Aaron Holiday

Officials Admit To Missed Last-Second Call In Knicks Loss

The Knicks lost their third consecutive game on Monday night, as their comeback effort in Houston fell just short. However, the outcome might have been different if not for an error by the officiating crew during the game’s decisive final seconds.

With the score tied at 103 on the final possession of regulation, Rockets guard Aaron Holiday corralled a loose ball and fired up a desperation fade-away three-pointer as time expired (Twitter video link). The shot missed, but Knicks guard Jalen Brunson was called for a foul and Holiday made two game-winning free throws with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

After the final buzzer sounded, crew chief Ed Malloy admitted in an interview with pool reporter Fred Katz of The Athletic that Brunson should not have been whistled for a foul. A no-call would have sent the game to overtime.

“After seeing it during postgame review, the offensive player was able to return to a normal playing position on the floor,” Malloy said. “The contact, which occurred after the release of the ball, therefore is incidental and marginal to the shot attempt and should not have been called.”

Knicks players and head coach Tom Thibodeau were relatively muted in their criticisms of the officiating after the game, clearly not looking to give the NBA a reason to fine them. Brunson repeatedly – and sarcastically – referred to the game-deciding foul as a “great call,” while Thibodeau said, “If you look at the film, you see it.”

After watching the Rockets go to the foul line 33 times while the Knicks attempted just 12 free throws, Thibodeau offered some broader thoughts about the way the game is refereed, as Katz details.

“The thing with the officials — this is the way I feel about that, in general — is I don’t really care how tight the game is called,” Thibodeau said. “You can call it tight or you can call it loose. I just want consistency to be the same. And they have a job. They have to control and manage the game. That’s their No. 1 responsibility. They have to use their judgment, and I have respect for that. It didn’t go our way tonight.”

As Katz notes, the Knicks could technically file a protest, but a successful protest requires the team to prove that a rule was misapplied, not just that a judgment call was wrong, so it would almost certainly be futile.

The banged-up Knicks, who lost yet another player – Donte DiVincenzo (hamstring) – on Monday due to an injury, have one more game on their schedule before the All-Star break. They’ll play on Wednesday in Orlando, then hope to come back healthier when their schedule resumes on February 22 in Philadelphia.

Trade Rumors: Tate, Mavs, Rockets, Suns, Porter, Raptors

The Mavericks and Rockets spoke recently about Houston forward Jae’Sean Tate, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. However, league sources tell Iko that Dallas only offered a pair of second-round picks and Houston insisted on three, so the two sides didn’t reach a deal.

As Iko writes, if they do trade Tate, the Rockets would prefer to get a player who could contribute right away, but there was a belief that they could potentially reroute those second-round picks to land that sort of player.

With the trade deadline just over two hours away, the Rockets remain in the market for shooting help and a backup center, Iko reports. Houston traded for Steven Adams last week, but he’s out for the season, so the team wouldn’t mind acquiring a big man who could help in the short term.

Here a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • According to Iko, the Rockets have received some inquiries on guard Aaron Holiday and forward Jeff Green, but won’t be looking to dump those players for minor returns, since they’ve established roles and have good relationships with head coach Ime Udoka.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) has heard veteran wing Otto Porter mentioned as a possible fallback trade option for the Suns. Toronto agreed to trade Porter to Utah earlier today, but there’s no guarantee the Jazz will keep him. Phoenix has no interest in Bulls center Andre Drummond, however, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.
  • A league source tells Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) that there has been “not a peep” on Raptors trade candidates Bruce Brown, Chris Boucher, and Gary Trent Jr. so far today. However, it remains possible that will change in the next couple hours.

Western Rumors: Suns, Rockets, O’Neale, Tate, Jazz, Grizzlies

The Suns continue to keep an eye on Nets forward Royce O’Neale and Rockets wing Jae’Sean Tate, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who hears from league sources that Phoenix has discussed a package of Nassir Little and second-round picks for one of those two players.

As Scotto details, the Suns are hoping to find a wing and/or a frontcourt piece on the trade market and will likely be aggressive on the buyout market looking for that sort of player if they’re unable to make a deal. Phoenix will be prohibited from signing a player whose pre-waiver salary exceeds $12.4MM, but not every player on the buyout market will fit that bill.

The Rockets, who are among the other teams with interest in O’Neale, have sought either a late first-round pick or multiple second-rounders to part with Tate, league sources tell Scotto. Aaron Holiday is another Houston player who has generated trade interest.

If the Rockets were to acquire draft assets for a player like Tate or Holiday, they could ultimately flip those picks for another rotation player, Scotto writes.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference in advance of today’s trade deadline:

  • Scotto hears from multiple executives who have explored trading for Kelly Olynyk that the Jazz are seeking draft compensation — ideally a first-round pick. Another potential Utah trade candidate, Kris Dunn, appears likely to stick with the team through the deadline unless the team gets an “unexpected” offer it can’t refuse, a league source tells HoopsHype.
  • The Jazz have had some talks with the Hornets about forward P.J. Washington, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, who says John Collins came up in those discussions.
  • Rival executives believe that some of the Grizzlies‘ recent first-round picks – Ziaire Williams, David Roddy, and Jake LaRavia – could be trade candidates, given the emergence of cheaper youngsters like Vince Williams and GG Jackson, says Scotto. Memphis is facing a bit of a roster and cap crunch for 2024/25, so creating a bit more flexibility in both areas would help.
  • Suns head coach Frank Vogel said on Wednesday won’t mind if his front office decides to stand pat at the deadline, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I’m very in the loop with all of those conversations, but as I said (Tuesday), we love where we’re at as a team,” Vogel said. “If we don’t do anything, I’ll be really happy with the group we have, but obviously, you always look at ways to improve your team.”

Rockets GM Stone Talks Strong Start, VanVleet, Green, Holiday, More

After winning no more than 22 games in a season for three straight years from 2020-23, the Rockets are off to a 13-11 start in 2023/24, and while they’re currently outside of the top eight in the Western Conference, they’re within three games of the No. 3 seed.

General manager Rafael Stone is happy with what he has seen from the team so far, but he’s certainly not celebrating the results of the first two months of the season, as he tells Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

“December is not the right period of time to measure how good any team is,” Stone said. “We feel good about the progress we’ve made to date, but it’s just too early to tell where exactly we are. We’re a quarter of the way through the season, not at the end of the season.

“… I think we’re happy with where the group has been to date. But again, the challenge is to make sure that we’re not complacent and that we keep improving because we do need to improve in all facets of the game.”

Stone praised the progress that young Rockets players like Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith, and Tari Eason have made so far this fall, especially on the defensive end, and lauded the work the coaching staff has done to maximize the players’ strengths.

Stone’s conversation with Iko also covers many more topics and is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, but here are a few highlights:

On his early impressions of major offseason addition Fred VanVleet:

“With Fred, we had all heard good things. But again, I take all that with a grain of salt. And so one thing that’s been nice is not only has he lived up to kind of those expectations, but he’s exceeded them. He’s just a great guy off the court. He’s been great for our group. He’s willing to talk and able to talk and communicate, but he’s mostly a quiet guy. What’s awesome about him is that he says everything that absolutely needs to be said. He provides a voice every time we need a voice. A nice guy who’s incredibly tough, tough-minded, physically tough. We’ve been really happy with Fred.”

On the impact of under-the-radar free agent signings Jeff Green and Aaron Holiday:

“Well, both of those guys are guys that we’ve liked for a long time. We were lucky that they were free agents at a time when we could play in free agency. And so yeah, they’ve done well and I’m happy for that. Jeff’s a super veteran player, but Aaron’s been around for a while, too. So they both have come in and done exactly what we thought they would do. And we thought that with our current mix, they fit well. And it’s been nice that through a quarter season that’s been the way it’s played out.”

On whether the Rockets will continue to aggressively pursue roster upgrades leading up to the trade deadline:

“We like our current group. We like the way they are playing on the court, we like the way they’re interacting. We think there’s a lot of room for improvement just in the guys we have playing better and getting better. So by no means, this year at least, are we aggressively hunting a particular deal or series of deals.

“Having said that, it’s kind of my job to talk to everybody and to hear what other teams are trying to do and see if there are things that make sense for both parties. And we’ll make sure we make every phone call and run out every ground ball. At least right now, we need a better sense of exactly where our team is before we start thinking, ‘Oh, we need to add this.’ We’ll have a better sense, honestly, a game from now, right? Like every game gives us critical information.

“I think it’s too early to predict how active we will or will not be at the trade deadline or in the days in between. But we are not feeling any need to do something, per se. We like where this group is and mostly we want there to be internal improvement.”

Western Notes: MPJ, Alexander-Walker, Wemby, Morant, A. Holiday

With Aaron Gordon unavailable for the Nuggets‘ past three games due to a right heel injury, Michael Porter Jr. has seen more action at power forward and said the transition has been a smooth one, per Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter links).

“It’s easier for me, I think, at the four. It’s more of a matchup for me,” Porter explained. “Those bigger guys guarding me, they don’t want to chase around screens. They don’t want to close out all the way. I can get by them easier. So, it’s fun playing the four. It’s fine playing the three, too, but it hasn’t been too much of an adjustment, because our offense is very fluid.”

Porter scored a season-high 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting in Denver’s victory over Houston on Wednesday. It remains to be seen which position he’ll spend the most time at on Friday, as Gordon is listed as questionable for the Nuggets’ contest in Phoenix.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker didn’t have much of a role for the rebuilding Jazz last season, but after a trade to Minnesota, he’s playing key minutes for a contending Timberwolves team, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Alexander-Walker had his best game of the season in a win over his former team on Thursday, racking up 20 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and five steals in 36 minutes.
  • Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama has been on a tear lately, averaging 21.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 2.5 steals per night in his past four games. However, all four of those games were losses. The Spurs know they need more production out of other players on the roster to help the young phenom, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been subpoenaed to testify next month in an ongoing civil case related to an incident that occurred during a pickup game at his house during the summer of 2022. Lucas Finton of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the details.
  • Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Rockets guard Aaron Holiday discussed a handful of topics, including his new role as a locker room leader, his early impressions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks as teammates, Alperen Sengun‘s development, and whether he and brothers Jrue Holiday and Justin Holiday have talked about playing on the same team. “Yeah, but everything has to work out perfectly for that to happen,” Aaron said of his teaming up with his brothers. “It would be tough for that to happen, but obviously we’re all for it.”

Southwest Notes: H. Jones, Grizzlies, A. Holiday, Lively

Pelicans wing Herbert Jones wants to make sure he doesn’t take his foot off the gas pedal this season after signing a four-year, $54MM deal as a restricted free agent over the summer, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

I think the biggest thing for me was after I signed, I never got complacent,” Jones said. “I know it’s not the most somebody has signed for in the NBA. But it’s still a lot of money.

A lot of people, once they get to the first one, a lot of guys back off the gas a little bit. I just wanted to continue to work hard and show my true love for the game. There really was no dollar amount that could slow the grind down.”

With a well-deserved reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Jones is off to a pretty remarkable start on that end of the court in 2023/24, especially from a play-making perspective. As Clark notes, Jones is currently averaging 2.1 steals and 1.6 blocks per game, trailing only Anthony Davis in “stocks” (steals plus blocks).

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details how Jaren Jackson Jr. helped Bismack Biyombo quickly acclimate to the Grizzlies, writing that the two big men had a preexisting relationship, as they’re both vice presidents of the National Basketball Players Association. Following a season-ending knee injury to Steven Adams, the Grizzlies signed Biyombo once Ja Morant was placed on the suspended list. The Congolese center has played a prominent role for the injury-ravaged team, starting eight of his nine games while averaging 7.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.1 BPG in 25.1 MPG. “He can fit in any locker room,” Jackson said of Biyombo. “He’s a great leader. That’s why he’s doing what he does for his country and does what he does for the union. I know how much he cares about the league. That care carries over to the locker room.”
  • Rockets guard Aaron Holiday, a free agent addition over the offseason, has been playing a regular role with No. 4 overall pick Amen Thompson sidelined due to an ankle sprain, writes Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “He’s a guy that can play on and off the ball,” head coach Ime Udoka said of Holiday. “Stronger, tougher than his size and then also shoots the ball well, so he’s been invaluable to us with the guys out. He’s been really good lately.”
  • In a conversation with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Mavericks first-rounder Dereck Lively touched on his influences, his rookie season thus far, and playing with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, among other topics. Lively will be sidelined for Friday’s matchup against the Clippers due to a lower back contusion he sustained on Wednesday vs. the Lakers, per the NBA’s official injury report.

Southwest Notes: Thompson, Holiday, Lively, Grizzlies, Sochan

Rockets rookie guard Amen Thompson sprained his right ankle on Wednesday, with the team ruling him out of the contest shortly after he suffered the injury in the third quarter. According to Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire, head coach Ime Udoka said Thompson suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain.

Thompson also sustained a Grade 2 left ankle sprain over the summer and that injury had a two-to-four week recovery timetable, according to DuBose, so it’s likely he’s looking at a similar return timeline for this injury.

The No. 4 overall pick is Houston’s primary backup point guard behind Fred VanVleet, so Aaron Holiday absorbed the brunt of Thompson’s minutes following his departure from the game. However, Udoka didn’t turn to Holiday right away, moving Jae’Sean Tate to the backcourt before bringing Holiday in, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle observes (subscriber link). Udoka wasn’t ready to fully commit to the idea of Holiday always being the backup in a three-guard rotation.

I think we’ll go by committee a little bit,” Udoka said. “I think, the lineup that we had out there, even Amen was out there, we had Jae’Sean as another guy that can initiate, so we do have some guys I can kind of play up or down and fill different roles. We’ll look at it as game-to-game.

Udoka praised Holiday’s playing ability and said he believed Holiday and VanVleet could play together. Feigen writes that improving the bench play of the Rockets is crucial and playing Holiday may be important to finding a consistent rotation.

Depending on the team, for sure,” Udoka said. “Teams that have bigger wings, obviously that’ll pose some threats. But Aaron is a guy, similar to his brother, doesn’t have the height of Jrue, but he is a very physical, tough guy that can play on or off the ball. Fred does as well.

According to Feigen, Udoka said there may be situations where he calls on Reggie Bullock, rookie Cam Whitmore or Tate to fill in some of the backcourt minutes.

Holiday signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets this offseason that has just $1MM guaranteed. If Holiday is on the roster on Jan. 10, that contract will become fully guaranteed.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks rookie center Dereck Lively II is a huge part of Dallas’s early season success, averaging 7.6 points and 7.0 rebounds while starting in four of the team’s five games so far. Lively said he’s learned from former Mavs champion Tyson Chandler, who joined the organization via the Mavs Legend Program, according to Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Chandler works with Mavericks centers in his role with the team, including the 19-year-old Lively. “He has a willingness to actually learn, listen and take in information,” Chandler said. “He has a great spirit. He reminds me a lot of myself. I feel the duty to actually be there for him and guide him as much as necessary.”
  • The Grizzlies are a league-worst 0-6 to begin the season, facing a lengthy suspension to Ja Morant and injuries to key players like Steven Adams. Still, the Grizzlies were expected to be more competitive even with their early season issues, considering they brought in former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and have current reigning DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr., as well as Desmond Bane. Kelly Iko and John Hollinger of The Athletic dive into why Memphis’ struggles go deeper than suspensions and injuries, including Smart being a step slower on defense thus far and the younger players on the roster not taking a step forward. I recommend checking out the article in full if you have a subscription to The Athletic, as the pair explore the intriguing trade options Memphis has, along with a deeper look into the club’s problems.
  • Experimenting with starting Jeremy Sochan at point guard has produced a mix bag of results for the Spurs. Even still, head coach Gregg Popovich expressed his appreciation with what the second-year guard/forward brings to the table, as relayed by Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Popovich said Sochan is “trending in the right direction” and has stood out defensively, adding that he likes how the former lottery pick is “taking care of the ball,” according to Orsborn. “It doesn’t matter who he guards, he does a wonderful job, creates a lot of chaos for us,” Popovich said.

Rockets Notes: Udoka, Defense, Green, Bostic, Holiday

After taking over a Rockets team that won 17, 19, and 22 games in the last three seasons, what is new head coach Ime Udoka focused on improving? “Everything,” he said on Tuesday, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

“We had a … 28-minute film session,” Udoka said after the first day of training camp. “I showed them clips … and numbers from the past three years — what we want to avoid, what we want to get better at. The main thing I stressed is effort and execution.

“… The numbers were ugly, to be honest, the last few years. When you rank 25th to 28th in a lot of categories, there’s a lot to improve on and grow. I kind of hit them right between the eyes in the areas we struggled in the last few years and (where) we want to get better.”

As Feigen details, the Rockets are expected to use a wider variety of defensive schemes this season and are confident that incoming veterans like Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks, and Jeff Green will help implement and communicate the new strategies on the floor.

“We want to be a louder group,” Udoka said. “And Fred even stressed that. We have to talk more. We have to hear each other. That’s been one of the keys. To be a great defensive, offensive group, you have to talk to each other and not try to read each other’s minds. The defense that we’re going to play, it takes a lot of communication, a lot of talk out there.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Jalen Green, who is still a year away from becoming eligible for a rookie scale extension, may be seeking new representation. Two people with knowledge of the situation tell Feigen that Green is considering a handful of options – including Klutch, WME, and Lift Sports – as he mulls the idea of parting ways with CAA. He’s expected to make a decision within the next few weeks.
  • Former Findlay forward Josh Bostic is joining Ime Udoka‘s staff as a player development coach, sources tell Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). Bostic went undrafted in 2009 and played professionally for 14 years. While he was in camp with the Pistons in 2014, he never appeared in an NBA regular season game, having spent most of his career in Europe.
  • Aaron Holiday, who signed a one-year contract as a free agent this offseason, said he chose the Rockets because he wanted to play for Udoka, likes the talent on the roster, and considers Houston a “pretty cool” city, per Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Now, he’s focused on learning what role he’ll play for his new team. “Everywhere I go I would have different roles,” Holiday said. “Sometimes I’m just out there to play defense or shoot shots or get the ball moving or whatever the case may be. So you just have to find your role, and obviously, coach (Udoka) will do a good job helping us. But just do the best at your role. Be a star at your role.”
  • In case you missed it, we passed along a series of Rockets notes on Tuesday as well.

More Contract Details: White, Lyles, A. Holiday, Draymond, D-Lo, More

Coby White‘s new contract with the Bulls and Trey Lyles‘ new contract with the Kings both include unlikely incentives that could increase the value of those deals, Hoops Rumors has learned.

White’s three-year pact is guaranteed to be worth at least $36MM and has $1.3MM in annual incentives that could push the guard’s earnings up to $40MM in total. As for Lyles, he’ll make $8MM guaranteed salaries in each season of his two-year deal with Sacramento and could earn another $1.2MM in bonuses, which would increase the overall value of the contract to $18.4MM ($9.2MM per year).

Here are a few more details worth noting on several recently signed contracts:

  • Aaron Holiday‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets is only partially guaranteed. Holiday is assured of about $1.05MM and would receive his full $2.35MM salary if he remains under contract through at least January 7.
  • Draymond Green‘s four-year, $100MM contract with the Warriors includes a 15% trade kicker, while Jevon Carter‘s three-year, $19.5MM deal with the Bulls has a third-year player option.
  • Only the first season of Julian Champagnie‘s new four-year, $12MM contract with the Spurs is guaranteed. For each of the following three years, he’ll have to remain under contract beyond August 1 to guarantee his salary for that season.
  • A player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year deal (or a two-year deal with a second-year option) has the right to veto a trade, since he’d lose his Bird (or Early Bird) rights if he’s dealt. However, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows a player to waive that right to veto a trade when he signs that sort of contract, and Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell became the first player to do so, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Alex Len also waived his right to veto a trade as part of his new one-year deal with the Kings, Hoops Rumors has learned.

Aaron Holiday Signs One-Year Contract With Rockets

JULY 10: The signing is official, according to a team press release.

JULY 6: Aaron Holiday is signing a one-year contract with the Rockets, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported earlier today that the Hornets and Rockets were among the teams interested in the free agent guard.

Holiday spent his first three NBA seasons with the Pacers, the team that selected him 23rd overall in the 2018 draft. He was sent to the Wizards two years ago as part of the massive five-team deal that saw Russell Westbrook head to the Lakers, and was later sent to the Suns at the 2022 trade deadline for cash.

Phoenix chose not to give Holiday a qualifying offer last summer in order to make him a restricted free agent, and he wound up signing a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum with the Hawks. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that the combo guard will once again be on a minimum-salary contract.

The Rockets were on the lookout for guard depth after trading TyTy Washington and Josh Christopher (to different teams) and releasing Daishen Nix, Iko adds (Twitter link).

Holiday, 26, appeared in 63 games for the Hawks in 2022/23, but his role was quite limited, averaging career lows in points (3.9) and assists (1.4) in 13.4 minutes per contest. The 6’0″ guard is a 37.7% career three-point shooter and converted 36 of his 88 attempts last season (40.9%).