Dillon Brooks

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Grizzlies, McCollum, Nance, THJ, Osman

Dillon Brooks, who has been lauded by Rockets coaches and teammates alike for the grit and toughness he has brought to his new team in Houston, believes his former club in Memphis has missed the edge he brought to the court, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required) writes. Ahead of his first meeting against Memphis on Wednesday, Brooks said the Grizzlies “have no swagger” this season without him.

“It’s like the girlfriend that you used to have,” Brooks said of his departure from the Grizzlies, who have a 3-10 record. “You don’t know how good she is until she’s gone.”

Asked about Brooks’ comments, Grizzlies wing Desmond Bane said he “hasn’t seen anything that he’s said,” while Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins took the high road, saying that he’s “really happy for (Brooks’) early-season success,” per Wynston Wilcox of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Although they weren’t willing to get dragged into a war of words with Brooks, it sounds like there are certainly some Grizzlies players who are looking forward to facing their former teammate.

“I want to play against him,” Jaren Jackson Jr. told Wilcox. “I’ve been talking trash to Dillon for five years, so it’s great.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • While it remains unclear exactly when they’ll return to game action, injured Pelicans veterans CJ McCollum (collapsed lung) and Larry Nance Jr. (rib fracture) are trending in the right direction. Both players were full participants in practice on Tuesday, according to head coach Willie Green (Twitter link via Will Guillory of The Athletic). McCollum, who said he also fractured a rib, told reporters that he feels good and is awaiting medical clearance from his pulmonologist, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “I should be cleared here pretty soon,” he said.
  • Even without McCollum and Nance available, the Pelicans have been playing good basketball lately, winning three of their last four games, including a 36-point blowout over Sacramento on Monday. As Clark details for NOLA.com, star forward Zion Williamson said a team meeting helped spark the turnaround. “We weren’t on the same page before,” Williamson said. “Now we’re all on the same page. … We talked about what we wanted to do as a unit. That’s what we are going to live and die with. Since we are all on the same page, I think we have been gelling together a lot better.”
  • Mavericks wing Tim Hardaway Jr. had started more often than not in his previous four-plus seasons in Dallas, but he has embraced a sixth man role this season, writes Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. Hardaway’s 18.2 points per game and .405 3PT% would be career highs. “I said before, first and foremost, in order for you to know that you’re going in that role, you have to embrace it and accept it,” Hardaway said. “That’s what (Jamal Crawford) did. That’s what (Lou Williams) did. That’s what J.R. Smith did. And that’s what I’m trying to do is have that same mentality.”
  • When the Spurs acquired Cedi Osman as part of the three-team sign-and-trade deal sending Max Strus to Cleveland, it wasn’t clear whether the veteran forward would even be in their plans. However, Osman is playing well in a regular role off the bench and has earned praise from head coach Gregg Popovich, who called him “a competitor of the highest order,” according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). “He’s been really good for us,” Popovich said of the 28-year-old, who is on an expiring contract.

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Hawkins, Morant, Rose

Current Rockets guard Dillon Brooks felt unsupported as member of the Grizzlies during last season’s Western Conference playoffs, as detailed by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix. Brooks was lambasted on social media following public disputes with the likes of Draymond Green and LeBron James, which ultimately paved the way for his exit from Memphis.

The Grizzlies fell to the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs last season in disappointing fashion. Brooks made comments suggesting LeBron was past his prime, calling him “old,” and then received backlash from fans and players alike. The former Oregon Duck averaged 10.5 points in that series, shooting a poor 31.2% from the field, prompting the team to let Brooks know he wouldn’t be brought back under any circumstance.

What I didn’t like about Memphis was they allowed that so they can get out of the woodwork, and then I’m the scapegoat of it all,” Brooks said. “That’s what I didn’t appreciate. And then ultimately they’ll come to me on the low, as men, one on one and tell me something, but then not defend me when everything went down.

Brooks spent the first six seasons of his career with the Grizzlies after they selected him with the 45th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He spent 345 games there (318 as a starter) and averaged 14.5 PPG across those seasons. After the Grizzlies didn’t bring him back, he was signed-and-traded to the Rockets on a brand-new four-year, $86MM contract. Still, he wasn’t happy with the way his time in Memphis ended.

It wasn’t what I wanted,” Brooks said. “The whole season was not what I wanted. I feel like we did better when I was a focal point in that organization. They chose a different route. But I’m happy that through all the bulls–t I was able to get what I always deserved.

Now, Brooks is part of a Houston team that appreciated the defensive tenacity, grit, and veteran know-how he brings to the franchise. He’s averaging 13.7 points while hitting a career-best 53.3% of his 3.3 deep-ball attempts per game, helping the Rockets get out to a 6-3 start on the season.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans rookie Jordan Hawkins is off to a strong start to his career, writes NOLA.com’s Christian Clark. Hawkins ranks 11th in the NBA in three-pointers, is shooting 36.4% on catch-and-shoot threes and is averaging 13.7 points per game. “Don’t care if I miss a shot,” Hawkins said. “I know the next one is going in. That’s the mentality you have to have. You have to have tough skin to be a shooter. I’m going to use it now as much as I can. Me having a bad game, missing a shot, I know I can’t hang my head. I know the next one is going in. Because my team needs me.” The Pelicans selected Hawkins with the 14th overall pick in the 2023 draft.
  • A Shelby County Circuit Court judge granted Grizzlies guard Ja Morant an immunity hearing in his civil case, which stems from allegations that he punched a teenager at his home in July 2022, reports to Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Lucas Finton. Morant has not been criminally charged and his attorneys argue the altercation was in self defense. The hearing is set for Dec. 11. According to documents, during a pickup basketball game at Morant’s home, the teen threw a basketball at Morant’s head, which caused the Grizzlies guard to swing at the teen. Thursday’s ruling marks a win for Morant, according to Finton, who writes that with immunity on the table, he’s one step closer to being removed from the case.
  • Grizzlies guard Derrick Rose is expected back “very soon,” according to The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Damichael Cole (Twitter link). Rose hasn’t played since Oct. 30 as he deals with a knee injury.

Rockets Notes: Winning Streak, Udoka, VanVleet, Brooks

Ime Udoka has quickly turned his players into believers, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Winning their fourth consecutive game Wednesday night — and their third straight by 18 points or more — the Rockets looked like the team Udoka envisioned when he agreed to become their head coach. Houston forced the Lakers out of their normal offense, won the rebounding battle by a 57-34 margin and seemed more determined to get to every loose ball.

“They’re buying into what we’re asking them to do,” Udoka said. “You see the effort there and the attention to detail behind it.”

Udoka was brought in to change to culture of the organization after three years of rebuilding. Houston added veteran leadership by signing free agents Dillon Brooks, Fred VanVleet and Jeff Green and has looked like a completely different team, especially on defense.

“Just us being connected,” Jae’Sean Tatesaid. “We literally move as a unit out there and our communication is something that I haven’t experienced in the last few years here and it’s fun. I think that’s the biggest thing — that we are really having fun and we are trusting each other to be in the right spots and cover up for each other.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Udoka was out of the NBA for an entire season after being suspended in Boston for an improper relationship with a female staff member, but those issues haven’t followed him to his new job, per Steve Bulpett of Heavy. “What happened in Boston is what happened in Boston,” a Rockets source told Bulpett. “It hasn’t come up with anyone.”
  • VanVleet has been a strong on-court leader and a perfect conduit for Udoka’s emphasis on toughness, Bulpett adds. VanVleet grew frustrated trying to deliver the same messages in Toronto, but his new teammates in Houston have been far more receptive. “He’s exactly what that group of guys needed,” another of Bulpett’s sources said. “Young guys all want to establish themselves when they show up in the league, and the way (VanVleet) plays shows them they can still get theirs — and get it easier — if they work through each other. And once a young guy starts to taste a little success, that’s a great motivator in itself.”
  • Before Wednesday’s game, LeBron James said he understands why the Rockets were willing to commit more than $80MM over four years to Brooks, his bitter playoff rival in Memphis, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I think in his case, he was worthy of the contract he got,” James said. “He’s put in the work since he came out of Oregon, and that’s what Houston found value in and he’s here.”

Southwest Notes: Eason, Brooks, Biyombo, Wemby

Rockets forward Tari Eason is nearing a return from the leg injury that has sidelined him for the first two weeks of the 2022/23 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). According to Feigen, head coach Ime Udoka said on Monday that Eason will practice on Tuesday and could be cleared to play in Wednesday’s game vs. the Lakers.

The second-year forward missed the Rockets’ final three preseason games and has been out for the club’s first six regular season contests due to a stress reaction in his left leg. Eason is one of Houston’s stronger defenders, so the team – which is riding a three-game winning streak – could use benefit from his presence on the wing.

“He’s a guy that kind of comes up with everything all the time,” Udoka said of Eason last week. “A great offensive rebounder. Just some grit and toughness that he brings. I think that physicality, obviously, is beneficial for our group. He does some things that are very instinctual and natural for him that we stressed.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • While he’s known for his defense, offseason addition Dillon Brooks is providing the Rockets with solid offensive play in the early going this season, Feigen writes in another subscriber-only story for The Houston Chronicle. Brooks has posted a scorching hot .593/.565/.938 shooting line through his first six games in Houston.
  • In his second game with the Grizzlies on Sunday, Bismack Biyombo was the team’s starting center, replacing Xavier Tillman (knee) and logging 26 minutes. The big man helped Memphis secure its first win of the season by putting up eight points, 11 rebounds four assists, and three blocked shots. Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the story on Biyombo’s instant impact in the middle.
  • The Grizzlies signed Biyombo to his one-year, $5MM contract using a portion of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. The Grizzlies also could have signed Biyombo using a disabled player exception if they were granted one for Steven Adams‘ season-ending knee injury, but there has been no confirmation yet that the team has been approved for a DPE for Adams.
  • The Spurs have a 110.9 defensive rating when Victor Wembanyama is on the court compared to a disastrous 129.4 mark when he sits, a remarkable split for a rookie, albeit in a small sample. Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscriber link) and Kelly Iko of The Athletic take a closer look at the impact that the No. 1 pick is having on defense for San Antonio.

Rockets Notes: Oladipo, Robinson-Earl, Boban, Brooks, Landale

There’s “little” belief among NBA personnel that Victor Oladipo will be able to play much – if at all – during the 2023/24 season as he continues to recover from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Kelly Iko and John Hollinger of The Athletic agree that Oladipo will likely be sidelined for most or all of the coming season.

However, a source with knowledge of the the team’s plans tells The Athletic that the Rockets intend to keep Oladipo under contract until February’s deadline if they can’t trade him before then.

As Hollinger explains, being able to use Oladipo’s expiring $9.45MM contract in a subsequent trade was Houston’s prime motivating factor for giving up two second-round picks in its deal with Oklahoma City. The thinking is that the Rockets will be able to carry Oladipo well into the season if necessary, which may not have been a viable path with Kevin Porter Jr., given the optics of his domestic assault charges and the fact that his partial guarantee for 2024/25 would have increased if he remained under contract through opening night.

While Oladipo may make a better trade chip at this point than Porter, the 31-year-old’s knee injury means that he won’t have positive value either. If the Rockets want to acquire a rotation player using his expiring salary, they’ll have to give up additional assets beyond the two second-round picks they surrendered to land him.

Alec Burks and Talen Horton-Tucker are among the potential trade targets that have already been connected to Houston.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • With Oladipo considered likely to be on Houston’s regular season roster, it’s possible Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who was acquired from the Thunder in the same trade, will be the odd man out for a Rockets team that has 16 players on standard contracts, according to Hollinger. Alperen Sengun and Jock Landale are expected to be the club’s top two centers, so Robinson-Earl and Boban Marjanovic, who has a minimum-salary contract that’s partially guaranteed for $1.3MM, could be vying for the 15th regular season roster spot as well as the third center role, Hollinger speculates.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Iko explores the impact that free agent addition Dillon Brooks is having on the Rockets’ defensive mindset. The feisty forward is earning praise from his teammates and head coach Ime Udoka. “Dillon’s been great,” Udoka said. “We want to challenge our younger guys to defend at a higher level, and I think bringing in the right personnel, the right veterans, has been crucial to that. Not only them pulling guys aside and giving them pointers but directly watching them on the court. To have those guys gives us versatility and raises the expectations of the whole group.”
  • Landale, who injured his left ankle in a World Cup tune-up game in August, still isn’t feeling quite like his old self, but he’s getting closer to full strength, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “It’s a rehab process. It’s going to be a little bit a little bit before I’m back 100% healthy,” Landale said, referring to the ankle sprain as a “significant” injury. “But I feel I’m in a good spot where I can play, play competitively. I just want to be the me of last year.”

NBA Fines Dillon Brooks $25K

Rockets wing Dillon Brooks was fined $25K by the NBA on Thursday, the league announced in a press release (Twitter link).

According to the statement, Brooks was fined for “recklessly making contact” with Pacers forward/center Daniel Theis in the groin area during a Tuesday preseason game between Indiana and Houston.

The incident, for which Brooks was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected, occurred with 7:27 remaining in the first quarter of the Rockets’ 122-103 win over the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 10 at Toyota Center in Houston,” the statement reads.

Speaking after the game to reporters, Brooks questioned the ejection, suggesting that he gets “picked on” due to his reputation as an instigator.

The Rockets acquired Brooks via sign-and-trade on a four-year, $86MM deal in July after the former Oregon standout spent the first six seasons of his career in Memphis. He holds career averages of 14.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Rockets Notes: VanVleet, Brooks, Eason, Green, Bullock

The addition of Fred VanVleet provides a major upgrade as the Rockets try to move up the standings after three years of rebuilding, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic says in a discussion with Kelly Iko about the team’s prospects. Vecenie notes that VanVleet will be a reliable leader for Houston, which gave about 2,000 backcourt minutes last season to Daishen Nix, TyTy Washington and Josh Christopher.

The Rockets had been using Kevin Porter Jr., who is away from the team due to assault charges, as their point guard even though it’s not his natural position. Vecenie expects improvement just from having a true leader on the court, even though he views VanVleet as the league’s 12th- to 15-best point guard.

Vecenie adds that VanVleet’s shooting was down last season, but it was notably better after the Raptors traded for Jakob Poeltl to give them an effective screener. VanVleet can hit threes, make the right decisions on offense and challenge opponents on defense, and Vecenie notes that those are all areas where the team needed to improve.

There’s more from Houston:

  • Vecenie also likes the addition of Dillon Brooks, but believes his four-year contract might be “a bit aggressive” because of the potential of Tari Eason. Vecenie says Eason was “phenomenal” at Summer League, and there’s a chance that he’ll be better than Brooks by the end of the season. Vecenie observes that Eason provides the same type of high-energy defense as Brooks, but without the questionable shot selection that can bog down offenses. At 40.2%, Brooks had the fourth-worst effective field goal percentage in the league last season.
  • Coach Ime Udoka talked about the need for Brooks to play under control after he was ejected early in Tuesday’s preseason opener (video link). “You have to learn to control your emotions and stay in the game, Udoka said. “You can’t get yourself taken out in the first quarter.” Brooks said his reputation was responsible for the ejection, but referees determined that his low blow to Pacers center Daniel Theis was intentional.
  • Free agent additions Jeff Green and Reggie Bullock are expected to make their debuts with the Rockets on Thursday night in New Orleans, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Green signed with Houston this summer to be a veteran leader after winning a title in Denver last season, while Bullock was added last week for outside shooting help after the Spurs waived him.

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Green, Zion, Smart, K. Johnson

Just four-and-a-half minutes into his first game with the Rockets, Dillon Brooks provided a reminder of his occasional tendency to take his defensive tenacity a step too far, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Brooks was ejected from Houston’s preseason opener with 7:27 left in the first quarter after officials determined he struck Pacers center Daniel Theis in the groin.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Brooks – who signed a four-year, $86MM deal with the Rockets in July – suggested his reputation was a factor in the quick hook he received on Tuesday.

“I tried to navigate a screen,” he said. “I might have tapped him below waist. But he got right back up. I don’t know. It’s weird that every time it happens to me, I get picked on. I guess it’s part of reputation.”

Asked if there’s a target on his back due to his past actions, Brooks didn’t dispute the idea.

“I don’t know. What’s my name?” he said, per Feigen. “The name is ‘Dillon the villain,’ so I guess.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Asked about his goals for the 2023/24 season, Rockets guard Jalen Green provided a simple response, according to Feigen (subscription required): “Winning. Winning. Winning. … Winning is very important in the NBA. I haven’t done any of that. It’s time for that to change.”
  • Following a promising offseason in which he invested heavily in his personal training staff, forward Zion Williamson and the Pelicans‘ new-look offense looked good in Tuesday’s opener, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Williamson had 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists in just 15 minutes of action. “You can condition,” head coach Willie Green said. “You can lift. You can do a ton of cardio. But the best basketball shape is to play basketball.”
  • Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins offered a minor update on Tuesday on injured guard Marcus Smart, who has missed the team’s first two preseason games due to ab soreness. “It’s day-to-day. It’s kind of light core work right now,” Jenkins said (Twitter link via Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com). “Just being smart, anticipate a little bit more ramp up as week goes on.”
  • In a conversation with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Spurs wing Keldon Johnson spoke about his desire to become a better defender, what his role will look like in 2023/24, and his first impressions of Victor Wembanyama.
  • In case you missed it, you can vote on the 2023/24 win totals for all five Southwest teams right here.

Rockets Notes: Green, Harden, VanVleet, Veterans

In an interesting article for ESPN, Zach Lowe details why Jalen Green could be the key for the Rockets to turn the corner in 2023/24 and beyond.

Green, 21, had impressive counting stats in his second season, averaging 22.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.7 APG in 76 games (34.2 MPG). However, as Lowe notes, the former No. 2 overall pick struggled at times with scoring efficiency (.416/.338/.786 shooting), decision-making (2.6 turnovers per game) and defense.

According to Lowe, Green has shown he can make all the pick-and-roll passes necessary to manipulate defenses, but has been inconsistent with actually executing them. Lackadaisical play on both ends has also been an issue, but the team believes it can be corrected.

This is a huge year for him,” GM Rafael Stone told ESPN. “It’s on him to really put together all the things he’s worked on. You see individual games where he’s locked in — whether it’s on-ball defense, help-side defense, making the right reads in the pick-and-roll. And then there are other games where he just kind of let go of the rope. He’s a bucket. It’s about all the little things.”

Green will be eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Houston wants to lean into Green’s play-making, which is one reason why the team went after Fred VanVleet — who is adept at playing both on and off the ball — instead of James Harden in free agency, Lowe writes in the same story. “Nothing against James,” head coach Ime Udoka told ESPN, “but Fred is just a better fit. I coached James in Brooklyn. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. The words ‘Ime doesn’t want James’ never came out of my mouth. It was, ‘Let’s look at the best fit.’ If we want Jalen and the young guys to take the next steps, we need them to have the ball. As for me saying I don’t want James, that was never the case. It was about fit.”
  • VanVleet has made an immediate impact on Houston with his leadership and savvy two-way play, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “I’m more of a booster, a confidence giver, energy giver with all of these guys — especially Jabari (Smith),” VanVleet said. “Keep boosting and instilling that confidence because when guys go out there and play free, you’ll get the best version of them.”
  • VanVleet isn’t the only veteran the Rockets added in free agency this summer, with Dillon Brooks and Jeff Green also in the fold. As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link) writes, their experience and skill should help a young team going forward. “First and foremost, I would say experience,” Green said of what he will bring. “Being in every type of situation possible, winning the championship last year, going to the playoffs multiple years, I bring the experience itself and teaching these young guys what it takes to be a true professional. The winning aspect, what it takes, the everyday grind, them seeing it, I think it will help in the long run.”

Rockets Notes: VanVleet, Brooks, Bullock, Udoka

Structure, stability and order will be the emphasis for a Rockets team that lacked all three during its rebuilding process, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Sporting a roster filled with young players, Houston ranked 27th and 26th in points per possession during the past two seasons, and Iko notes that former coach Stephen Silas’ philosophy of giving his guards the freedom to improvise didn’t work out the way he hoped.

Rockets management signaled an end to that approach by replacing Silas with Ime Udoka and offering big money to free agent Fred VanVleet, who is one of the league’s most efficient ball-handlers. At Monday’s media day, VanVleet said he wants his professionalism and work ethic to become “contagious” with his new teammates.

“A lot of that comes down to systems and schemes, seeing what sets we’re going to run, how coach puts us out there and who’s gonna do what,” VanVleet said. “But ultimately, it’s just having that poise and presence to slow things down and get guys where they need to be. It’s time to rein it in and get some structure and figure out how to maximize these guys’ potential. I think I can be key there.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Dillon Brooks, the Rockets’ other significant addition in free agency, mentioned “baby steps,” “learning lessons” and “slow process” when talking about revamping the team’s defense, Iko adds in the same piece. Brooks, a second-team All-Defensive selection with Memphis last season, also vows to be a “second voice” to emphasize the messages delivered by Udoka. “You always need a second voice after the first voice commands it,” Brooks said. “I’m gonna do everything I can on the defensive end — if it’s guarding the best player, diving on loose balls, getting physical with another player. I’m about all of that. … I’m just a competitor. I love to compete at a high level. I just feel like a lot of guys want to play in their bubble, and then when the heat gets turned up, they start feeling a way. I do everything to get into a player’s head, make him tired. I’ve been pretty good at it, been working that trade for a while.”
  • Reggie Bullock should have a “significant role” in Udoka’s rotation after reportedly committing to the Rockets following a buyout with San Antonio, Iko states in another story with Shams Charania. Houston has been looking for more shooters, especially with Kevin Porter Jr. unlikely to return, and Bullock is a proven three-point threat.
  • The main message coming out of media day is that rebuilding is finished and it’s time for the team to be competitive, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston made several veteran additions in the offseason to try to speed up the process, but Udoka said the most important factor will be progress from the young core. “Internal growth is going to be the biggest step for us,” Udoka said. “The guys that have been here and have gone through the rough times, we need to see growth and improvement from them.”