Josh Christopher

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Valanciunas, Christopher, Doncic

Grizzlies small forward Dillon Brooks was fined $35K by the league for knocking over a camera operator during a road game against the Heat last week. Brooks has since apologized for the incident and stated that he plans to call the camera person, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“I didn’t mean to hurt him in any way possible,” Brooks claimed. “I’m not that type of person… Whatever the NBA did is what they did, but I’m not that type of person. I play the game hard.”

Cole notes that Brooks’ cumulative tally of lost cash via suspensions and fines now total $200K for the 2022/23 season.

According to Miami radio play-by-play announcer Jason Jaxson (Twitter link), that camera person was physically injured by Brooks, to the point where he was still being evaluated by doctors a couple days after the incident.

“The fine was on point,” Jackson wrote, “but the max ($50K) would have felt like a sliver of justice after disregard for another human – an incredible one at that.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The struggling Pelicans managed to pull off a 117-107 Sunday win against the Rockets by playing through veteran center Jonas Valanciunas, writes Christian Clark of Valanciunas was a big part of the team’s early offensive attack, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds. “It makes it a lot easier, especially when we have him more engaged on the offensive end,” forward Brandon Ingram said. “You see him do more on the defensive end. He’s down in a stance. We just kind of fed off him today. Every time he caught it, he was aggressive, and he made the right play.” 
  • Second-year reserve Rockets shooting guard Josh Christopher recently explained how he has improved since the 2022/23 season began, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I’m growing up,” Christopher said. “Of course, with more experience, I’m going to keep on getting better. Me slowing down is a part of me getting better. I’m starting to read the game a little more and I’m more decisive. It’s helped a lot… My teammates tell me to go out there and be myself. Coaches tell me to be myself. I watch a lot of tape. I stay in the gym. It makes everything easier, on top of me knowing when I’m going to play, and I am in the rotation.”
  • Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic remained out for Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies with a left thigh strain, Dallas has tweeted. He has now missed the team’s last five contests, including three against Memphis, with the injury. That said, head coach Jason Kidd indicated today that Doncic is progressing well from the ailment, per Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “He’s going in the right direction, so hopefully [he will be back] soon,” Kidd said. “I think these last couple days have been really, really good, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Trade Rumors: E. Gordon, Tate, Suns, Hyland, Vanderbilt, More

The list of teams interested in Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon has narrowed to a handful of contenders, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, who reports that the Suns and Clippers are among the clubs still in the mix.

Gordon has made his preference for a trade known to the Rockets, but Houston doesn’t plan to deal him just for the sake of it, says Iko. A source close to Gordon tells The Athletic that the veteran isn’t expected to push for a buyout if he’s still a Rocket after the deadline, so the club would be OK hanging onto him. However, if the Rockets get an offer that includes a first-round pick, a promising young player, or a “defensive-minded veteran on team-friendly money,” they’ll likely pull the trigger, Iko writes.

According to Iko, forward Jae’Sean Tate is among the other Rockets players drawing trade interest ahead of Thursday’s deadline. The Suns, Nuggets, Celtics, and Wizards are among the teams eyeing Tate, sources tell The Athletic. However, Houston still values the 27-year-old due in part to his selfless playing style and his attention to detail, per Iko, and would require a strong offer to part with him.

A few teams also inquired on second-year wing Josh Christopher, but those discussions didn’t go far, according to Iko, and the former first-round pick has been playing well as of late, averaging 12.4 PPG on 61.5% shooting in his last five games (18.5 MPG). He sounds likely to stay put in Houston.

Here are more trade rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • Multiple league sources tell Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber link) that the Raptors – along with the Pelicans and Timberwolves – have registered interest in Nuggets guard Bones Hyland. Singer has heard from sources that Denver believes it has traction on acquiring a first-round pick for Hyland, though the team would prefer to acquire a win-now player who could immediately step into the rotation. The Nuggets are prioritizing a defensive-minded wing, Singer reiterates.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required) continues to hear from multiple sources that Jazz forward Jarred Vanderbilt is a leading trade target for the Sixers. Jake Fischer reported over the weekend that Philadelphia was interested in Vanderbilt.
  • The Nets sent $2.58MM in cash to the Kings in the Kessler Edwards trade that was completed on Tuesday, reports ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). That money is enough to cover Edwards’ remaining salary for 2022/23 as well as his $1.93MM team option for ’23/24 if Sacramento chooses to pick it up.

Rockets Notes: Porter, Stone, Christopher, Silas

Rockets starting point guard Kevin Porter Jr. continues to develop for a rebuilding Houston club, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko notes that Porter has developed right along with his head coach Stephen Silas, both of whom are in the midst of their third season with the team.

“We’ve really been on the same page this season when it comes to [Porter executing Silas’ offensive schemes],” Silas said. “A lot of it is his comfort with me, my comfort with him, comfort with his teammates. And it continues to grow as we go along.”

“From an emotional standpoint, he’s grown a lot from last year to this year,” starting Rockets shooting guard Jalen Green added. “He’s become more of a leader and a point guard — getting us involved and making sure everyone gets their shots. Being that person to take control of a game towards the end, too. He’s had a lot of growth.”

“Just me being out there finding my balance,” Porter told Iko, explaining how his instincts have improved. “[Knowing] when to take shots, when to facilitate, where guys are supposed to be at. Me just learning how to read the defense, I feel like I’ve been getting better at that. And it’s been much easier to get my guys the ball that way. Just reading the help defense and not so focused on who’s guarding me. But seeing on the second hand, help side defense, the low man, that’s what I’ve been paying attention to. And it’s been a lot easier making reads.”

There’s more out of H-Town:

  • Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is happy with Houston’s growth thus far this season, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Though the team’s development has yet to yield much of an uptick in wins, the club’s leading front office executive is positive about how his players have improved year-over-year. “It feels like we’re pretty on track,” Stone said. “We’ve seen a lot of good things. We’ve seen a lot of growth from a lot of different players. We’ve seen some team growth, too. Sitting here right now, at a really early stage, we feel comfortable that we’re talented and our guys are really hardworking, which is, from a macro perspective, our two largest goals. (Last season’s draft picks) are materially better basketball players this year than they were last year. I think that’s evident when you watch them. Their weaknesses are not as weak, and their strengths are stronger. They’re far from finished products. We’re really happy with all our young guys.”
  • Rockets rookie Josh Christopher was recently sent to the team’s G League club for in-game reps, having not been able to quite crack Houston’s rotation for the first quarter of the 2022/23 season. Head coach Stephen Silas applauded his play for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, writes Feigen in a separate piece. “He needed some minutes he needed to get out there and play when he needed to get this confidence back and just let it flow a little bit,” Silas said. “He had a great game (Friday) night. But we talked a bunch of conversations about it, and we value him so much that for him to get out of rhythm and for him to get spot minutes here and there, it made sense for him to be able to go on back-to-back and play a couple games or so for the Vipers…  So, yeah, it’s not a demotion at all and he doesn’t see it as a demotion. But sometimes they can see it as a demotion. So, his perspective, his personality, everything about him is really good.” 
  • Rockets assistant John Lucas is set to step in tonight as acting head coach against the Bucks for Silas, reports Mark Berman of Fox Sports 26 Houston (Twitter link). As we wrote earlier, Silas’ father, former player and coach Paul Silas, has just passed away at age 79.

Rockets Exercise Options On Green, Sengun, Garuba, Christopher

6:55pm: The Rockets have officially picked up their options on all four players, according to a press release from the team.

6:20pm: The Rockets plan to pick up the 2023/24 contract options of all four players they drafted last season — lottery pick Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba and Josh ChristopherJonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

It was a mere formality that the options of Green and Sengun would be picked up. They are two key building blocks for one of the youngest teams in the league. The option on Green’s contract is $9,891,480, while Sengun will take in $3,536,280.

The other option decisions weren’t quite as obvious. Garuba only appeared in 24 games last season due to injuries and he’s averaging just over 12 minutes in four appearances this season. However, the front office was encouraged by his performances for Spain in the Eurobasket tournament and by what he displayed in training camp and preseason workouts, according to Feigen.

Christopher saw action in 74 games as a rookie, though his playing time has dropped in the early going this year. Garuba’s contract will be guaranteed at $2,588,400, while Christopher will earn $2,485,200.

Rockets To Exercise 2023/24 Options On Four Players

The Rockets plan to exercise their third-year team options on all four of their 2021 first-round draft picks, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). The four players, whose salaries are set to be guaranteed for 2023/24, are Jalen Green ($9,891,480), Alperen Sengun ($3,536,280), Usman Garuba ($2,588,400) and Josh Christopher ($2,485,200).

As Feigen writes, it’s normally a formality that teams pick up the rookie scale options after first-rounders have played one season, but exercising Garuba’s after an injury-played campaign limited him to 24 appearances in ’21/22 was a little less certain. However, the No. 23 overall pick of 2021 had a strong offseason and training camp and showcased solid play at EuroBasket, helping Spain win the gold medal, Feigen notes.

Green, the No. 2 overall pick last year, averaged 17.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 2.6 APG on .426/.343/.797 shooting in 67 games (31.9 MPG). The 20-year-old had a slow start in ’21/22 but an excellent second half, averaging 22.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 3.2 APG on .476/.387/.756 shooting in 24 games (34.6 MPG) after the All-Star break. He was named to the All-Rookie First Team.

Sengun, who is set to become a full-time starter in ’22/23, had a productive rookie season on a per-minute basis but struggled with fouls, which is typical for young big men. The Turkish center averaged 9.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG and 0.9 BPG on .474/.258/.711 shooting in 72 games (13 starts, 20.7 MPG). He was the No. 16 overall selection.

Christopher, the No. 24 overall pick of last year’s draft, also had a solid rookie campaign, averaging 7.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 2.0 APG on .448/.296/.735 shooting in 74 games (18.0 MPG). The combo guard is looking to improve as a decision-maker entering year two.

Rockets Notes: Gordon, Eason, Christopher, Porter Jr.

The Rockets continue to value Eric Gordon very highly and despite several teams inquiring about his availability, including the Sixers, Heat, Bucks, Suns and Lakers, Houston has not shopped the veteran guard and has turned down trade offers for his services, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Gordon has been working out with his young teammates in preparation for next season and is taking a wait-and-see approach to his future with the franchise.

I know how the business works,” Gordon said, per Feigen. “I don’t know what is going to happen. All I can worry about is how I play basketball, and I’ll see what happens. Anything can happen in this business.”

Gordon’s brother, Eron Gordon, who went undrafted out of Valparaiso, is a member of Houston’s Summer League squad and said it’s a “special” opportunity.

It’s definitely pretty special. It’s pretty special for my family. Not too many times in the world two brothers play on a major, professional sports team. So, it’s definitely a special moment for the Gordon family,” Eron said.

As Feigen notes, Eron is very unlikely to make the NBA club, but the Rockets value both brothers’ professionalism, which is why he was given a chance.

His being on a roster definitely means a lot to me,” Eric said. “As soon as he starts playing, he’ll figure it out.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • First-rounder Tari Eason, the No. 17 pick of last month’s draft, has produced solid results during Summer League and looks like he could be a quality contributor for the Rockets, according to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. “Everything that I bring here I think translates to an NBA court. I don’t think I’m playing out of myself, doing too much,” Eason said. “I think that my ability to space the floor, rebound, defend, and knock down an open three are all things that I’ve tried to showcase to the people that I could do here, and I think all those things would translate.” Eason put up 22 points and 10 rebounds in his latest outing.
  • Second-year guard Josh Christopher is still trying to find the right balance between being aggressive and playing under control, Feigen writes in another story for The Houston Chronicle. Christopher has an innate ability to attack the paint, but he’s still working on making good decisions and proper reads instead of relying on talent alone, Feigen notes.
  • Kevin Porter Jr. believes the team’s rookies will help bring a defensive identity Houston has lacked the past couple of seasons, as Feigen relays. “Oh man, I think we’re shaping up good,” Porter said. “Watching these past games in the summer league, I’ve been paying attention to the defensive end. We look like we have the pieces to be a phenomenal defensive team. We already know what we can do on the offensive end so we’re not much worried about that. Defensively, that’s what I’ve been focusing on. I’m excited.” The Rockets ranked 27th in defensive rating in 2020/21 and 29th last season, so there’s certainly room for improvement on that end.

Rockets Notes: Porter, Gordon, Christopher, Garuba

Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. has engaged in early contract extension discussions with Houston, according to a conversation between ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Tim MacMahon on Lowe’s podcast The Lowe Post.

“I’ve heard there have been some very, very, very, very, very, very, very preliminary talks about talking at some point in the future, but some openness to a deal there,” Lowe said (h/t to HoopsHype for the transcription).

“I think there are mixed opinions internally,” MacMahon respond. “And, you know, frankly, externally the opinion I get most often is the Rockets should not give him an extension.”

Since being drafted with the No. 30 pick out of USC in 2019, Porter has had a solid statistical NBA career but has faced questions about his off-court behavior. He spent his rookie year with the Cavaliers before being offloaded to the Rockets in January 2021 following a locker room outburst. During the 2021/22 season, Porter averaged 15.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, 4.4 RPG and 1.1 SPG across 61 games (allstarts) for the Rockets.

There’s more out of Houston:

  • Elsewhere on the same Lowe Post podcast, Lowe and McMahon said they consider veteran Rockets guard Eric Gordon a “lock” to be dealt away from the team. McMahon suggested that Gordon could fetch a first-round pick in a deal. The 33-year-old was a key contributor to several contending Rockets teams led by James Harden, earning Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2016/17. He averaged 13.4 PPG, 2.7 APG, and 2.0 RPG across 57 games during the 2021/22 season for a rebuilding Rockets team that appears poised to prioritize a youth movement for the foreseeable future.
  • Second-year Rockets guard Josh Christopher has been exhibiting leadership and growth during his 2022 Summer League stint, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Head coach Stephen Silas has been hopeful that the 20-year-old, selected with the No. 24 pick out of Arizona State in 2021, would develop defensively, particularly on rotations and as a rim protector. Iko notes that Christopher has thus far displayed improvement in those departments in Summer League. “I’ve been in the gym working, so to be able to come back to Vegas and play ball again, it’s nostalgic almost,” the 6’3″ guard said of his return to Summer League. “It’s good to be on the floor.”
  • Second-year Rockets big man Usman Garuba has suffered a Grade 2 left ankle sprain that will sideline him for all of Summer League, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Feigen notes that various injuries and time spent in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols limited Garuba’s on-court role with the Rockets during his rookie season. The 20-year-old was drafted with the No. 23 pick in 2021 following a successful four-year stint with Real Madrid.

Rockets Notes: No. 3 Pick, Lottery, Hornacek, Weaver

Having snagged the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Rockets are in good position to add one of the best prospects in this year’s class without having to worry too much about that player’s fit alongside last year’s No. 2 pick Jalen Green.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes, big men Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero are widely considered to be this year’s top three prospects and don’t overlap positionally at all with Green. All three have been mentioned in the conversation for the No. 1 pick and are different from the frontcourt players on Houston’s current roster, Feigen adds.

Still, general manager Rafael Stone isn’t closing the door on the possibility that the Rockets could make a trade involving that No. 3 pick.

“There’s going to be a really good player available at three,” Stone said, per Feigen. “It’s on us to make sure we pick him, assuming we pick it. Nobody ever believes me, but that’s always in the cards: that it might make more sense for us to trade it.”

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • Within that same Houston Chronicle story, Feigen also takes a behind-the-scenes look at the experience Rockets general counsel Clay Allen had in the lottery drawing room on Tuesday. Allen was pleased with the end result, expressing relief that the team didn’t slip to No. 4 or No. 5. “The whole day was nerve-wracking,” he said.
  • Rockets assistant coaches Jeff Hornacek and Will Weaver won’t be returning to the coaching staff for the 2022/23 season, reports Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston (Twitter link). Both Hornacek and Weaver were hired as part of Stephen Silas‘ initial group of assistants in the fall of 2020.
  • According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, “early intel” points to the Rockets hanging onto the No. 17 pick, even though it’s their second first-round pick this year and their sixth in the last two years. However, Iko expects that selection to draw interest from rival teams.
  • Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., and Josh Christopher were among the players in attendance last week when the Rockets held an informal workout at their facility, only about a month after their season ended, Iko writes in the same story.

Western Notes: Jazz, Mitchell, Ginobili, Christopher

The Jazz are expected to make some roster moves before the end of the season, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. Utah will likely convert guard Trent Forrest from his two-way contract, but the team still has a need at backup center.

By converting Forrest to the 15-man roster, Utah would also open a two-way spot for another player. Hassan Whiteside (bone spur fracture) and Udoka Azubuike (ankle surgery) remain sidelined, leading the team to sign veteran center Greg Monroe to a 10-day contract last week.

Monroe’s 10-day deal expires on Wednesday night. In order to keep him and convert Forrest, the Jazz would have to waive a player to create roster space. Converting Forrest would allow him to become playoff-eligible.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Jazz star Donovan Mitchell insisted his team will “figure out” its recent struggles, Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune writes. Utah blew a 21-point lead against the Warriors on Saturday, losing 111-107. Utah is just 1-6 in its last seven games. “We have a group of guys — including myself — where it’s gonna feel good when we figure it out,” he said. “So, we can sit here and feel sorry for ourselves or we can use it as fuel. And I think we have a group of guys who want to do that. Yeah, we messed up. We’ve messed up fourth quarters 14 times, 15 times — how do we respond, how do we adjust? That’s really where I’m at, that’s where we’re at. We’ll figure it out.”
  • Spurs legend Manu Ginobili has embraced his role as the team’s advisor, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Ginobili, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, assumed that position last September. He specifically enjoys working with the team’s young players, Orsborn notes. Ginobili played his entire 16-year career with the Spurs and retired in 2018.
  • Rockets rookie Josh Christopher is growing into an increased role with the team, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle examines. Christopher has played over 15 minutes in seven straight games. He finished with 30 points and two steals against Minnesota on Sunday, shooting 11-of-14 from the floor.

Rockets Notes: Porter, Silas, Christopher, Brooks

The Rockets‘ young backcourt hasn’t produced many wins this season, but Kevin Porter Jr. believes he and Jalen Green have a bright future, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Porter is in his first full season as a point guard after learning the position after being acquired from the Cavaliers last year. Green, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, has endured an up-and-down rookie season, but has been producing points lately at a much more efficient rate.

“We need momentum going into next year,” Porter said. “Finishing off the season — not even (for) next year — finishing off the season, we want to finish the right way. … We want to take it real serious and try to win each and every game. We’re going to try to jell, me and J’s chemistry on the court, because next year we’ve got to be scary. We’re going to be scary.”

Porter had to leave Friday’s game at Orlando after rolling his left ankle in the third quarter, but coach Stephen Silas said it’s just a routine sprain, according to Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle. Porter was held out of practice today to receive treatment and will be a game-time decision on Sunday.

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • With his team well out of the playoff race, Silas will focus on improving the defense over the rest of the regular season, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. The Rockets rank 29th in the league in points allowed in the paint and are the worst in the league by far in that statistic since the start of January. “I might try a few new things,” Silas said. “But it has been the rim, the restricted area, where teams are getting to the restricted area and shooting 60-something percent at the rim. So our rim protection has to be better, which means our bigger guys are lower and closer to the rim. That’s something that I’m going to be be toying around with.”
  • One pleasant surprise this season has been the emergence of rookie guard Josh Christopher, Iko adds. Even though Christopher only plays 16.5 minutes per night, the Rockets have been 5.8 points better when he’s on the court. Iko sees him developing into a valuable role player in Houston, possibly as a smaller version of Danuel House.
  • Armoni Brooks, who was waived to accommodate a three-for-one trade with the Celtics at the deadline, has joined the College Park Skyhawks in the G League, Iko tweets. He adds that Brooks declined several two-way contract offers and may still have a future with the Rockets.