Dillon Brooks

Gilgeous-Alexander, Murray Headline Canada’s Preliminary Olympic Roster

Canada Basketball has formally announced its preliminary roster for the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris. The 20-man group will have to be trimmed to 12 players for Paris.

Here are the 20 players vying for spots on Team Canada’s Olympic roster, which will be coached by new Nets head coach Jordi Fernandez:

All 12 players who helped Canada clinch an Olympic berth and claim a bronze medal at the 2023 World Cup are included in the preliminary roster, along with several notable newcomers, including Murray, Wiggins, Lyles, and Nembhard.

Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe and Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin, whose seasons ended earlier due to injuries, will also attend training camp with Team Canada, but won’t be in the mix for roster spots this summer, according to today’s announcement.

Even without Sharpe or Mathurin in the mix, the Canadians can put together a formidable NBA-heavy squad that should be in contention for a medal in Paris. Gilgeous-Alexander, Barrett, Brooks, Dort, Powell, Olynyk, and Alexander-Walker were the top seven players on last year’s squad and look like relatively safe bets to represent Canada again. If Murray, Wiggins, Lyles, and Nembhard were to join them, that would leave just one open spot for the remaining nine invitees.

One notable omission from the 20-man preliminary roster is veteran guard Cory Joseph, who spoke to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca earlier this week to express his disappointment about being left off the list. Joseph was unable to compete for a spot on the World Cup team last year due to a back injury, but was among the 14 players who made a commitment in 2022 to be part of Canada’s “summer core” for the current Olympic cycle.

“I took the honor of playing for your country very seriously and did it many times over the years,” Joseph told Grange. “This is not me complaining, I’m not a complainer. But there were times when I put FIBA basketball and playing for my country over my NBA situation at the time, whether I was in a contract year and I had no contract at the time and I went to go play for my country, whether I had little bumps and tweaks, I was there. Whether guys came or not, I always thought we still had a chance. For me it’s a little disheartening to be like, ‘Wow, I wasn’t even given an opportunity to compete for whatever position?’

“… I had planned to go to camp, and when you’re talking about the (last three or four spots) on the roster, there’s a pool of talented guys you could put on the roster, (but) I don’t see, in that situation, where I wouldn’t at least be invited to camp to be one of those guys (to compete for a spot), so that’s where my disappointment is with the organization. … I don’t want to take away from the fact that Canada Basketball is in a great place. This is not that. I love all those guys. I want them to do well. Quote that. I just think I should have been invited to camp at the very least, 100 per cent.”

Team Canada will hold its training camp in Toronto from June 28 to July 7 before heading to Las Vegas for an exhibition game vs. Team USA on July 10. The Canadians will also play exhibition matches with France on July 19 and the winner of the Puerto Rico Olympic qualifying tournament on July 21.

Canada will be in Group A at the Olympics, along with Australia. The group will be filled out by the winners of the qualifying tournaments in Spain and Greece.

Rockets Notes: Offseason, Green, Sengun, Draft, Brooks, Landale

The Rockets made major changes to their roster during the 2023 offseason, bringing in top free agents like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. However, general manage Rafael Stone‘s comments this week suggest the team anticipates a quieter summer this time around, with a focus on internal improvement rather than outside additions, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

“I like my team,” Stone said. “So, I think potentially, we’re just bringing back everybody that we have. It doesn’t mean we won’t look at things, but I don’t think we’re sitting here today feeling like, ‘Oh we need to go get X’ at all.”

As Stone pointed out, the Rockets acquired injured center Steven Adams at the trade deadline and saw Alperen Sengun and Tari Eason go down with season-ending injuries of their own. Simply getting those three players on the court should go a long way toward fortifying the roster, which Stone described as “well-rounded” with “lots of talented players.”

The biggest decisions of the Rockets’ offseason might be whether to lock up Jalen Green and Sengun to long-term deals or to take a wait-and-see approach with those contract situations. Both players will be eligible for rookie scale extensions in July.

“The way the CBA is set up, you can extend — you don’t have to,” Stone said. “And you can always revisit next summer. We’ll have conversations, we’ll see what makes sense for us, what makes sense for them, and then both sides will end up making whatever decisions we make. But not feeling like it’s a burden or a crushing pressure or anything like that.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Houston will likely lose its own first-round pick to Oklahoma City, but controls a lottery selection via Brooklyn. Stone acknowledged that the team could explore trade possibilities with that first-rounder, given all the young players already on the roster, per Feigen. “We have to do the evaluation of the whole draft. One rule of thumb is, if you can get a really special player, you get him,” Stone said. “You can’t control the timing so anytime you can do it, you just do it. The flip side is we’re extraordinarily excited about our young guys now. There’s not an obvious source of minutes for anybody coming in. That applies equally well, maybe even more so, to a veteran coming in.”
  • Despite missing the postseason this spring for the first time since 2020, Dillon Brooks has no regrets about his decision to sign a long-term contract with the Rockets as a free agent last summer, according to Feigen (subscription required). “I feel good about my choice,” Brooks said. “I want to grow with these guys. I want to get Houston back where it needs to be.”
  • Another one of the Rockets’ 2023 free agent signees, Jock Landale expressed a similar sentiment to Brooks despite struggling for much of the season and not reclaiming a regular rotation role until March. “It was obviously rough early on. It was just about sticking with it and learning more about myself. No regrets at all,” Landale said, adding that he has made “lifelong friends” in Houston.
  • The NBA didn’t make any sort of announcement regarding Alperen Sengun‘s end-of-season award eligibility, but John Hollinger of The Athletic hears that the Rockets center was listed on the ballots sent out to voters by the league. A potential Most Improved Player candidate, Sengun played in 63 games before suffering a leg injury that ended his season. Based on the language of the 65-game rule, he’s award-eligible if an independent doctor determined the injury would likely sideline him through May 31.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Mamukelashvili, Collins, Brooks

The Grizzlies will be without 13 of their 15 standard contract players when they take on the Lakers on Friday (Twitter link via Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Damichael Cole), epitomizing an injury-mired and disappointing season.

Memphis dealt with long-term injuries to almost everyone on its roster and continues to cycle through 10-day contract hardship players to see what sticks. Two-way players have started over 50 combined games for the team that has seen an NBA-record 33 individual players suit up this year.

That leaves the Grizzlies, a team that is widely expected to be a playoff contender at full health, in a unique position this offseason. Players like GG Jackson and Vince Williams proved themselves as valuable young rotation pieces, while others like Jake LaRavia and Lamar Stevens are shouldering big minutes down the stretch. But with the likes of Luke Kennard, Marcus Smart and Desmond Bane set to return from injury next season, the Grizzlies will have crucial decisions to make.

Cole writes about the Grizzlies’ wing rotation logjam, noting that if you factor in Yuta Watanabe (player option), Ziaire Williams and John Konchar, the Grizzlies have nine wing players to account for next season. Some sort of movement on the roster, either by way of trade or waiver, would need to take place to balance the rotation.

Cole says that all signs point to the team picking up Kennard’s $14.7MM team option next season, but ponders whether the team could trade Ziaire Williams, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Grizzlies have shown a tendency to trade players in the final years of their deals, like Steven Adams and Tyus Jones, as well as former first-rounders on rookie contracts, such as David Roddy.

The Athletic’s Kelly Iko and John Hollinger explore a similar topic, with Hollinger expressing that he expects Memphis to trade Kennard or decline his option in an effort to dodge the tax. The pair also discuss the fact that the Grizzlies hold a lottery pick and explore potential free agent options the team could look to sign.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs big man Sandro Mamukelashvili is playing a prominent role in the rotation as of late, including starting two of San Antonio’s last three games. As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes, Mamukelashvili has become something of a favorite for coach Gregg Popovich, who has played the Georgian forward 20 or more minutes in his last five games. He has been on a rebounding tear over that stretch, pulling down 9.8 boards per contest, including a career-high 16 on Tuesday. “He’s like a perpetual motion kind of thing,” Popovich said. “He’s moving all the time, with or without the ball. Sometimes I think he doesn’t know exactly why, but I love his movement and his IQ. He knows how to play.” Mamukelashvili will be eligible for restricted free agency after the season.
  • After a disappointing start to the season, Spurs center Zach Collins is determined to finish the year in a strong fashion, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News. Collins lost his starting job after 20 games during a shooting slump, but it looks like he has regained his form from beyond the arc as of late. He shot 42.9% from three in March and has made 33.3% of his outside attempts through five games in April, a big improvement from the 29.3% he shot from October to February. “He’s becoming a real pro, a consistent player who we know what we can get from night after night,” Popovich said. “He’s a good competitor. His skills are improving, his understanding of the game is improving, and he’s getting more confident.” Collins is under contract with San Antonio for two more seasons.
  • Dillon Brooks has been thankful for his season with the Rockets but said he wants to be more like himself next season, writes Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. According to Feigen, Brooks would like to be a more physical defender next year. “I don’t want to stir the pot too much, but I feel like the NBA restrained me from playing that type of game,” Brooks said. “But I’ve got to be on a ‘I don’t care’ mentality and just deal with what comes with it.

International Notes: All-Star Game, Embiid, Wembanyama, Canada

In an appearance with Gayle King and Charles Barkley on CNN (video link), Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA will consider a U.S. vs. international format to revamp the All-Star Game. It’s one of several ideas that were brought up after last month’s All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, which concluded with the East defeating the West 211-186 in a contest that was low on competitiveness and defensive effort.

Silver called it “a great weekend, but it was not a basketball game,” and said changes to the format are being studied.

“I think maybe as opposed to trying to create a super competitive basketball game, which I am not sure the teams or the players really want, we should do different things and make it a celebration of basketball,” Silver said. “… “We are going to look at U.S. vs. international. I just think maybe we are past that point where we are going to play a truly competitive game.” 

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Joel Embiid opted to join Team USA in the Summer Olympics, assuming he’s healthy enough, but French basketball officials say they had serious discussions with the Sixers center before the decision was made, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Jean-Pierre Siutat, president of French basketball, and former NBA player Boris Diaw, general manager of the French men’s team, contend they had two meetings with Embiid regarding the possibility that he might play for France. “He said, yes, I want to (play), make the (passport),” Siutat said. “So I make the job, with the help of the government, to get a passport for him and for his son. And all the time, he said, ‘I want to play for the national team of France.’” Embiid disputes that version of events through a spokesman, claiming he never asked for a passport, Vardon adds.
  • Victor Wembanyama is setting the bar high as he tries to win a gold medal while playing at home in Paris, according to a Eurohoops story.  “Any other result than the first place would be a failure since we could have done better,” the Spurs rookie said. “You shouldn’t have any regrets, but it’s a very achievable goal”.
  • Canadian coach Jordi Fernandez is looking to fill out his Olympic roster around a core group consisting of Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderLuguentz DortRJ BarrettKelly OlynykNickeil Alexander-WalkerDwight Powell and Dillon Brooks, notes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Jamal Murray is expected to join them if health permits, and international star Melvin Ejim could get a spot as well. Koreen expects Canada to search around the NBA for the remainder of its 12-man roster.

Rockets Notes: Sengun, Play-In, Landale, Brooks

Rockets center Alperen Sengun‘s breakout campaign was cut short after he suffered a right ankle injury in March, but he firmly established himself as Houston’s star, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes. Not only is he Houston’s best player, but Iko asserts he may just be the most important as the Rockets continue to transition into a contender.

The talent level is real,” head coach Ime Udoka said. “It’s what you see on film and play against, and he’s taken a step as far as that. Competitiveness and going up against specific matchups right from day one. I think he’s improved defensively across the board, some of the things and challenges we’ve presented him with. He’s not even close to reaching his ceiling and has a ways to go, but he’s had a great year, and his future is bright.

Iko talked to 11 of Sengun’s teammates and all of them spoke highly of the All-Star caliber player.

Just being around him, he’s a good guy,” two-way guard Nate Hinton said. “He wants to win. He plays hard every night and tries to give it his all. That’s one thing I learned about him, going out there and taking the game seriously. Trying to dominate every night. He has a lot of game and can be one of the premier guys in this league if he takes care of his body. Just keep developing, lot of potential. Can also be a potential threat from 3 because he’s always open, they don’t guard him out there. If he hits a couple of those moving forward in his career, it will up his game some more.

We have more from the Rockets:

  • A month ago, the Rockets were out of the postseason picture and Udoka was questioning the team’s focus. At the end of February, Houston was 25-34, lost Sengun and Cam Whitmore due to injuries, and shut down injured forward Tari Eason. But now, as Iko explores in another story, Houston has won seven games in a row, as well as nine of its past 10. The Rockets are playing faster, shooting better and are playing aggressive defense. Now, at 34-35, they’re just 2.5 games out of the play-in tournament. The improved play of the likes of Jalen Green, Amen Thompson and Jock Landale is helping propel the team.
  • Landale’s improvement over the course of the season was on full display in Thursday’s win over the Bulls. As The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen observes (Twitter link), Landale finished that game with a season-high 14 points and season-high 10 rebounds, along with three blocks. He also matched his career high of five assists. Entering Thursday, Landale had been averaging 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in his past 10 games after averaging just 2.2 points and 2.1 rebounds before that.
  • Dillon Brooks and Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan were ejected after being involved in a scrum on Thursday, ESPN details. DeRozan came off a screen and hip-checked Green, who was bringing the ball up the court, sending the Rockets guard down in pain. The initial foul by DeRozan was declared a flagrant 2 and Brooks was given a technical for responding and getting physical with DeRozan. After the game, Iko asked Udoka about the number of scuffles Houston’s been involved in this season (Twitter link). “Not a bad thing to have chippy games,” Udoka said. “I don’t mind that part of it at all. If a guy takes a hit, teammates gotta stand up for each other.

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Williams, Jones, Brooks, Sochan

The Grizzlies upset the Bucks on Thursday, with young forwards GG Jackson and Vince Williams playing big parts in the victory. Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes that breakout years from Jackson and Williams are silver linings in an injury-riddled season from Memphis.

Jackson scored a career high-tying 27 points in the win over Milwaukee.

I try to be as coachable as possible,” Jackson said. “My high school coach called me a sponge back in the day. Not back in the day, it was like two years ago. I try to pick up on things as fast as I can, but not too fast to make sure I get every little detail.

Meanwhile, Williams finished that game with 18 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Both players look like they’ll fit perfectly on a fully healthy version of the Grizzlies. Williams gives Memphis another capable perimeter defender while Jackson’s ability to bring instant offense to the bench will be valuable.

Jackson in particular drew praise from Milwaukee’s stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard after the game, according to The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Jonah Dylan. “I thought he had a great game,” Lillard said. “He came out, he was letting it fly, no hesitation.

Antetokounmpo said he liked Jackson “a lot.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans wing Herbert Jones is shining from beyond the arc in his third season in the league, NOLA.com’s Christian Clark observes. Jones is shooting a career-high 40.7% from deep and is connecting on 52.6% of his threes since the New Year. “Herb has been shooting the ball well lately,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He is getting more and more confident in his shot.
  • Rockets wing Dillon Brooks‘ worst shooting season came last year with the Grizzlies, but he’s experiencing his best efficiency ever in his first year with Houston, Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicle writes. Overall, he’s taking smarter shots and helping Houston get into an offensive flow. “In general this year, I think he’s done a good job of really expanding his game and not getting pigeonholed into (the) defensive side only,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “… It’s a lot to play both sides of the ball, not just be a scorer or a defensive guy only. I think he welcomes that role this year. It was good carryover from the Canadian national team and the things he did with them.
  • Jeremy Sochan has had somewhat of a roller-coaster season with the Spurs this year. Sochan took over point guard duties to begin the season, an experiment that was taxing on him and wasn’t producing San Antonio’s best offensive product, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News. However, Sochan seemed to have no regrets about going through with the position change, even if temporarily, and expressed the need for outsiders to have patience while this core grows together. “I always had the mentality that the only way is up,” Sochan said. “Everything I do is for a reason, to learn and grow. So, yeah, I feel good. It’s just growing and learning even more. The sky is the limit.

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 Sportsnet.ca’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.

Lakers Notes: Vanderbilt, Davis, Whitmore, LeBron

Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt was ejected in the first half of the team’s Monday loss to Houston after some back and forth with Rockets forward Dillon Brooks. Vanderbilt earned his first technical foul for shoving Brooks in the chest, then picked up another technical just seconds later for jabbing a finger into the back of Brooks’ head (Twitter video link via Bleacher Report).

After the game, Vanderbilt’s teammates defended his actions, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, who notes that Brooks pushed the Lakers forward in the back as he was going airborne for a dunk a moment earlier (video link). A Lakers player also told McMenamin that Brooks called Vanderbilt a “p—y” during the exchange leading up to the ejection.

“He’s going for a wide-open dunk and (Brooks) just pushed him in the back,” Anthony Davis said. “It’s not a safe play. Guys get hurt like that. And you got to know what type of player (Brooks) is. (The referees) kind of let that just keep going on and (Brooks) kind of provoked it.

“He talks and says whatever he wants to the refs, to players and at the end of the day, we’re men. No man is going to talk towards another man the way he was talking to Vando. So, Vando did what he had to do.”

Brooks received a flagrant 1 foul later in the game for hitting LeBron James in the face as he went over his back on a rebound attempt (video link). Lakers head coach Darvin Ham suggested to reporters in his postgame media session that either that play or the earlier push on Vanderbilt could’ve warranted an ejection for the Rockets forward.

“Being competitive is one thing,” Ham said. “But … putting players at risk of injury with certain plays — I just watched it again before I came in here, (Brooks) pushes him in the back, a guy that’s in the air. Airborne, defenseless. Then Bron’s play, Bron goes to the basket and it’s a double move with his arms. One arm trying to deflect the ball and it goes back and then it goes across (James’) face. So maybe Dillon Brooks shouldn’t have been in the game, either.”

Ham added that “my hat’s off to Vando” for how he responded to Brooks’ physical play.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Anthony Davis has been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest vs. Atlanta, the second game of a back-to-back set for the Lakers (Twitter link via Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times). According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy and left hip spasm) said he felt “a little sore” on Monday and “couldn’t move how I usually move,” so he’ll get a night off.
  • Cam Whitmore‘s performance on Monday (20 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes) was a tough pill to swallow for the Lakers, who could’ve drafted the 19-year-old last June. Los Angeles used the No. 17 overall pick on Jalen Hood-Schifino, while Whitmore fell to the Rockets at No. 20. “The kid is going to be special, man,” Ham said of Whitmore before the game, per Buha. Ham also noted that the Lakers had a pre-draft workout with the former Villanova standout and referred to him as “another bright, young superstar that’s going to be in our league for a long time.”
  • Given LeBron James‘ age and the Lakers’ up-and-down play this season, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer posits that the two sides are facing a crossroads and explores what might be next for the franchise and for one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Udoka, Brooks, Eason, Ryan

The injuries that have short-circuited the Grizzlies‘ season are providing more minutes for their young players and giving management a chance to evaluate them for the future, writes Michael Wallace of Grind City Media. With Ja Morant out for the rest of the season and Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart not expected back until late February, Memphis is relying on some unfamiliar names in an effort to remain competitive.

“It’s an opportunity for us young guys to develop and to try to win games, too,” said second-year power forward David Roddy. “It’s something we’re going to rely on in years to come, these pivotal games and this pivotal point in the season for our development. Just make it simple. Share the ball as much as we can, attack the rim and the paint. Be calm, relax and have fun.”

Among those getting an opportunity is 19-year-old rookie G.G. Jackson, who started the season in the G League but recently became the second-youngest player in league history with back-to-back 20-point games. Coach Taylor Jenkins said he’s still determining the best way to use the 6’9″ Jackson, who’s versatile enough to handle several positions.

“Figuring out what position he’ll play will come in time,” Jenkins said. “We want to continue to challenge him to be a better defender and rebounder. But the fact he’s super coachable, loves the game and wants to get better each day, I’m excited to see what transpires moving forward.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets held their first practice session of 2024 on Friday as they try to fix the defensive issues that led to a 1-5 road trip, per Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle. Coach Ime Udoka emphasized to his players that they need to concentrate on what worked earlier this season. “With a younger team, you want to keep giving them reminders of what made us successful early, and the chance to get through and walk through some things and bang around a little bit, it was good for us,” Udoka said. “It felt just normal to what we were doing earlier and that’s why we had the success.” 
  • Dillon Brooks and Tari Eason weren’t available for Friday’s practice, Lerner adds, and while Brooks is playing tonight against Utah, the Rockets will have to survive a while longer without Eason, who is missing his 10th straight game. “No setback,” Udoka said. “He just is on the timeline where we’re giving him the time to operate and try to get healthy. And you know, the pain tolerance is a thing. Like I said, he was playing through some pain and we want to make sure that’s gone before he comes back. So an extended amount of time is what has been diagnosed for him.” 
  • Pelicans forward Matt Ryan said he feels “92%” recovered after undergoing elbow surgery last month, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic. Ryan adds that his shot feels fine and he’s working toward his return.

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Udoka, Wembanyama, Grizzlies, Williams

Dillon Brooks will be back in the Rockets‘ lineup for tonight’s game at Boston, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic. The defensive specialist has been out of action since December 26 due to a right abdominal oblique injury. He won’t be on a minutes restriction, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Brooks, who took part in his team’s pre-game shootaround on Friday night for the first time since the injury, talked to Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle about his recovery process.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “I want to be out there so bad. Talking about switching, being disciplined on switching, and any time they have an opening to attack the offensive end or whatever, trying to accomplish that.”  

Brooks has helped to transform the Rockets’ defense after signing as a free agent last summer, bringing a strong presence to a team that finished near the bottom of the league in nearly every significant defensive category during its three years of rebuilding. Lerner points out that the version of Houston’s starting lineup that includes Brooks is among the NBA’s best five-man units in terms of net rating and defensive rating.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets coach Ime Udoka returns to the TD Garden tonight for the first time since leading the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals, notes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Udoka has maintained close ties with his former players, but this marks their first on-court meeting since he was suspended and ultimately replaced by Joe Mazzulla. “I saw Ime a couple of times this summer. That’s somebody I got a really, really good relationship with. Talk to him all the time,” Jayson Tatum said. “I’m happy for him that he’s gotten this new opportunity. I think they’re going to see a lot of improvement with that team, right? They got some new talent, some new guys, so that helps. Playing against him is going to be a little weird. It’s going to be the first head coach that I’ve had to play against that I had. So it’s going to be different.”
  • Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama responded Friday to rumors that some teammates are reluctant to share the ball with him, tweets Josh Paredes of FanSided. “Of course, I’ve heard it, but it’s never been even close to reality,” Wembanyama said. “There’s nobody on this team that doesn’t want to pass me the ball and there’s nobody I don’t want to pass the ball to.”
  • Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. are the latest additions to the Grizzlies‘ long injury list. Bane, who has a sprained left ankle, is one of seven players who have been declared out for tonight’s game against New York, while Jackson is listed as doubtful with a right knee contusion.
  • Vince Williamsnew contract with the Grizzlies is valued at $9.1MM over four years, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link), with the first three seasons guaranteed at $6.6MM. The fourth year is a team option.