Kevin Porter

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.

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.

Southwest Notes: Murphy, LaRavia, Porter, Spurs

Like most rookies, Trey Murphy faced a difficult adjustment to the NBA, writes Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. After being a star in college, the 17th pick in last year’s draft saw minimal playing time during his first few months with the Pelicans. That changed in March and April as the team went on a late-season run and advanced past the play-in tournament, but Murphy admits the start of his career was challenging.

“Those times when I was struggling [and] wasn’t playing a lot — that’s when I really learned a lot about myself and just staying the course, because the NBA is so much of a mental aspect and a mental game that you have to worry about,” Murphy said. “You could be doing a lot of good stuff physically and on the court, but if your mentals aren’t right, there’s gonna be a lot of stuff that’s happening that won’t affect you in a positive way.”

Murphy eventually became a regular part of the rotation in New Orleans, averaging 19.5 minutes per game after March 9 while contributing 9.7 points and 3.4 rebounds and shooting 43.8% from three-point range. Heading into his second NBA season, Murphy has increased his weight to 215 pounds and showed in Summer League that he’s willing to take on contact.

“I’m just getting a lot smarter too,” he said. “Just knowing what’s coming next, so you’re able to brace for things; you’re able to absorb force as well as distribute force when need be.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Jake LaRavia fizzled out during Summer League after sinking four three-pointers in his first game, but the Grizzlies aren’t concerned about his lack of production, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Kennedy Chandler was the only legitimate point guard on the team this summer, and the Grizzlies are confident that LaRavia will get plenty of open shots playing alongside Ja Morant.
  • The Rockets and Kevin Porter Jr. are both hoping to reach an extension agreement before the new season starts, Kelly Iko of the Athletic states in a look at players around the league who have the most to prove. Whether the extension happens or not, Houston is counting on Porter to prove that he can be the team’s long-term answer at point guard.
  • The Spurs appear headed for their worst season in 25 years and will need some good fortune to turn things around quickly, writes Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News.

Western Notes: Porter Jr., Williamson, Engelland, Spurs, Thunder

If the Rockets and Kevin Porter Jr. agree to an extension this offseason, it’ll likely have to be a team-friendly deal, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports. Scotto relays Houston is looking to preserve salary cap space for next summer.

Porter is coming off a season in which he averaged 15.6 points and 6.2 assists per game, shooting 41.5% from the floor and 37.5% from distance. At 22 years old, he’s shown he can be an electric scorer and ball-handler, but he’s dealt with maturity and discipline issues throughout his career.

It’s unlikely Houston would want to offer much more than Porter’s 2023 cap hold ($9.65MM) as a starting salary on an extension. If the two sides don’t work out a deal by opening night this fall, the 22-year-old would be eligible for restricted free agency next summer. Before joining the Rockets, he was the No. 30 pick in 2019 and started his career with the Cavaliers.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

Southwest Notes: KPJ, Bane, McCollum, Nance

Rockets point guard Kevin Porter Jr. appears to have earned a long-term look with the franchise. Houston and Porter have had initial discussions about the future of the extension-eligible 22-year-old, prompting Kelly Iko and Danny Leroux of The Athletic take a deep dive into what a new deal might look like for the fourth-year guard.

Leroux projects an annual number in the range of $10-15MM for Porter. Should the Rockets opt to not extend Porter and instead let him reach restricted free agency in the summer of 2023, Leroux notes that the market for the 6’4″ guard’s services could be dampened. Currently, just seven NBA clubs, including the Rockets, project to have cap space available to sign Porter for more than the mid-level exception.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Third-year Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane has evolved into a reliable locker-room leader, despite his relative greenness, writes Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal“I’ve always been a vet [in terms of personal comportment], but now I’m a vet for real,” Bane said. “I don’t really think that too much has to change. I’ve always been the guy to lead by example, put my best foot in front of the other. That’s half of leadership right there.”
  • Pelicans veteran players CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr., new additions to the team at the 2022 trade deadline, are extension-eligible this summer. Will Guillory and Danny Leroux of The Athletic consider potential extension contracts for both New Orleans players. Christian Clark of writes that McCollum contributed as a versatile scorer and consistent ball-handler, while Nance helped the team in the less-glamorous role of flexible bench big. Clark notes that both players have shown interest in sticking around long term with an exciting young Pelicans club hot off its first playoff appearance in four years.
  • In case you missed it, the lucrative new extension inked by Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson includes a caveat that requires him to get consistent weigh-ins by New Orleans. Should the total of his body fat percentage and weight exceed 295, the team will be able to reduce the guaranteed portion of his salary.

Southwest Notes: Mavs’ Roster, Jackson Fill-In, Porter Jr.

The Mavericks will look to keep their 15th roster spot open as the season approaches for a variety of reasons, as Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News explains.

Dallas doesn’t have the assets or interest to pursue trades for either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, but could sign a role player waived after other teams make a significant deal. The Mavericks will also maintain the flexibility to bring in a player in a trade without having to cut someone on a guaranteed contract.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

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: Rebuilding, Porter, Gordon, Beauchamp

The Rockets own three first-round picks in tonight’s draft, which marks the latest step in a rebuilding project that began when James Harden was traded 17 months ago, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Instead of seeking immediate contributors in the Harden deal, Houston opted for a package from the Nets that was heavy on draft picks, including the 17th selection this year.

Another reported option was an offer from Philadelphia centered around Ben Simmons, but the Rockets’ front office decided Simmons wasn’t a player they wanted to build around. Instead, they made what Patrick Fertitta, son of owner Tilman Fertitta, calls a “hard and, at the time, very unpopular decision” to undergo a complete rebuild.

“There wasn’t an equally attractive alternative at the time,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “Not even close from our perspective. I am a big believer in going all-in. Whether it is to go all-in to rebuild or all-in to win a championship.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • The Rockets are sold on Jalen Green as the centerpiece of their future, but there are concerns around the league that backcourt partner Kevin Porter Jr. may not be reliable enough for a long-term commitment, MacMahon states in the same story. Porter, who is eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer, improved as a defender and three-point shooter last season, but there are questions about whether he should be the starting point guard or a sixth man. “He is not a finished product,” Stone says. “He just turned 22. He needs to grow and improve, on and off the court, but we are excited about him and his trajectory.”
  • Houston is also facing a decision on Eric Gordon, the last veteran remaining from the Harden era, MacMahon adds. The 33-year-old guard could be moved if the Rockets get a first-round pick in return, but the front office likes having him around to mentor the young players. “It’s a tough situation,” Gordon said. “When you’re doing a rebuild, it’s a long-term type thing. Guys have to know that this is a long-term plan. If it’s a long-term plan for these young guys, then I have to know there’s a long-term plan for me, too.”
  • MarJon Beauchamp remembers when the Rockets were the only team to send a scout to watch him play at Yakima Valley College, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Beauchamp worked out for Houston a few weeks ago and appears to be a candidate to be selected at No. 17 or 26.