Cam Whitmore

Southwest Notes: Daniels, Ingram, Jones, Whitmore, Wemby

Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels, who has been sidelined since February 9 due to knee surgery, has been cleared to return for Saturday’s game vs. Boston, tweets Christian Clark of

Daniels wasn’t a major part of the Pelicans’ offensive attack earlier in the season, averaging a modest 5.5 points per game on 43.8% shooting (29.1% on threes). However, he started 15 of his 52 games and played 21.9 minutes per contest, in large part due to his defensive prowess. Assuming he’s not slowed by his knee at all, Daniels figures to reclaim a rotation role down the stretch.

There’s also good news out of New Orleans on injured forward Brandon Ingram, who was able to do some on-court work on Friday in what William Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link) describes as a positive step in his recovery from a knee contusion. Ingram will reportedly remain sidelined until at least Friday, but perhaps by next weekend he’ll be nearing a return.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans will be without guard Jose Alvarado on Saturday for a second straight game due to a right oblique strain, per the NBA’s official injury report. It’s unclear how much more time – if any – Alvarado might miss as a result of that injury.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Christian Clark of makes the case for Herbert Jones to claim a spot on this season’s All-Defensive first team, explaining why the player that Pelicans teammates describe as “our defensive leader” deserves the honor.
  • After missing the past nine games due to a sprained right knee, Rockets rookie Cam Whitmore believes he’s on the verge of returning to action. According to Whitmore, he’s working on getting his conditioning back to 100% and hopes to be cleared in time to suit up against Dallas on Sunday, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “I feel fine. There’s no pain (in the knee),” he said. “No tweaks, no issues, no nothing. I feel back to normal. I just have to feel better moving around laterally.”
  • Now that he has appeared in the requisite 65 games, Victor Wembanyama deserves serious consideration for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award, writes Mike Monroe of The Athletic. “If you just watch the game you see how (Wembanyama) affects the game defensively,” Spurs guard Tre Jones said. “It’s tough because of our record, but I think most people know he’s already the best defender in the league. He’s already leading the league in blocks; leads in blocks and steals combined, more than previous NBA Defensive Player of the Year winners.”
  • Count Jalen Brunson among Wembanyama’s fans. After the Spurs‘ No. 1 overall pick racked up 40 points and 20 rebounds en route to an overtime win against the Knicks on Friday, Brunson – who scored 61 points in the losing effort – predicted that Wembanyama will be “one of the greatest players this game has seen,” tweets Paul Garcia of Project Spurs. “Just the way he’s built and what he’s been able to do so far,” Brunson said. “Got a lot of respect for him and it’s definitely tough to get a shot up and in over him.”

Texas Notes: Smith, Whitmore, Sochan, Doncic

Rockets power forward/center Jabari Smith Jr. was suspended one game by the NBA following a physical fracas with Jazz point guard Kris Dunn. According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, the Auburn alum admitted he was surprised by the decision at first.

“I wasn’t expecting it until they told me the rules,” Smith said. “I deserved it. That’s in the rule book… It’s not worth it… You hurt your team being ejected and then with a suspension.”

The Rockets did win the game Smith missed, a 110-92 victory over the Trail Blazers on Monday, and have since extended their league-best winning streak to 10 games. At 37-35, Houston is just one game behind the tenth-seeded Warriors for a spot in the West’s play-in tournament bracket.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Rockets head coach Ime Udoka told reporters this week that rookie swingman Cam Whitmore‘s recovery from his current knee injury is progressing faster than his initially projected timeline, Feigen reports in another piece. “He’s going to get the contact portion eventually and progressing from spot shooting to moving to contact moving will be next, but we’ll see when that is,” Udoka said. “He heals fast and so he’ll probably beat the three-week diagnosis.” The small forward has enjoyed a productive inaugural pro season off the bench with Houston. He’s averaging 12.1 PPG on .464/.361/.670 shooting splits, plus 3.9 RPG.
  • Second-year Spurs power forward Jeremy Sochan seems to be settling into a groove as one of the peskier defenders in the NBA, writes Nick Moyle of The San Antonio Express-News. Moyle notes that Sochan has been limiting opposing players to shooting percentages that are 5.7% worse than their averages since the All-Star break. “I think it’s just remembering what they like, what they don’t like, how they like being guarded,” Sochan said of his defensive approach. “Watching even other players guard them, especially in the playoffs, because playoffs are a different level, especially with how aggressive people are. You see how some players don’t like it when you are up against them and making it difficult for them to dribble the ball. Sometimes it’s the other way around. But it’s just reading and reacting to who I am guarding and learning from them.”
  • The Mavericks are riding high of late, having gone 17-6 across their last 23 games. The team has ranked in the top 10 on both ends of the floor during that run and now controls the West’s No. 6 seed, just 1.5 games behind the No. 4 Clippers. According to The Athletic’s Tim Cato, All-Star guard Luka Doncic has embraced a more deferential game. Cato writes that Doncic’s pick-and-roll chemistry with new starting center Daniel Gafford and rookie reserve Dereck Lively II have really helped expand the team’s offensive arsenal.

Rockets Notes: Green, Tate, Smith, Whitmore

Rockets coach Ime Udoka considered lineup changes during the All-Star break that might have taken away Jalen Green‘s starting spot, but his show of faith in the third-year guard is paying huge dividends.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes, Green continued his scoring binge Saturday night, pouring in 41 points as Houston won its eighth straight game. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week is averaging 27.8 PPG in March while shooting 51.4% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range, and the Rockets have moved back into the play-in race with a 10-1 record during the month.

“He’s on a hot streak, obviously,” Udoka said. “Just like people have slumps at times, people can go on runs like this. But the main thing is he’s stayed resilient and continued to be confident when things weren’t going great. And all it takes for a really good scorer is to see a few go through. Run off a game or two of hot shooting and it can kind of snowball like this. I’m proud of the way he fought through some adversity. It’s not easy with a newer team and some different demands from a coaching staff and doing different things to always stay the course and fight through it. And he’s done that. Great to see him come out on the other side.”

A little more than a month ago, there were doubts about Green’s long-term future in Houston. Feigen points out that he was scoring just 17.1 PPG midway through the season while connecting at 39.8% from the field and 32.3% beyond the arc. Udoka was frequently keeping Green on the bench for long stretches in the fourth quarter due to concerns about his shot selection and defensive effort. The No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft will be extension-eligible this offseason, so he’s picked a great time to play the best basketball of his career.

“He’s been the key to everything,” Fred VanVleet said. “Our confidence, our pace, our spacing, he’s guarding. When he’s on like that, that’s just another nuclear weapon you have out there that can go give you 30, 40 any time. It changes the way the defense is guarding, changes the defense, the matchups. He’s been huge for us. It’s a testament to him staying with it, working through what’s been an up-and-down year for him. He’s finding it.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Saturday’s win was the 35th of the season for the Rockets, which triggered an automatic $500K bonus for Jae’Sean Tate, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Tate, who has been with the team longer than anyone on the roster, has a $7MM team option for next season and will be eligible for an extension this summer.
  • Jabari Smith could face further discipline from the league after being ejected for fighting with Utah guard Kris Dunn five seconds into the second quarter, according to an Associated Press story. Udoka notes that Smith and Dunn had an altercation in a January game that resulted in technical fouls for both players. “I think Dunn hit him with a shot, and then, they got wrapped up and threw a few punches,” Udoka said of Saturday’s skirmish. “Basically, nothing landed, but as soon as you throw a punch, you’re going to be ejected.”
  • Udoka said Cam Whitmore has resumed shooting as he works his way back from a sprained right knee, per Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire (Twitter link).

Rockets Notes: J. Smith, Offense, Sengun, Whitmore

With Alperen Sengun unavailable for the past three games, the Rockets have opted to use power forward Jabari Smith as their starting center rather than moving Jock Landale or another bench player into that role.

According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Houston’s coaching staff has been interested since training camp in taking a longer look at Smith as a small-ball center. Head coach Ime Udoka said that getting the opportunity to use Smith in that role is a silver lining of Sengun’s absence.

“I love his versatility. He can go both ways, as far as upsizing, downsizing, and he’s comfortable in that,” Udoka said of Smith. “There’s advantages in both. Really can take advantage of some of the five men in the league. He’s agile enough, strong enough to defend multiple positions. I like what he does there, the versatility he gives us.”

The early returns on the move have been positive, albeit in a small sample size. The Rockets had a -1.8 net rating with Smith on the floor though their first 64 games — that number has jumped to +14.1 in 92 minutes across the past three games, all wins.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Winners of five consecutive games, the Rockets are refusing to fall out of the hunt for a play-in spot and sit 3.5 games behind the Warriors and Lakers. Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required) takes a look at how the team has thrived as of late by making offensive adjustments necessitated by not having Sengun available.
  • Asked to evaluate Sengun’s third NBA season, Udoka said the Rockets’ center is “not even close to reaching his ceiling,” per ClutchFans (Twitter video link). “His future is bright, basically,” Udoka continued. “All the things that we really challenged him with, he kind of stepped up to the plate there and improved in certain areas. Next steps are the shooting and some consistency things.”
  • Count Paul George among the NBA veterans who are high on Cam Whitmore‘s potential. As ClutchFans relays (via Twitter video), the Rockets rookie was the first player George mentioned in the latest episode of his podcast (YouTube link) when he was asked about players who have had strong under-the-radar seasons. “He’s a player that is going to shake up some things in Houston and can be a star player,” George said. “I saw stardom on both ends. He played hard on both ends. He can shoot it. He can handle. He’s explosive. He was strong. He had a nastiness to him that you don’t really see in a lot of super young guys. He was trying to challenge me (when the Clippers faced the Rockets). He was challenging Kawhi (Leonard).”

Southwest Notes: Whitmore, Zion, Williams, Luka, Sochan

Rockets rookie wing Cam Whitmore is expected to be out for approximately three weeks with a sprained right knee, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Whitmore is averaging 12.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game through 38 NBA appearances this season after the Rockets drafted him late in the first round.

“He has a sprained (lateral collateral ligament), the ligament in the knee and outside the knee,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “So, it’s a three-week timetable as well. Felt some tightness in his knee in the game. Got that checked out. Kind of played through that. We’ll wee how he progresses with rehab and treatment, as well. They say three weeks, but it could be a shorter timetable based on how he reacts to it.”

The Rockets lost star center Alperen Sengun over the weekend due to a severe ankle sprain and bone bruise to his knee.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • After injuries marred his first four NBA seasons, Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is finishing strong this season, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes. He has appeared in 53 games, averaging 22.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and a career-high 5.2 assists per night. Getting in better shape has been the key. “I’m getting there,” Williamson said. “Just stacking my days. Extra conditioning over time. I’m starting to see some of those results. I just have to maintain and keep going.”
  • Before Grant Williams was dealt to the Hornets, he trash-talked Mavericks star Luka Doncic during practice. In a radio interview relayed by Brian Robb of, Dallas assistant GM Michael Finley said it didn’t go well for the power forward. “He decided he wanted to get under Luka’s skin. He felt Luka didn’t come that day ready to practice,” Finley said. “To make a long story short, they had a scrimmage going and he was talking trash to Luka up and down the court. So finally, Luka says ‘Okay,” and Luka went on a 26-6 run by himself. You can ask anybody, I’m not exaggerating. He showed everything, the threes, the postups, the floaters, everything by himself.”
  • The Spurs’ Jeremy Sochan is developing a reputation as an agitator and he has an admirer in a player who often gets under opponent’s skin — the Warriors’ Draymond Green, according to Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. “Not caring what anybody thinks, that’s a skill in this league,” Green said. “Jeremy, he don’t give a (bleep). You can tell.”

Southwest Notes: Sengun, Udoka, Rockets, Doncic, Pelicans

Alperen Sengun‘s breakout 2023/24 season almost didn’t happen, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who looks back at the Rockets‘ pursuit of Brook Lopez during 2023’s free agent period. Sengun would’ve still played an important role in Houston if the club had landed Lopez, but he likely wouldn’t have been in position to post the same type of numbers he has as the Rockets’ unquestioned starting center.

“You know, of course, when you’re hearing that sh-t, you’re getting nervous, of course,” Sengun said of last summer’s Lopez rumors. “You don’t want to lose your spot. But if (Lopez) was coming, I was ready for a fight.”

While Sengun has increased his offensive output significantly (21.3 points and 5.0 assists per game), he’s just as proud as the improvements he has shown defensively. He told Fischer that his focus on defense this season wasn’t a direct result of Houston’s interest in last season’s Defensive Player of the Year runner-up.

“I didn’t understand that as, ‘Brook was gonna come and I needed to (improve on defense).’ I just know I have to do a better job on defense. If you want to win, if you want to be a ‘winning player,’ you have to do everything on the court,” he said. “I mean, Brook Lopez is a really good player. A really good defensive player, you know? But, I mean, he’s a good shot blocker. I don’t think he’s as good one-on-one player (as me).

“We have different physical bodies. Like, he’s so tall. He’s big. He can block all the shots. I know I can’t block all the shots. I know that. I don’t have long arms. I’m not (that) tall. I just need to be where I have to be and just stay vertical. To jump straight up and just make their job harder.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Speaking to Fischer, Sengun also had high praise for head coach Ime Udoka and the rest of the Rockets‘ coaching staff. “Ime’s a perfect coach. He’s the best coach I ever had, probably,” Sengun said. “But not just Ime. Our whole coaching staff is amazing. Everybody’s doing a great job. Everybody wants to win. I’ve never seen a coaching staff like this in my life. And when you see, you understand. They’re tough. They’re talking to us. They’re not scared of anything.”
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic takes a look at the burgeoning relationship between young Rockets guards Jalen Green and Cam Whitmore, noting that the team – which ranks 24th in offensive rating – has an opportunity to experiment with the duo down the stretch now that a play-in spot is all but out of reach. “They complement each other well, being two wings that attack and are aggressive,” Udoka said. “When they’re both rolling on the wings and guarding at a higher clip, we like to see what they’re doing together. Two dynamic scorers, and we’ve taken a look at that.”
  • In leading the Mavericks to a win over Miami on Thursday, Luka Doncic helped the team snap a three-game losing streak and became the first player in NBA history to record 35-point triple-doubles in four straight contests. “You’re seeing something as rare as a Picasso,” head coach Jason Kidd said of his All-NBA guard, while recently acquired forward P.J. Washington called his new teammate’s play “insane,” per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Washington said. “I mean, he’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen play and just to be on his team, I think it’s special. So just cherish every moment.”
  • After ranking 27th in Willie Green‘s first season with the team and 15th last season, the Pelicans are up to fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting (38.2%) in 2023/24. As Christian Clark of details, a combination of new additions – including rookie Jordan Hawkins – and internal improvements from players like Herbert Jones have made New Orleans a much more dangerous team from outside.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Pelicans, Mavs, Brunson

Rockets head coach Ime Udoka said he was considering making changes to the starting lineup just before the All-Star break, but with the opening night starting five healthy again, he wants to give the group more time to show what it can do, at least for now, according to Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link).

Took a look at some things over the last 27 or so games,” Udoka said. “I think I cut 54 (games) in half and wanted to get a look when we are more whole. Looking at Dillon (Brooks) missing nine games, Fred (VanVleet) missing the last five, Jabari (Smith) missing four, and the ups and downs we had to start those games with different lineups. I felt we played a lot better, obviously, in the first 27 than the last 27. So I want to get back to that consistency, and we’ll take a look at our group going forward as is and see if we get back to the consistency and competitiveness that we had in the first 27.”

As Lerner writes, the Rockets are 18-17 with VanVleet, Jalen Green, Brooks, Smith and Alperen Sengun starting, but just 6-13 with any other lineups. They’ve also gone 1-6 without VanVleet this season. The veteran guard will be active for the back-to-back set Thursday and Friday after missing Houston’s previous five games with a left adductor strain.

I had a little bit of an extended break, so it’s really good for me, obviously, to rehab and get back healthy,” VanVleet said, per Lerner. “I had a good week to train and get some good work in. So feeling good and just excited to be back with the group.”

Rookie wing Cam Whitmore, who missed the last three games heading into the break with a sprained ankle, is expected to return this week, Lerner adds, while second-year forward Tari Eason was being evaluated by a doctor on Wednesday to determine a prognosis for his leg injury, which has kept him out for 32 games in 2023/24.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • After competing in the play-in tournament the past two seasons, once advancing to the playoffs and once being immediately eliminated, the Pelicans hope to avoid the tournament altogether by making the playoffs outright in 2023/24, per Christian Clark of “It’s definitely one of our goals,” head coach Willie Green said. “To take another step. That step for us is to not be in the play-in. We can control our own destiny with piling up as many wins as we can.” After winning seven of eight leading into the break, New Orleans is currently 33-22, the No. 5 seed in the West. However, the Pelicans only lead the No. 8 seed Kings by one-and-a-half games.
  • Coach Jason Kidd may be preaching patience but the time for the Mavericks to win is now, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News argues. Dallas is sitting in seventh place in the West but possesses the league’s most explosive backcourt, along with frontcourt upgrades made at the trade deadline.
  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson confirmed that he wanted to stay with the Mavericks, but said they didn’t negotiate with him seriously enough during his walk year in 2021/22. Brunson would have signed for much less than he received from the Knicks if the Mavs hadn’t balked at a four-year extension early in the process. He made those comments during a podcast as relayed by Andrew Battifarano of the New York Post. “I really did want to stay in Dallas,” Brunson said on the “All The Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. “Before my fourth season in Dallas, my last season in Dallas, we try to extend our contract — whatever we can get. The most we can get is like four years and $55 million. And obviously we wanted to do that, I wanted to stay there and I thought I would be there for a long time. I liked my role there.”

Dana Gauruder contributed to this report.

Rockets’ Stone Discusses Adams Deal, Green, Deadline Talks

After the Rockets acquired Steven Adams a week before the trade deadline in a move with next season in mind, the front office had plenty of discussions about deals that would’ve helped the team more in the short term, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Houston kicked the tires on players like Kelly Olynyk, Andre Drummond, Jericho Sims, and Xavier Tillman, among others, but couldn’t find a trade that worked for both sides.

“We certainly weren’t going to do something that would hurt us on a going-forward basis,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “The moves we were the most excited about were moves where we thought that could help us in the short term and also the long term, the moves subsequent to (the trade for) Steven.
We were very excited about acquiring Steven. Subsequently, a lot of the ones we had long discussions about were moves that would have provided elements this year maybe that we don’t have, as well as stuff for the future.

“But they didn’t happen, and we’re fine with that. We like our group, and this gives everybody on our current roster an opportunity to shine.”

If the Rockets had wanted to make a more significant deal, it would’ve likely required them to part with a player from their young core: Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Tari Eason, Amen Thompson, or Cam Whitmore. But Stone said the team wasn’t looking to move on from any of those youngsters, adding that he and head coach Ime Udoka were in agreement on the deals they pursued and those they didn’t.

“We’re looking at the long term more so than anything,” Udoka said. “When you have that many young, talented players, you want to see what they become and not rush to judgment on anything.
As far as those guys, everyone’s going to check in when you have this amount of young talent. We’re trying to win. We’re in the development and winning stage at the same time, so people checked in. We knew they would. They are talented young guys, and we have some duplicated positions there. We like what we’re seeing from those guys and want to see what we are as a whole unit.”

Here are a few more of Stone’s most notable comments from Monday’s post-deadline media session:

On the acquisition of Adams:

“I think we got a really high-level basketball player. A guy who’s been a dominant rebounding force in the NBA for the last five, six years. One of the best defenders in the NBA. We obviously feel great with Alperen, but now we have two truly starter-level centers next year. Depth is extraordinarily important. On top of that, he’s a very different player and will be a good complement on and off the court for our group.”

On the long-term fit of Jalen Green, whose name popped up in some predeadline rumors:

“Jalen has been and continues to be, on paper, a great fit with us. He has a skill set that isn’t really replicated on our roster. My expectation of him – and he knows this, and I think he echoed in his postgame comments – my expectation is that the defense, which has gotten better, is still going to get a lot better. That the physicality and the efficiency are all going to get better. He needs to take those steps. That’s extraordinarily important. He’s aware of it. We’re aware of it. And that’s the challenge for him and for us.”

On Stone’s assessment of his own job performance in the past year:

“I’m happy with the choices we made. I think for the most part, we’ve gotten what we want. And the additions of Fred (VanVleet) and Dillon (Brooks) were necessary and really important. I like that we brought Boban (Marjanovic) back. I like that we have Jeff (Green). I love the hire of Ime. And then I think we did well drafting Cam and Amen. So we had a very successful offseason, which set us up to make the right steps for this season.

“But I would say for myself, similar to our young guys, it’s not good enough. And so they need to improve. Our front office — not just me, all of us, our coaching staff, all of us — we’ve got to continue on the grind and make sure the choices we make between now and the end of the season, the ones in the offseason all set us up to have the best possible chance to win a championship in the short term. Not meaning like a year or two, but not 20 years either. And that’s very much our goal. And my goal.”

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Wembanyama, Adams, Irving, Doncic

Zion Williamson scored the game-winning layup against the Spurs on Friday night. Afterward, the Pelicans forward lavished praise on Victor Wembanyama, who finished the game with 16 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and two steals.

“Vic is a very special player,” Williamson said of the Spurs rookie, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “We were just talking about it in the locker room. He’s a dude that can get two or three Defensive Player of the Years and also, I don’t want to put a limit on it, but he can get Defensive Player of the Year and MVPs. We haven’t seen nothing like that. We’ve seen things close, but not like that. He’s an amazing player. Especially with [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] over there, he’ll continue to develop.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Wembanyama played 27 minutes against Cleveland on Saturday the second night of a back-to-back and appeared visibly fatigued at times coming off the floor, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News noted. The Spurs big man admits the NBA grind is starting to wear on him. “I’m glad my body’s healthy, even though it’s hard,” Wembanyama said. “It’s not giving me any red flags. Of course, I like everything, the conditioning to be perfect, but you got to pick your battle.” He has also battled allergies in recent days. “My immune system is also impacted,” Wembanyama said.
  • The Rockets’ acquisition of Steven Adams shows they are determined to make deals for their long-range impact, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Adams is out for the remainder of this season but will give Houston a quality backup center behind Alperen Şengün. It’s highly unlikely the Rockets will pursue a star-level player before the trade deadline, especially since they included Victor Oladipo’s contract in the Adams deal. They are also cautious about acquiring players who would take minutes away from rookies Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson.
  • Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving is listed as questionable for Monday’s game against Philadelphia, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Irving has missed the last six games with a sprained right thumb. Luka Doncic is also questionable after aggravating his sore right ankle.

Rockets Notes: Whitmore, Thompson, Brooks, Adams, Eason, VanVleet

The Rockets got 83 of their 135 points from players who are 21 or younger in a Friday win against the Raptors, observes Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. Rookies Cam Whitmore (25 points) and Amen Thompson (19 points) both secured career highs in the victory, putting an exclamation point on impressive recent stretches for both players.

Whitmore has scored 104 points in 109 minutes over the past five games and became the second-youngest player behind Kobe Bryant to score at least 25 points in 25 or fewer minutes, according to Feigen. He wasn’t named to the Rising Stars Event, but since the start of January, Whitmore is averaging 13.8 points per game. This comes after the 19-year-old slipped to No. 20 after draft night after long having been viewed as a probable lottery pick.

The Rising Stars, draft, everything, it goes on,” Whitmore said. “I feel like I’m underrated, to be honest.

The Rockets are currently just outside the play-in picture at 23-25, but they’ve already surpassed last season’s total of 22 wins. Three of their five starters (Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith) are 21 or younger.

We know what we have going forward,” head coach Ime Udoka said. “We just, as much as we can, want to expedite the process. I think everyone is showing growth and progress this year. Can’t wait to see what they become. We do have a bunch of guys that we love. They’re taking the next step in front of our eyes.

We have more Rockets notes:

  • Swingman Dillon Brooks is excited to have former Grizzlies teammate Steven Adams on board after the Rockets acquired him this week, according to Feigen. “[Adams] was super excited,” Brooks said. “I told him, Houston is a great place. He’ll love it. He asked me about Ime. Told him, ‘Ime’s a players’ coach. Everything is for the players.’ That’s what he’s really about because he has his own routine, his own stuff to get himself ready. He’s got a lot to teach.” Brooks and Udoka raved about the physicality Adams can bring to the Rockets once he gets healthy.
  • Following a solid start to the season, forward Tari Eason hasn’t played since Jan. 1 due to a leg injury. He could be cleared to play as soon as next week, Feigen writes in another piece, and he reflected on the recovery process. “It’s been difficult, I’d say mentally, probably more than anything, just dealing with being out and having to watch the guys play and stuff like that,” Eason said. “It’s been hard, especially because I’ve never really been in a position like this. But there’s been lessons, so I feel like I’ve grown. I’ll come back stronger.
  • While he’s enjoying his time in Houston, guard Fred VanVleet often reflects on his time in Toronto, writes’s Michael Grange. VanVleet spent seven years with the Raptors, helping deliver a title in 2019. However, he knew there was a chance he wouldn’t be a Raptor forever. “I got to closely monitor Kyle [Lowry] go through the change, closely monitor DeMar [DeRozan]. Obviously those are two of my closest friends. Seeing those guys [move on] you say, ‘OK, it’s possible.’ Like, if we can trade DeMar, who the hell am I?” VanVleet said. “If Kyle got to the point where it was time for him to go — he’s the best Raptor of all time — who the hell am I? You have to be realistic with yourself. It always is a dream of a player to kind of stay with one team his whole career. But it’s getting less and less realistic these days.