s trade deadline and suggests a team-friendly extension for Porter could be in the range of $10-14MM per year.
  • In case you missed it, Rockets two-way player Trevelin Queen was named the G League MVP for 2021/22.

Rockets Notes: Green, Garuba, Draft, Porter

Jalen Green has been showing off the scoring ability that convinced the Rockets to take him with the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. When Houston decided this week to hold out its veterans, possibly for the rest of the season, Green began to focus on getting the shots he wanted. The result has been three straight 30-point games, including a career-best 33 Friday night.

“He’s a shot maker,” coach Stephen Silas said. “He can get to the rim. He can get to the free throw line. He can shoot the mid-range. Just kind of happy for him that the work he puts in translates and he can be further confirmed that he’s really good by working and producing and working more and producing more.”

Green became a starter right away, but it took him a while to adjust to the NBA, Feigen notes. He shot just 37.7% from the field and 28.4% from three-point range for the first part of the season, but since turning 20 on February 9 those numbers have improved to 46.5% and 40%. Green believes he benefited from participating in the Rising Stars event at All-Star Weekend.

“All-Star was just a confidence builder, being in that atmosphere, playing in that,” he said. “On top of that, me and (assistant coach John Lucas) being in the gym working, all the time. Just trusting my work.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Fellow rookie Usman Garuba had to wait much longer for his first NBA start, which happened Wednesday, Feigen adds in a separate story. The 23rd pick last year battled through a thigh bruise, a fractured wrist, an ankle injury and COVID-19, which have limited him to 20 total games. “It is very important for him to feel good about his position on this team, his worth for our group,” Silas said. “He’s talented and he hasn’t really gotten a chance this year. We have such high hopes for him and we’re so positive about him, but he needs to feel it as well. I think having the actual game experience will help him with that.”
  • Auburn’s Jabari Smith would be the best fit for the Rockets in the draft, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko sees Smith’s size, shooting and defensive abilities as a perfect fit for Houston’s current roster and says questions about his playmaking won’t be a concern with Green and Kevin Porter Jr. handling those duties.
  • Iko expects Porter to remain the team’s point guard unless the Rockets land the fourth or fifth pick and draft Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. Porter will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Murray, Popovich, Green

CJ McCollum is thriving with the Pelicans since being acquired from Portland. McCollum says added responsibility has led to his strong start in New Orleans, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He is averaging 26.6 PPG on 51.9% shooting and 6.0 APG since the deal. “I’m the primary ball-handler now,” McCollum said. “Before, Dame (Damian Lillard) was the primary ball-handler.” McCollum is in the first year of a three-year, $100MM extension.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray was fined $20K by the NBA on Wednesday, the league announced (via Twitter). Murray threw the game ball off the legs of a referee during the fourth quarter of the team’s 118-105 loss to the Grizzlies on Monday. He was ejected for the incident.
  • The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich is just two victories away from becoming the winningest coach in league history. Popovich, 73, is still as demanding as ever, Murray told The Athletic’s David Aldridge. “It’s all stuff that makes sense,” he said. “That’s the big picture about it. Everything he’s yelling about, or talking about, it all makes sense.”
  • All the extra work Jalen Green has put in over the course of his rookie season is paying off, as Kelly Iko of The Athletic details. The Rockets guard and No. 2 pick in last year’s draft averaged 16.5 PPG and shot 39% from the 3-point line last month. “I would just say a lot more efficient, a lot more aggressive,” Green said of his improvement. “I’m locked in and hopefully will give my team a chance to win and just take my game to another level.”

Texas Notes: Green, Rockets, Schröder, Luka, Dragic

After a relatively lackluster showing in a relatively lackluster AT&T Slam Dunk Contest this weekend, Rockets rookie shooting guard Jalen Green is hoping to get another crack at the competition in the years to come, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I for sure need a run-back,” Green said. “I messed up.”

In one of the stranger moments of the evening, Green handed Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, a judge for the contest, a necklace holding a cell phone displaying an NFT, then went on to botch his first eight dunk attempts before finally converting his ninth look, a slick windmill whose impact had been diluted, given that he failed to convert it earlier. Green was quickly eliminated.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • The rebuilding Rockets boast several solid prospects, to the point that the NBA has taken notice, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Rookies Green, Alperen Sengun and Jae’Sean Tate all were honored with selections to the Rising Stars Game on Friday at All-Star Weekend, and Green made an aforementioned (ill-fated) appearance in the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday. “We are having a difficult season,” Sengun said. “We lost a bunch of games. I’ve learned how to stay focused during those lost games. I got a lot of experience.” At 15-43, the Rockets aren’t on track to qualify for the playoffs this season.
  • New Rockets reserve point guard Dennis Schröder is bringing his veteran experience and playoff pedigree to bear for a developing young Houston club, opines Kelly Iko of The Athletic. With John Wall inactive, Schröder has helped the Rockets with his speed and his defensive assertiveness, according to Houston head coach Stephen Silas. “(Schröder) adds to our depth, our guard rotation,” the head coach said. “There was actually a point [during the Rockets’ 124-121 loss to the Suns on Thursday that] I tried to take him out of the game, and he was like, ‘Just leave me in, let me see if we can get back into it.’ I like that competitiveness about him.”
  • Mavericks All-Star point guard Luka Doncic confirmed that he would enjoy playing with his countryman Goran Dragic, currently a free agent garnering plenty of buzz on the buyout market, but said he’s not pressing the Dallas front office to make a deal with the veteran point guard, writes Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News.

Poll: Who Will Win The 2022 Slam Dunk Contest?

The 2022 Slam Dunk Contest takes place Saturday night and features four participants (betting odds courtesy of SportsLine.com):

Rockets rookie Green, the second pick of the 2021 draft, is the favorite, followed by last year’s runner-up, second-year Knicks forward Toppin. Second-year guard Anthony of the Magic is third, and Toscano-Anderson, a third-year reserve forward for the Warriors, brings up the rear. Green, Anthony and Toscano-Anderson are all first-time participants.

Anthony and Green played in the Rising Stars event Friday night, losing a 50-49 nail-biter for Team Worthy against Team Isiah. Anthony flushed an impressive lob dunk off the backboard from teammate Jalen Suggs during the game.

ESPN recently released a video with a short sampling of some of the contestants’ in-game dunks this season. My personal favorite was Toscano-Anderson’s epic poster over JaVale McGee, but all four have certainly had some impressive jams.

If you think shorter players have a stylistic edge given they have to jump that much higher, Anthony is the shortest participant at 6’2″, followed by Green (6’4″), JTA (6’6″) and Toppin (6’9″).

What do you think? Who will win this year’s Slam Dunk Contest? Will the electric rookie favorite come out on top? Will the underdog Toscano-Anderson pull off the upset?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

NBA Announces Slam Dunk, Three-Point, Skills Challenge Contestants

The NBA has announced a full list of the participants for its three-point, slam dunk and skills challenge competitions ahead of the upcoming 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Per the NBA (Twitter link), the following players will partake in the Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest, which appears to have outpaced the dunk contest as the premiere event for established stars at All-Star Weekend. Four 2022 All-Stars will compete:

According to the league (via Twitter), these are the contestants in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest:

Below are the NBA’s announced players for the newly revamped Taco Bell Skills Challenge (Twitter link). This year, the Skills Challenge will be divvied up into three teams: Antetokounmpo brothers (“Antetokounmpos”), Cavaliers players (“Cavs”), and rookies (“Rooks”).

These three events will take place on All-Star Saturday on February 19.

2021/22 Rising Stars Team Rosters

As we previously relayed, the NBA announced a new format for its Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend, which will take place on Friday, February 18. The event will feature four seven-player teams competing in a three-game tournament (two semifinals and a final).

The player pool is comprised of 12 NBA rookies, 12 sophomores, and four players from the G League Ignite, while the games will be played to a target score: 50 points in the semifinals and 25 points in the final, in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary season.

The rosters were announced on February 1, but now the four honorary coaches (75th anniversary team members Rick Barry, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton and James Worthy) have selected their seven-man teams, per our JD Shaw (Twitter link). Here are the rosters:

Team Barry:

Team Isiah:

Team Payton:

Team Worthy:

James Ham of ESPN 1320 and The Kings Beat provides (via Twitter) the full draft results.

The top 10, in order, were: Edwards, Mobley, Ball, Anthony, Giddey, Barnes, Cunningham, Bey, Bane, and Wagner. It’s worth noting that Worthy and Anthony both went to the University of North Carolina, so Anthony’s selection at No. 4 is less surprising given that context.

What do you think of the teams? Who do you think will come out on top? Head to the comments section and let us know your thoughts!