Alperen Sengun

Rockets Notes: Brooks, Sengun, Landale, Porter

Dillon Brooks‘ strong World Cup performance for Canada – which earned its first-ever medal at the event – came as no surprise to Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Brooks’ combination of scoring (15.1 PPG), shooting (.588 3PT%), and defense were what Stone was counting on when Houston signed him to a four-year, $86MM contract in July.

“I’m really happy for Dillon,” Stone said. “Largely, he’s the player that we thought we were signing. So, it’s not at all surprising. But it’s great. And more so than any player I can really remember in recent memory, there’s a narrative about him that’s odd and wrong. And I think kind of the whole world over the last week has kind of owned that he’s a really good basketball player.

“The thing he does at a truly elite level, in a funny way is the one thing that every fan and every coach says is the most important thing. Every single day, every single possession, he competes and he’s always ready. And so, it’s kind of funny that that guy, who embodies that ethos, has taken as (much criticism) in the past few months as he has. But I also think … people are going to realize he’s a really good player. And most importantly, he just competes his butt off. Obviously, we really like him. He played like we would expect him to, and we’re really excited to get him back and get him integrated.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Although Turkey wasn’t part of the 2023 World Cup, Turkish center Alperen Sengun suited up for his national team during an Olympic pre-qualifying tournament this summer. The Rockets liked what he saw from the young center at that event, as Feigen relays. “Alpi is on the path we want him to be on. I thought he was moving really, really well,” Stone said. “I thought his decision-making was good. I liked his defensive effort, overall.”
  • Stone said he expects the entire Rockets roster to be healthy for the start of training camp next month, per Feigen (Twitter link). Jock Landale missed the World Cup due to an ankle injury and hasn’t been cleared for 5-on-5 work, but should be soon, per Stone.
  • Prosecutors at Kevin Porter Jr.‘s arraignment in New York City on Tuesday stated that his alleged attack on his girlfriend left her with a fractured neck vertebra and a deep cut above her right eye, according to Michael R. Sisak of The Associated Press. Manhattan’s assistant district attorney Mirah Curzer referred to the incident as a “serious domestic violence case” and indicated that Porter has a history of abusing his girlfriend, former WNBA player Kysre Gondrezick. The Rockets guard, who wasn’t required to enter a plea during Tuesday’s court appearance, was ordered to post $75K in cash or obtain a $100K bond to secure his release.

International Notes: Serbia, Bahamas, Gordon, Croatia

The Serbian national team has officially announced its 12-man roster for the 2023 World Cup, which tips off on Friday (Twitter link). The Serbians are missing star center Nikola Jokic, along with accomplished veteran guard Vasilije Micic, who made the move from the EuroLeague to the NBA this offseason.

However, the squad still features multiple current and former NBA players, starting with Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. Heat forward Nikola Jovic, Sixers big man Filip Petrusev, and former Grizzlies guard Marko Guduric are among the notable players representing Serbia at this year’s World Cup.

Here are a few more notes from around the international basketball world:

  • The Bahmas defeated Argentina on Sunday in the final of an Olympic pre-qualifying tournament, with Suns guard Eric Gordon scoring a game-high 27 points, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Following the Bahamian victory, former NBA forward Andres Nocioni – who won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2004 – questioned whether it was fair for FIBA to allow Gordon to suit up for the Bahamas despite representing Team USA earlier in his international career (Twitter link). “Let’s not lose the essence of international competitions,” Nocioni added in a follow-up tweet.
  • A Croatian team led by Warriors forward Dario Saric and Clippers center Ivica Zubac scored an upset victory over Alperen Sengun and Turkey in the final of another Olympic pre-qualifying tournament on Sunday, as Eurohoops details. Croatia, the Bahamas, Cameroon, Poland, and Bahrain won this month’s pre-qualifying tournament to secure spots in next year’s Olympic qualifiers.
  • Vangelis Papadimitriou of Eurohoops highlights a handful of non-U.S. NBA players who could be difference-makers in this year’s World Cup, including Canadian forward RJ Barrett and Dominican big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Harden, Spurs, Popovich, Sengun

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving showed his support for former Nets teammate James Harden after Harden called Sixers executive Daryl Morey a liar, The Dallas Morning News relays.

When ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski labeled Harden “disgruntled” in a social media post, Irving stood by Harden on his official Twitter (X) page.

“Is he Disgruntled Adrian?? Or is he holding Morey accountable for his dishonesty and lack of transparency throughout the contract negotiation process this summer?” Irving wrote.

Harden reportedly was unhappy with Irving prior to be traded to Philadelphia, but Irving’s post suggests the two star guards may be on better terms now.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Victor Wembanyama has created so much buzz that the Spurs have released more season ticket packages to their fans. According to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News, the Spurs have opened an additional 1,500 season ticket membership opportunities. The multi-game options include a full season with 42 home games, a half season with 20 games and a 10-home game plan.
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rarely speaks about his family but he opened up about his late wife Erin and his children during his acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday, Orsborn notes in a separate story. “I have a family,” Popovich said. “People think I just do basketball. I don’t really like it that much. Basketball doesn’t love us back, does it? We use it like a bar of soap, right? It pays our bills. It gives us a wonderful life. But I don’t remember it saying, ‘I love you, Pop.’ It’s different. It’s the family.”
  • Rockets center Alperen Sengun has set lofty goals for himself, according to Semih Tuna of “Of course, like everyone else, my goal is to become an All-Star,” Sengun said. “I hope I can do that.” Sengun averaged 14.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his second NBA season.

Rockets Notes: Green, Stone, Sengun, Smith

Jalen Green made a positive impression during his time scrimmaging against Team USA in Las Vegas, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Green helped the Select Team pick up an early victory in the competitions, and Grant Hill, managing director of USA Basketball, liked what he saw from the Rockets‘ young guard.

“He played well,” Hill said. “He was one of the few guys that I had not seen in person. I obviously had seen him in highlights and on videos, even going back to high school. He’s dynamic. He’s explosive. He’s very confident.”

Green has experienced individual success during his first two NBA seasons, averaging 17.3 and 22.1 points per game, but the rebuilding Rockets have been among the NBA’s worst teams. Houston aggressively upgraded its roster this summer, and Hill sees a brighter future for Green and the organization.

“He’s had a couple of seasons to really understand what the NBA is, and that’s important,” Hill said. “I like the moves the Rockets made this offseason bringing in veteran guys, guys who have been around the league, guys who have had success — Fred (VanVleet) has been a champion — but can still play. You bring in coach (Ime) Udoka, who brings in a level of accountability and teaching. All of that, for a guy like Jalen, is a great chance for him to really grow. I think he’s ready and that team is ready to take a step this season.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • NBA teams don’t have full control over whether their players take part in international competitions, but Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is happy to see so many of his players involved, Feigen adds. Australia’s Jock Landale and Canada’s Dillon Brooks will both participate in the FIBA World Cup. “If we were in a position to have more control, it would be a very player-by-player thing,” Stone said. “This summer, I’m really happy for our guys. They’re at points in their careers the additional reps are very valuable. … I can see where teams have concerns. In our case this summer, we’re comfortable, and we’re encouraging those guys not just to play but to play great and come back as better players.”
  • Another Rockets player getting international experience is center Alperen Sengun, who is on Turkey’s roster for an Olympics pre-qualifying tournament that begins Saturday, per Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. The Turkish team will face Bulgaria, Iceland and Ukraine.
  • A survey conducted by Kelly Iko of The Athletic finds that fans are optimistic about the Rockets’ chances to improve and are expecting a breakout season from Jabari Smith Jr.

Southwest Notes: Sengun, Spurs’ Arena, Konchar

Rockets center Alperen Sengun will play for the Turkish national team in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Istanbul from Aug. 12-20, Sportando relays, via a Fanatik report.

It was previously reported that Sengun wouldn’t play. Turkey hosts the second of the two pre-Olympic qualifiers in Europe. Turkey will face Ukraine, Bulgaria and Iceland in Group C while Group D include Croatia, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands. The two top teams from each group will advance to the knockout stages and the tournament winner will move on to next year’s Olympic qualifiers.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs’ arena is undergoing a name change. The Spurs have found a new naming-rights sponsor in Frost Bank, according to Madison Iszler of the San Antonio Express News. Spurs Sports & Entertainment plans to sign an agreement with the San Antonio-based bank. The AT&T Center’s marquee became available in 2021, when the telecommunications company decided not to renew its naming rights deal. The Spurs were unable to find a new partner at that time, so they extended their agreement with AT&T through last season.
  • John Konchar gets favorable reviews in advanced analytics and four of the top five Grizzlies lineups in net rating last season included Konchar. He also has offensive upside to go along with his solid defense, which is why he’ll be a big part of Memphis’ plans in 2023/24, according to Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • The Rockets added Joshua Obiesie to their camp roster. Get the details here.

Rockets Notes: Free Agency, Green, Lopez, Whitmore, Tate

The Rockets were the most active team on the free agent market this weekend — signing four players and jettisoning a significant amount of their young talent — but their future will still be built around the core they put together in the last three drafts, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

The big-money additions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, along with smaller deals for Jock Landale and Jeff Green, are designed to complement Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith and Amen Thompson, according to Feigen. Kevin Porter Jr. should also be considered part of that group, Feigen adds, as he remains in the team’s long-term plans along with Tari Eason and Cam Whitmore.

All the new additions will have clear roles alongside those players, Feigen notes. VanVleet will run the offense for a team that often seemed disorganized during its three years of rebuilding. He also improves the defense with his ability to get steals and deflections and has shown that he can be effective while playing off the ball. Brooks will be the team’s best perimeter defender, while Landale and Green will back up Sengun and Smith.

There’s more from Houston:

  • Green’s new $6MM contract is small enough to be absorbed with the team’s $7.7MM room exception before the Brooks trade is completed, Feigen adds. However, he says the more likely scenario is that the team will keep the exception open and use it, along with roughly $4.5MM in remaining cap space, to see if it can sign anyone else.
  • The Rockets are surveying the market to find guard depth with the money they have left, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko states that a veteran who can handle either backcourt position would be ideal for the current roster.
  • Iko cites “genuine internal disappointment” among Rockets officials when center Brook Lopez opted to remain in Milwaukee instead of taking their offer, which was reported to be around $40MM for two years. Having Landale and Green on the roster instead of Lopez makes Sengun the clear starting center and should help with his development, Iko notes.
  • The roster additions mean the Rockets can afford to be patient with rookie Cam Whitmore, with Iko suggesting that the 20th overall pick could see some time in the G League.
  • Teams have asked about swingman Jae’Sean Tate during the offseason, but the Rockets still appear to view him as an important part of their future, Iko tweets.

Rockets Rumors: Core Players, Martin, Draft Picks, Thompson

In trade talks with rival teams so far this offseason, the Rockets have held firm on their position that they don’t intend to move anyone from their young core, says Kelly Iko of The Athletic. According to Iko, that core is made up of guard Jalen Green, forwards Jabari Smith and Tari Eason, and center Alperen Sengun.

Another young Rockets player, Kenyon Martin Jr., has been “deemed attainable internally” if the team receives a strong offer, per Iko, who says that Martin has continued to draw interest from potential trade partners as of late.

Houston will soon have to decide whether to exercise Martin’s minimum-salary team option for 2023/24, which would put him on track for unrestricted free agency in 2024. Declining the option would mean paying Martin a larger salary next season, but would allow the club to negotiate with him as a restricted free agent.

Here’s more from Iko on the Rockets:

  • Once viewed as a decision between Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore, the Rockets’ No. 4 pick now appears likelier to come down to Amen and Ausar Thompson, sources tell The Athletic. Iko is among the reporters who has heard rumblings about Whitmore’s stock slipping as the draft nears, and says his sources are becoming “increasingly confident” that Houston will keep the No. 4 pick and draft Amen Thompson.
  • Although the Rockets talked to Charlotte and Portland about moving up from No. 4, that’s unlikely to happen, Iko writes. Houston remains open to moving its lottery pick, but it would take a significant offer to get the team to seriously consider it. That sort of offer hasn’t been put on the table so far, though the Rockets have been offered good “starter-level” players, according to Iko.
  • The more research the Rockets’ front office has done on this draft class, the more impressed they’ve been with the talent available, says Iko, adding that the club now seems more likely to keep its No. 20 pick than to trade it. That’s still very much up in the air though — according to Iko, Houston has talked about trading up into the 10-18 range. If a deal to move up doesn’t materialize and the Rockets’ preferred targets aren’t available at No. 20, trading the pick would still be an option.

Rockets Notes: Udoka, Green, Smith, Porter

At his introductory press conference as the Rockets‘ new head coach, Ime Udoka publicly addressed the events in Boston for the first time since his suspension was announced last fall, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Without revealing many specifics of the incident, Udoka admitted that he made a mistake and said he hopes the experience will ultimately make him a better coach.

“Really, that time off and really a full understanding of how many people you impact with a poor decision, that starts with ownership and accountability,” he said. “I preach that to players. I take responsibility for my part in it. I took leadership and sensitivity training and some counseling with my son to help him improve the situation I put him in. You can grow from adversity — and I think I’ve done that this year — if you … take the right steps.”

Owner Tilman Fertitta said the Rockets received approval from the commissioner’s office before hiring Udoka, who received a four-year, $28.5MM contract. After three years of rebuilding, the organization was eager to add a coach with a proven track record.

“The NBA told me that they felt very comfortable with Ime becoming the coach of the Houston Rockets,” Fertitta said. “That felt good to me after a lengthy conversation. We’re a forgiving society, and everybody makes mistakes.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Udoka should have an immediate influence on the Rockets’ young talent, states Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Weiss expects Udoka to help Jalen Green learn how to slow down his game and play under control, and he envisions Jabari Smith Jr. developing into an exceptional defender in the role that Robert Williams plays in Boston. Weiss points to Kevin Porter Jr. as someone who could either improve under Udoka’s guidance or wind up being shipped to another team.
  • With their coaching hire out of the way, the Rockets will turn toward maximizing the roughly $60MM in cap space they’ll have this summer, Feigen adds in another Chronicle article. According to Feigen, the organization is still committed to the core pieces of its rebuilding process — Green and Smith, along with Tari Eason and Alperen Sengun — but Udoka talked about the need for a “different” type of big man. The front office will also prioritize shooting and hopes to add some veterans to an inexperienced roster.
  • Fertitta revealed that the Rockets plan to build a new $70MM practice facility, Feigen states in a separate story. It’s expected to be completed for the 2024/25 season.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Williams, Spurs, Sengun

The Pelicans’ inept offense has put them on the verge of a total collapse, William Guillory of The Athletic writes.

Despite Zion Williamson‘s hamstring injury, the Pelicans should have enough depth to hold their own. But even when Brandon Ingram returned from a long-term toe injury, the team continued to sink. New Orleans has a 110.9 offensive rating since Ingram rejoined the lineup, which ranks 23rd during that span, Guillory notes. The club is also shooting just 32.4% on 3-point attempts during that time.

Jose Alvarado and Larry Nance Jr. are now out for multiple weeks, further complicating the Pelicans’ issues.

We have more from the Southwest Divsision:

  • Ziaire Williams, a 2021 lottery pick, has bounced between the NBA and the G League this season. The Grizzlies forward played well for the Memphis Hustle and was recalled on Saturday but he’s not guaranteed of staying with the Grizzlies the rest of the way. “He’s taken full advantage of his G League opportunities as well but we haven’t made those firm decisions on what it’s going to look like on a week-to-week basis,” coach Taylor Jenkins told Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • The Spurs are one of the prime contenders for the top pick in the draft but the players aren’t thrilled about the losses piling up, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “We’re trying to get some wins to end the season, man,” center Zach Collins said. “We can’t fall into the trap of, ‘It’s OK that we’re losing.’”
  • Rockets big man Alperen Sengun is cognizant that he’s not getting crunch time minutes because he needs to improve defensively, Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle tweets. “I just need to be focused on pick-and-roll defense, I think. I can do better job,” he said.

Rockets Notes: Kaminsky, Deadline Moves, Silas, Green

The Rockets acquired three veteran players at the trade deadline, but have already bought out two of them, placing Danny Green and Justin Holiday on waivers on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

As Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes, Houston didn’t necessarily acquire those players expecting to let them go, since the team likes the idea of having some veteran leaders to complement its young core. Head coach Stephen Silas addressed that issue when he discussed Holiday’s exit from the team, tacitly acknowledging that it’s hard to blame those vets for not wanting to stick around and be part of a 13-44 squad.

“Ideally you want a few guys who have more than three years of experience on the floor and he had 10,” Silas said. “But that’s the business of the game and where we are as an organization as far as rebuilding. Ideally, you don’t want to roll out 10 guys who are first-, second- and third-year guys but these are guys who play hard, try and learn and are improving. That’s where we’re at.”

Frank Kaminsky is the lone veteran acquired at the deadline who is still a Rocket, though there’s no guarantee that’ll be the case for the rest of the season. Team and league sources tell Iko that Kaminsky’s situation is “fluid,” with some teams expressing interest in signing the big man if he’s waived by Houston. While the two sides continue to talk, Kaminsky plans to make the most of his time with the team, even if it’s brief.

“This is the team that wanted me,” he said. “They want me to be here, so I’m going to do whatever I can to help as much as I possibly can. Whether that’s playing or me being a vocal leader in the locker room, practice, shootarounds, whatever.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Asked about the deadline-day trades that sent out Eric Gordon, Garrison Mathews, and Bruno Fernando, general manager Rafael Stone told reporters, including Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle that he’s confident the cap flexibility and draft assets generated by those moves will make the Rockets a better team in the long run. “We are going to have the most cap space this summer of any team in the NBA, I believe,” Stone said. “We’re going to have a lot of room to sign free agents to make trades into that space to really transform the team. And we decided that we’re really, really valuing that flexibility. And so, within that context, we think that we improved the team.”
  • Stone said he’s not necessarily “satisfied” with the development of young players like Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, and Jabari Smith, but remains confident in the upside of Houston’s young core. “We want them to be great players, and they’re not, yet,” Stone said, per Feigen. “The goal is not to be OK. It’s not to be improving; it’s to be great. And we’re realistic. We knew that they wouldn’t be great in this time frame. But that’s the goal. So, until we get to the goal, we’re not going be satisfied. We like them. We liked their work ethic. We’re excited about their future. But we all have a lot of work to do.”
  • Stone declined to comment about the future of head coach Stephen Silas beyond this season. According to Feigen, Silas is under contract for 2023/24, but his salary is not yet guaranteed.
  • Danny Green gave up $289,472 as part of his buyout agreement with the Rockets, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link). That reduces his cap hit from $10MM to $9,710,528. Green is expected to receive $2MM from Cleveland on a rest-of-season deal.