John Wall

Eastern Rumors: Beal, Sixers, Tucker, Heat, Ujiri

Much to the chagrin of potential suitors, Wizards star Bradley Beal remains unavailable in trade discussions, with one rival executive who has been repeatedly rebuffed suggesting to Tom Haberstroh of TrueHoop that he has essentially given up the chase for the time being.

“In terms of franchise loyalty, I think Beal is in the same category as Steph (Curry) and Dame (Lillard) right now,” that exec said, referring to two other All-Star guards who have spent their entire careers with a single franchise.

In fact, Beal and Lillard have bonded over their unwillingness to leave the teams that drafted them in search of a club that could provide them an easier path to a championship, according to Jason Quick and Fred Katz of The Athletic. Beal spoke to Lillard in 2019 about the Trail Blazers star’s commitment to Portland before signing his own extension with the Wizards.

“I know how he feels because I get that all the time: ‘You should go here; you should go there …’ from all kinds of different people, and I know he gets it too,” Lillard said of Beal. “We’ve had that conversation. … He has the same feeling about it as I have: I just don’t want to go elsewhere. This is our ninth year. We’ve been so invested in this to where it’s like, this is what it is. This is where I want to get it done. And I’m sure he feels that same way.”

Haberstroh’s latest story at TrueHoop features several more items of interest and is worth checking out in full if you’re a subscriber. Here are some highlights from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Top Sixers executive Daryl Morey is widely expected to be active at the trade deadline, with several rival execs believing that Rockets forward P.J. Tucker will ultimately land in Philadelphia, says Haberstroh.
  • On the other hand, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is considered less likely to make a big splash at the deadline. “That’s not Danny’s style,” one Eastern Conference general manager said.
  • Haberstroh suggests John Wall and Kyle Lowry could be among the Heat‘s targets if the club decides to pursue a major deadline move.
  • Haberstroh’s sources view Masai Ujiri‘s ongoing lack of contract extension with the Raptors as a “notable non-event” and wonder if his actions at the trade deadline will provide a hint of his future plans. Ujiri’s contract with Toronto expires this offseason.

Texas Notes: Wall, Oladipo, Spurs, Porzingis

The Rockets may continue to alternate guards John Wall and Victor Oladipo during back-to-back games, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. There are injury concerns with both players, and coach Stephen Silas indicated he plans to be careful with them.

“We’re still kind of working it out,” he said. “Victor obviously is coming off the foot injury. John participated today in the limited practice that we had, but he’s getting treatment on the foot that got landed on (Friday) night (against Toronto). We’ve had some early conversations because haven’t cemented what the plan is going to be. I wouldn’t say that both will play both (games).”

Back-to-backs will be a greater concern in the second half of the schedule, as Houston has 10 of them in its 38 games. Assuming both players remain with the team past the March 25 trade deadline, that could pose a major obstacle to turning the season around.

“It hasn’t been great in the first half not having one of those guys on the basketball side,” Silas said, “but the long-term prognosis, the health, has to be first and foremost and we have to figure out the basketball part around that.”

There’s more NBA news from Texas:

  • The Rockets are trying not to focus on the 10-game losing streak that has dropped them nearly to the bottom of the Western Conference, Feigen adds in a separate story. Today’s practice featured a long video session that concentrated on correcting mistakes. “We just got to keep getting better, man,” Oladipo said. “Stay optimistic and positive. I know it’s tough right now, obviously. It’s easy to kind of go the negative route. That’s not going to solve anything. In fact, it’ll make things worse. It’s just us. We’ve just got to figure out a way to win every night.”
  • The Spurs are missing five players due to health and safety protocols, and coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t expect to have a full team again until after the All-Star break, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News. Popovich said the five players — Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, Devin Vassell and Quinndary Weatherspoon — won’t all return at the same time.
  • Kristaps Porzingis has been cleared to return for the Mavericks tonight, tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t see him going into the high 30s or anything like that, but we have not talked about any specific minutes limits,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Porzingis, who missed the past three games with back tightness. “Everything’s very positive at this moment.”

Rockets Rumors: Tucker, Wood, Small-Ball

The Nets, Jazz, and Nuggets are among the teams that have “sniffed around” on Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, sources tell Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Tucker has been viewed as a strong potential trade candidate since Houston moved James Harden, with a number of other teams mentioned as potential suitors in recent weeks, including the Lakers, Bucks, Heat, and Timberwolves. His three-and-D skill set makes him an easy piece to plug into just about any lineup, and his $8MM expiring contract wouldn’t be hard to salary-matching in a trade.

While the Rockets won’t just give Tucker away, Iko suggests that the 35-year-old is more of a “ceiling-raiser” than a “floor-raiser,” and Houston is in need of the latter kind of player. The Rockets’ asking price for Tucker is unclear — multiple reports last month indicated that they’d be seeking three second-round picks, but a more recent report said they’d prefer to acquire a player who can contribute immediately.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • Christian Wood has been hoping to return from his right ankle injury before the All-Star break, but the Rockets want to hold him out until the second half, according to Iko. Houston prefers to play it safe with one of its cornerstone players, hoping to reduce the risk of that ankle becoming a recurring issue for Wood, Iko explains.
  • With Wood on the shelf and DeMarcus Cousins no longer on the roster, the Rockets have been reverting to some small-ball lineups, which doesn’t thrill point guard John Wall. “Small ball, I don’t really like it to be honest, because I need a big that can roll, finish,” Wall said, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link). “It’s just difficult. I’m a person that likes to pass. I’m used to finding my bigs on the roll.”
  • The Rockets’ nine-game losing streak has moved them into fourth place in the NBA’s reverse standings, which will be worth watching all season long. The Thunder have the ability to swap first-round picks with the Rockets, but only if Houston’s pick doesn’t land in the top four.

Rockets Notes: Cousins, Oladipo, Croom, Porter

The DeMarcus Cousins era in Houston formally came to an end on Tuesday, as the Rockets announced they’ve officially waived the veteran center.

Explaining the decision to release Cousins, general manager Rafael Stone said they’ve been “talking to him about this for a little while” and decided the time was right to allow him to pursue a new opportunity (link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston). Stone added that Houston opted to guarantee Cousins’ full-season salary before parting ways with him because the team appreciated his work ethic and felt “that was the best way we could think of to say thank you.”

For John Wall, who played college ball with Cousins at Kentucky, teaming up with the veteran center in the NBA was something he’d looked forward to for a while, and he expressed some disappointment that it didn’t work out as they might’ve hoped.

Getting to play with him again was what we always wanted in the NBA,” Wall said, per Berman. “It didn’t last as long as we thought it would. The decision that was made is out of my hands. It’s up to the front office, whatever they feel is best for our team going forward.

“I think with his time here he did a hell of a job,” Wall continued. “I think he showed he could come back and play in this league, coming off of injuries. Hopefully he can get another job somewhere very soon…getting back to where he wants to be in this league.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Victor Oladipo (right foot strain) suffered a slight setback when he stepped on teammate Rodions Kurucs‘ foot during a practice, preventing him from returning to action on Monday, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Head coach Stephen Silas said he remains hopeful that Oladipo will be back “sooner rather than later.”
  • Emiliano Carchia of Sportando, who reported last month that the Rockets are looking to hire an executive in an assistant general manager-type role, identifies former Timberwolves executive Noah Croom as a candidate being considered for that position.
  • Kevin Porter has yet to make his Rockets debut since being acquired from Cleveland a month ago, but his new team has a vision for how it will use him, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. The Rockets, who plan to have Porter finish the G League season at the Walt Disney World bubble, expect to have him eventually assume a point guard role on the second unit, per Iko.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Hayward, Wall, Beal, Vucevic

Originally scheduled to play Chicago on Wednesday and Denver on Friday, the Hornets will instead be off until at least Saturday as a result of coronavirus contact tracing. In addition to having two games postponed, the team faces a number of additional restrictions until the contact tracing process – and further testing – is completed.

As was the case earlier in the pandemic, the Hornets are currently limited to having one player on court in their practice facility, and players didn’t have access to the locker room areas. The club will continue to be restricted to individual player workouts through at least Thursday (Twitter links).

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Hornets raised eyebrows in November by signing Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120MM deal that paid him like an All-Star, but the veteran forward has made good on that contract so far by playing like an All-Star, says Jared Dubin of FiveThirtyEight.
  • After returning to D.C. to face the Wizards this week, Rockets point guard John Wall said he’s done discussing the trade that sent him to Houston, but hopes he’s remembered in Washington for his community work off the court and not just his play on the court. Royce Young of ESPN has the story and the quotes from Wall, who added that he was disappointed not to be able to play in front of Wizards fans in his return.
  • Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today takes a closer look at how the Wizards made a clear choice to make Bradley Beal the face of their franchise when they traded Wall last fall.
  • As part of the 10-18 Magic, he’s not receiving much national attention, but veteran center Nikola Vucevic is enjoying perhaps the best season of his career, as Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes. The 30-year-old remains under contract with Orlando through 2022/23.

John Wall Was “Shocked” By Trade To Houston

John Wall is speaking out about his former team before his return to Washington Monday night. In a lengthy interview with Fred Katz of The Athletic, Wall said he had planned to retire with the Wizards and was “shocked” to find out that he had been traded to Houston in December.

“I felt like I deserved the honesty and respect because I’ve been there for 10 years. I’ve been through the bad times,” Wall said. “… I never turned my back on the organization. I played through damn near every injury that a lot of people wouldn’t have played through. I played through broken hands in the playoffs. I think I did everything I could and gave everything I had, heart and soul to the organization on and off the court.

“Then everybody kept telling me, ‘No, it’s not true. Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it.’ And I’m like, I know Houston probably called them first. But it’s part of the business. Why wouldn’t you call if somebody wants to be traded? You know what I mean? And it’s not nothing, just having conversations. And that’s all I wanted. If you’re having conversations, that’s cool, I get it. Nobody could ever tell me the truth about it.”

Wall didn’t single out anyone in the front office who he thought was being dishonest, but he did explain how he learned his time in Washington was about to end. On the night before the deal was announced, Wall received a two-word text message from Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard that read, “PLEASE CALL.” Rumors of a Wizards-Rockets trade had been circulating for about two weeks, so Wall knew what Sheppard was going to say.

The Rockets called him a few minutes later, and the next day he was on a plane to Houston.

The deal surprised Wall because he said the Wizards had shown so much support while injuries sidelined him for nearly two full seasons. He spent much of the fall working out in Los Angeles, and the team had made public and private statements about how much he had done to bounce back from surgeries to remove bone spurs from his left heel and to fix a ruptured Achilles.

Wall was returning to Washington from Los Angeles when the first report surfaced that the Wizards were talking to the Rockets about a swap involving Russell Westbrook.

“Somebody hit me and was like, ‘You know you’re on the trade block with Russell Westbrook.’ I’m like, ‘Ain’t no way I’m on the trade block,’” he said. “You know what I mean? I haven’t played in (two) years. And I was like, I know it’s part of the business. I said all I ever wanted from the start was honesty. You know what I mean? Just tell me the truth, what it was. I can deal with it.”

Wall said after the trade became official, one of his first phone calls was to Bradley Beal, his backcourt partner for eight years. Wall described the conversation as “emotional” and said both of them were crying. After a night of “trying to clear my mind,” Wall visited the practice facility to say goodbye to teammates and staff members, then headed to Texas.

Wall still watches all the Wizards’ games and cast an All-Star vote Saturday for Beal. He said his biggest regret about being traded is that he and Beal never got a chance to show they can still be successful together.

“The number one goal is, you didn’t give me the opportunity for me and Brad to run it back, like y’all said we (would),” Wall said. “That was (my) and our ultimate goal. It was, ‘OK, we’re gonna give it one more shot.’ If it’s just one year or two years, we were gonna give it one more shot just to see. … And it’s just crazy we never got to do that. I don’t think they wanted to do that. I think they moved forward and did whatever they wanted, which is cool. But that was the most frustrating thing than anything. Like, to have an opportunity to run it back with my brother and playing with the guy, the level he’s on now.”

Texas Notes: White, Kleber, Rockets, Mavericks Arena

After Spurs guard Derrick White returned on January 30 from his second major toe injury since August, he quickly returned to the impressive level he had been displaying during last summer’s restart in Orlando, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News.

The Spurs have been the beneficiaries of White’s improvement. The club is 3-2 since White’s return, as of this writing, and has won three games in a row. At 14-10, San Antonio is the No. 5 seed in a crowded Western Conference field.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Despite having recovered from a bout with COVID-19, Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber continues to adjust to life on an NBA court, according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “I still feel slow,” Kleber said.
  • The Rockets will be using a strict load management-style maintenance plan for their three core guards for the indefinite future, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston’s starting back court tandem of John Wall and Victor Oladipo, plus sixth man Eric Gordon, will all sit for at least one game in the team’s upcoming back-to-back sets. “It’s something we’ve talked about the last three weeks or so, four weeks maybe,” head coach Stephen Silas said of the plan. “With John and Vic being primary ballhandlers, that makes it a little harder. Now, you add Eric to the mix [of players sitting], it makes it really hard.”
  • The Mavericks brought 1,500 first responder fans back into their home arena, the American Airlines Center, for the first time this season during a 127-122 victory over the Timberwolves yesterday, according to Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “The atmosphere was obviously better,” Dallas wing Tim Hardaway Jr. said. The fans were socially distanced within the 19,200-capacity arena.

Rockets Notes: Cousins, Wood, Wall, Nwaba

DeMarcus Cousins showed flashes of his All-Star days when Christian Wood missed three games with a sprained right ankle in January. He’ll get a much longer chance to prove he can still be effective as a starter now that Wood is sidelined with a more severe injury, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Wood has been listed as week to week after spraining the ankle again Thursday in Memphis. Until he returns, the under-sized Rockets will rely heavily on Cousins, who is the only other true center on the roster. Pressed into starting duty last month, the four-time All-Star averaged 17.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.

“Obviously, that helped me with my confidence going through this season,” he said. “I mean, it’s unfortunate what happened to C-Wood. I’m going to come in and do my job. That’s really all I can do, play my part and help us get another W in the win column.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • The Rockets aren’t offering a firm estimate of how much time Wood might miss, so Kelly Iko of The Athletic talked to Dr. Rajpal Brar, a physical therapist and sports scientist at 3cB Performance. “Really hard to tell severity just based on video,” Brar said. “However, if the Rockets are saying it’s a weekly eval, it’s my inclination that it’s a Grade 2 tear without any fracture (the fact he walked off was a very good indicator of the latter). Grade 2 is typically 2-3 weeks. Grade 3 is 4-6.” 
  • John Wall has claimed leadership of the Rockets since James Harden was traded to Brooklyn last month, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston. “I feel like I’m the franchise guy now that James has left,” Wall said. “You very rarely get the opportunity to be a franchise (guy) in two different cities and two different teams. … I feel like that’s my job, to be the leader of this team.”
  • David Nwaba is listed as questionable for tonight against the Spurs, and the Rockets are optimistic that he’s close to returning after missing the past three games with a sprained left ankle, Feigen adds in a separate story. “He has been doing his treatment, has been working on it,” coach Stephen Silas said. “… He’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

Southeast Notes: MCW, Okeke, Hawks, Wall, Hornets

The Magic will be without Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac for the rest of the season due to their torn ACLs, but the team is moving closer to getting some of its other injured players back on the court. According to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link), head coach Steve Clifford said that veteran guard Michael Carter-Williams (foot) could return as soon as Friday after missing Orlando’s last 12 games.

Meanwhile, Clifford couldn’t provide exact timetables for when Magic forwards Chuma Okeke (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) will play again, but did say that Okeke will likely be ready to go before Aminu is, Robbins adds.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • After winning 24, 29, and 20 games in the last three seasons, the Hawks are in playoffs-or-bust mode this season, prompting Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer to consider whether the team is finally on the other side of its rebuild. As Tjarks notes, Atlanta has barely gotten anything out of its veteran free agent additions so far, so the emergence of De’Andre Hunter as a capable running mate for Trae Young has been huge.
  • Rockets guard John Wall, who suggested earlier this week that he was disappointed by how the Wizards handled his exit from the franchise, got a chance on Tuesday night to show his old team what it’s missing, as Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. Wall had a team-high 24 points in 24 minutes en route to a 107-88 Houston win over Washington.
  • Hornets head coach James Borrego is still experimenting with his rotation to determine which lineups work best, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. There is not going to be a set rotation for a bit,” Borrego said on Wednesday. The team sent five players to the G League this week, but Borrego still has 11 healthy players available on the NBA roster.

Western Notes: Williams, Pelicans, Wall, Thunder

After missing two Suns practices to attend to personal matters, head coach Monty Williams intends to coach Phoenix against the Thunder on Wednesday, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

The 8-7 Suns will host the 7-9 Thunder in the first game of a back-to-back homestand.

“We have to make sure we keep our foot on the gas and not let up at all,” center Deandre Ayton said in discussing the Suns’ recent swoon, which has featured four losses in five games. “We definitely have some answers and we have to redeem ourselves.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer considers next steps the Pelicans could take after their disappointing 5-10 start. New Orleans team president David Griffin is hopeful that star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram will begin to develop defensively, and mentioned new head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s Dwight Howard-era Magic teams as a possible blueprint. “They played really big,” Griffin said. “They played big, skilled basketball. They weren’t like blitzkrieg fast, but they were super skilled and very big.”
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic takes an in-depth look into the recovery of new Rockets starting point guard John Wall, who missed two calendar years of action during his time as a Wizard, due first to a left heel surgery and then a ruptured Achilles.
  • A revised Thunder bench unit sparked an intriguing victory against the Trail Blazers in Portland, as Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman details.