Kenyon Martin Jr.

Rockets Rumors: Martin, Banchero, Porter, Tate, Schröder, Hollins

Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. recently spoke to team management about the possibility of a trade, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko describes the conversation as a “candid” one and stresses that there’s no bad blood between Martin and the team. However, with Martin’s place in Houston’s long-term plans uncertain, he may prefer to be sent to a club that can give him a clearer path to rotation minutes.

A second-round pick in 2020, Martin has appeared in 124 games across two seasons with the Rockets, averaging 9.0 PPG and 4.3 RPG on .524/.360/.667 shooting in 22.0 minutes per contest.

Sources tell Iko that a number of teams – including some playoff contenders – have expressed interest in Martin in the past. He’s still just 21 years old, and his athleticism and possible untapped potential make him an intriguing target for potential suitors, Iko adds.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • All signs continue to point to Paolo Banchero being the most likely pick for the Rockets at No. 3, per Iko. While Houston has received some inquiries on that pick, any talks have been exploratory at best, and the Rockets aren’t looking to trade down from No. 3, sources tell The Athletic.
  • The Rockets’ other two first-round picks (No. 17 and No. 26) are viewed as more available, with No. 17 in particular drawing interest from some teams that don’t have a first-rounder, Iko writes. While either pick – or both – could be traded, Iko isn’t necessarily counting on anything happening until draft night, as teams see how the draft plays out and get a better idea of which players will still be on the board at those spots.
  • Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae’Sean Tate will be eligible for extensions this offseason, and representatives for both players have already been in touch with the Rockets to inquire about beginning those discussions, according to Iko. The deadline for Porter’s rookie scale extension is the last day of the 2022 offseason, whereas Tate could sign a veteran extension during the 2022/23 season. Houston would like to retain both players beyond their current contracts, says Iko.
  • Although Dennis Schröder is well-liked in Houston, he’s expected to end up with a new team for 2022/23, sources tell Iko. Schröder is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Lionel Hollins is among the veteran coaches who has emerged as a candidate to join Stephen Silas‘ staff as an assistant, Iko reports.

Western Notes: Conley, McCollum, Landale, Primo, Martin

Mike Conley tried to carry the Jazz through adversity during the first half of the season. It took a toll on his body and he’s now trying to work his way through a rough patch, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. Looking worn out, Conley has scored in single digits in seven of his last 10 outings.

“I was trying to do everything I could physically and mentally to keep the ship afloat,” said Conley, who re-signed with the Jazz on a three-year deal last summer. “I tried to be there for everybody. When doing that, sometimes you can forget about being there for yourself. We hit some true adversity. We were getting doubted by everyone. We had a bunch of outside distractions going on. And you saw it creeping into our games.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Pelicans coach Willie Green is hopeful CJ McCollum will clear the league’s health and safety protocols in time to play on Tuesday, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. McCollum was placed in protocols on Thursday. “We’re hopeful. We’ll see how it goes,” Green said. “He’s got to get a couple negative tests. He’s progressing.” The Pelicans have listed McCollum as questionable to play.
  • Jock Landale is hopeful he’ll still be wearing a Spurs uniform next season, as he told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News. He had a 26-point, 7-rebound game against Indiana on Saturday but his $1.56MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed. “This is where I want to be long-term if I can,” Landale said. “I don’t want to go anywhere. Me and my fiancée love it here. I love the organization, love the boys I play with.”
  • In the same story, McDonald points out that Spurs lottery pick Joshua Primo has seen his offensive numbers go down while his playing time has gone up. Primo is averaging 24.8 MPG this month but he’s only averaging 6.0 PPG on 37.5% shooting in those games. Teammate Devin Vassell has an explanation. “It’s the rookie wall,” he said. “It’s real.”
  • The Rockets recently guaranteed Kenyon Martin Jr.‘s $1.78MM salary for next season and Basketball News’ Mark Schindler details why he believes Martin could turn into one of the top role players in the league.

Rockets To Guarantee Salaries Of Garrison Mathews, K.J. Martin For 2022/23

The Rockets will guarantee the salaries of both Garrison Mathews and Kenyon Martin Jr. for next season, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link).

Both players had non-guaranteed contracts for 2022/23, but Houston decided to reward them for their efforts this season. Mathews is set to earn $2MM next season, while Martin will make $1,782,621, per Spotrac.

Mathews, 25, started the season on a two-way contract but was later converted to a standard deal after several strong performances in place of the injured Jalen Green.

Through 49 games (27.2 MPG) this season, including 21 starts, Mathews is averaging 11.0 PPG and 3.2 RPG on .410/.367/.810 shooting, good for a 61.4 true shooting percentage. His relatively low field goal percentage is deceiving, because 82% of his attempts have come from three-point range.

Martin, 21, was the No. 52 overall pick of the 2020 draft. He’s in his second season with the Rockets, and his stats from the two seasons are quite similar.

He’s averaging 8.9 PPG and 3.9 RPG this season (20.6 MPG, 63 games) after putting up 9.3 PPG and 5.4 RPG last season (23.7 MPG, 45 games). Martin is a hyper-athletic forward and has some amassed some impressive highlights in his short career.

As MacMahon observes (via Twitter), both players have proven to be valuable role players for the young Rockets, who view the two as pieces of their long-term plans. The rebuilding team is currently 17-49, the second-worst record in the league, as shown in our reverse standings.

COVID-19 Updates: McGee, Buchanan, Hill, Wanamaker, More

JaVale McGee is the latest Suns player to enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. McGee joined Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder, and Abdel Nader in the protocols on Thursday evening.

On the plus side, the Suns did get Elfrid Payton out of the protocols for the second time this week — Payton was placed in the protocols on Sunday and Wednesday, but quickly cleared both times, so it’s possible he has registered multiple false positive tests in recent days.

Here are a few more protocol-related updates from around the league:

  • Shaq Buchanan, signed by the Grizzlies as a hardship replacement player, has now entered the health and safety protocols himself, according to the team (Twitter link). Buchanan’s 10-day deal runs through Tuesday night, so it may expire before he clears the protocols.
  • The Hawks‘ COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread, as Malcolm Hill – a 10-day hardship addition – has entered the protocols, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Hill, who had appeared in three games since signing with the team last Wednesday, is one of a dozen Atlanta players in the protocols.
  • Brad Wanamaker signed a 10-day deal with the Wizards on Wednesday, recorded seven points and seven assists in his first game with the club on Thursday, and has now entered the health and safety protocols on Friday, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. He’s one of seven Wizards players affected.
  • Kenyon Martin Jr. exited the COVID-19 protocols and practiced with the Rockets on Thursday, says Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
  • We continue to update our health and safety protocols tracker several times per day. It can be found right here.

Deandre Ayton Enters Protocols; Trae Young Cleared

Suns center Deandre Ayton has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Assuming Ayton has been vaccinated, he will out at least six days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. He joins teammates Jae Crowder and Elfrid Payton in protocols as well as head coach Monty Williams. Ayton is averaging 17.0 PPG and 11.1 RPG.

On the flip side, Hawks star guard Trae Young has cleared the protocols and will play against Chicago on Monday, Wojnarowski reports in a separate tweet. Atlanta has a 1-2 record since Young entered protocols. He produced a second negative test to exit the protocols, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets.

Young won’t have many of his usual teammates in uniform with him. Atlanta still has 10 other players in the protocols.

In Houston, Rockets players Jae’Sean Tate and Kenyon Martin Jr. have entered protocols, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. That increases the number of Rockets players in protocols to four.

The Wizards, who already had a handful of players in protocols, added Aaron Holiday to the list, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Porzingis, Spurs, Grizzlies, Rockets

Asked by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith during an appearance on First Take about rumors that there has been some friction between Mavericks teammates Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, head coach Jason Kidd dismissed the idea that there are any issues between the team’s two leading scorers (video link).

“I think we all heard in the NBA circle that there was tension between the two, but I would have to say that’s fake news,” Kidd told Smith. “… There were some other issues that I thought they did a great job of keeping in-house that had nothing to do with those two.

“I’m excited, I think the relationship between the two of them is at a high level. They’re basketball players who want to compete and who want to win. For a coach, I have to put them in that position to be successful. But I think their relationship is great.”

Smith didn’t press Kidd on what those “other issues” in Dallas were that didn’t involve Doncic or Porzingis, but it’s possible the Mavs’ new head coach is referring to some of the conflicts that were outlined in a report from The Athletic back in June. Presumably, given the way the front office and coaching staff were overhauled this summer, the franchise believes those issues are in the rear-view now.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

Mitchell Robinson, Terance Mann, Kenyon Martin Jr. Receive Salary Guarantees

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson ($1.8MM), Clippers guard Terance Mann ($1.8MM) and Rockets guard Kenyon Martin Jr. ($1.5MM) all saw their 2021/22 salaries become fully guaranteed on Sunday, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

Robinson had his team option picked up by the club on Saturday, but his salary for next season didn’t guarantee until today. The 23-year-old center played only 31 games for New York this season, averaging 8.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27.5 minutes per contest.

Mann, 24, showed flashes of potential with the Clippers this past season. He was the team’s No. 48 pick in 2019 and averaged seven points per game in 2020/21, shooting 51% from the floor and 42% from three-point range.

Martin, a 20-year-old swingman, was selected by the Kings on behalf of the Rockets with the No. 52 overall pick in last year’s November draft, then signed a four-year contract with Houston. His $1.78MM salary in 2022/23 remains non-guaranteed, while he also has a team option worth $1.93MM for 2023/24.

Both Robinson and Mann are also extension-eligible with their respected clubs, Marks notes.

Southwest Notes: Martin, Lillard, Lee, Vinson

Rookie Rockets small forward Kenyon Martin Jr., a second-generation NBA player, showed promise during his first NBA season, per Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle.

Martin noted that living his childhood while his father Kenyon Martin Sr. enjoyed a successful 15-year NBA career helped prep him for the ups and downs of the Rockets’ fortunes during Jr.’s first season.

“My first game back from the G League, I honestly got kind of nervous or whatever but I just thought to myself, ‘It’s still basketball,’ so I just go out and play and not really think about that,” Martin said. Across 45 games for the Rockets, the 6’6″ rookie averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.4 RPG, while shooting a solid .509/.365/.714.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • If Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard truly wants to be dealt from the team where he has spent his entire NBA career, the Pelicans should do all they can to acquire him in a trade, says Scott Kushner of NOLA.com. Given that New Orleans has 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram and a litany of draft picks to trade, the club can at least get in the mix with a competitive offer, Kushner adds. Pairing Lillard with rising Pelicans All-Star Zion Williamson could benefit both players in their quest to win the West.
  • 36-year-old Bucks assistant coach Charles Lee has served under two largely successful tenures with head coach Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks and Milwaukee since 2014. Will Guillory of The Athletic explores Lee’s potential fit guiding the similarly youthful roster of the Pelicans to the next level, should he become the club’s next head coach.
  • Current Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, a former international player (who had a 13-game NBA cameo) known particularly for his skills as a shooting coach, has been on New Orleans’ bench since 2010. Will Guillory of The Athletic wonders if the 50-year-old is ready to take the next step with the team.

Southwest Notes: Bradley, Porter, Pelicans, Martin

Rockets reserve guard Avery Bradley is close to returning to the floor from a calf injury, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Bradley has missed the past two games for Houston, and four of the last five.

“I’ve just been dealing with this calf situation all season,” Bradley noted. “Unfortunately, it came back a little bit. I’m just trying to be smart and making sure I’m working hard each and every day so I can come back strong.”

The Heat signed Bradley to a two-year, $11.6MM deal during the 2020 offseason, though the second year is a team option. Injuries and COVID-19 have limited the 30-year-old to just 25 games combined for Miami and Houston this season.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Though recently-acquired Rockets swingman Kevin Porter Jr. enjoyed a career night against the Bucks on Thursday, head coach Stephen Silas is hopeful Porter can have more consistently effective scoring nights, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “I don’t really know if we have a true feel for how good he can be or not,” Silas observed. “I think if you take the game that he had against Minnesota (10 points on 2-of-12 shooting) and the game he had against Milwaukee, you don’t want to really focus on either. You want to focus somewhere in between. He had a poor game and then a great game. You can’t do that in an NBA season where you’re kind of going up and down, up and down with your emotions or your evaluations.”
  • As the Pelicans remain in the play-in tournament mix, Will Guillory of The Athletic assesses several important threads worth tracking in May. Key among these is the play of Brandon Ingram, who Guillory believes needs to improve his passing and defense to be a true long-term compliment to All-Star forward Zion Williamson. Guillory also hopes to see more of versatile guards Lonzo Ball and Kira Lewis Jr. in tandem on the floor.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle appraises the growth of athletic rookie wing Kenyon Martin Jr., the youngest Rockets player. Martin is all too aware of what he needs to improve going forward to achieve his full potential. “I know what I need to work on and I need to focus on to get ready for next season,” Martin said. “Making my shot more consistent… Being comfortable on the ball and defensively, just learning from watching film and picking it up on that side of the floor.” Martin is averaging 13.5 PPG on 53.8% shooting across his past four games.

Rockets Notes: Fertitta, T. Brown, Wilson, Exum

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has watched his team go from among the NBA’s best to the league’s worst record very quickly, and he’s realistic about how long it will take to get back on top, writes Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle. Houston arrived in training camp with playoff aspirations and a veteran core in place, but after a massive roster overhaul, the Rockets are just 4-35 since February 5.

“It’s really, really hard because I am competitive and I hate to lose,” Fertitta said. “But my people, including (CEO) Tad (Brown) and (general manager Rafael Stone) and even my son Patrick, just (say) the biggest mistake you can make right now is use all these picks to be a .500 club, because you’re never able to be a championship caliber club,” Fertitta said. “But I hate losing so much I’m totally staying out of it, because I’m scared that I can make the wrong decisions. I want to win today. I just have to (stay out of it) because they’re right and they just gave me examples and examples.”

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • Tad Brown has become the latest high-profile figure to leave the organization, announcing Friday that he will step down as CEO at the end of the season, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Brown made it clear that he wasn’t being pushed out and said he spent several months considering his future before deciding to leave. “This is something that is going to be a part of my heart and soul for the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s very difficult to transition out, but I do believe it’s the right thing to do.”
  • The Rockets were down to seven healthy players for Saturday’s loss in Denver, which meant extended minutes for some players who aren’t used to a lot of court time, Feigen notes in a separate story. D.J. Wilson played 40 minutes and K.J. Martin was on the court for 42 minutes. “We put the work in behind closed doors,” Wilson said. “When our number is called, we’re definitely going to be ready, each and every one of us. When you’re not getting those minutes on a game-to-game basis, you can’t do much but ask to play. I don’t think anyone was asking for a sub. Everybody was enjoying the minutes. It was just tough we couldn’t get the W.”
  • Dante Exum, who was acquired in January as part of the James Harden trade, is considered out for the rest of the season, Feigen tweets. Exum only played six games this season because of a calf injury and hasn’t been available since the trade. He has a $9.6MM expiring contract.