Herbert Jones

Southwest Notes: Thompson, Sochan, Jones, Mavs

While Jalen Green has been the breakout star of the Rockets‘ recent hot streak, the contributions of Amen Thompson during the team’s 11 straight wins shouldn’t be overlooked, Tim MacMahon of ESPN said on the latest Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link).

After spending most of his rookie season coming off the bench, Thompson has started the past nine games and is averaging 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in 30.2 minutes per game during that stretch. While he has provided secondary scoring and play-making for the Rockets, it’s Thompson’s defensive ability that excites the team the most, according to MacMahon.

“The Rockets believe – and have data to back up – that he can be the best non-big defender in the NBA really soon,” MacMahon said.

The primary knock against Thompson is that he has yet to develop an outside shot — he has made just 8-of-55 three-point attempts this season, for an ugly conversion rate of 14.5%. If he can eventually add that facet to his game, his ceiling would only grow higher.

“He’s a jump shot away from being an All-Star for sure, and possibly higher than that,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps added.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan suffered a left ankle impingement during Friday’s win over New York, jeopardizing his availability for the rest of this season, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. As Orsborn notes, Sochan hasn’t missed a game this season and had expressed a desire to play in all 82, but he has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest against Golden State and figures to miss more time beyond that.
  • Pelicans forward Herbert Jones met the 65-game criteria for end-of-season award consideration on Saturday night, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. It was technically Jones’ 68th game of the season, but he played between 15 and 20 minutes in five of them, and only two of those outings could count toward his 65-game minimum. Jones is considered a strong candidate for one of the 10 All-Defensive spots and could earn Defensive Player of the Year consideration as well.
  • The Mavericks‘ backcourt duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have come a long way over the past 13-plus months, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). As Townsend observes, the two stars first played together against Sacramento last February, so this week’s back-to-back victories over the Kings, which extended Dallas’ win streak to six games, represented an encouraging full-circle moment. “I always said, this training camp, when got some practices in together, it would be way easier for us to function better,” Doncic said. “And I think it shows, especially now. I think we’re both happy and we’re both doing some good things on the floor. And we have great teammates. So I think this team is special.”

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 NOLA.com.

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 NOLA.com 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.”

Southwest Notes: Zion, Daniels, Pelicans, Rockets, Gabriel

The Pelicans have been on a roll lately, going 6-1 since the start of March and 15-5 since January 31. Former No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson has played his best basketball of the season of late, coinciding with the team’s surge up the standings — New Orleans is currently 41-26, the No. 5 seed in the West, one game back of the slumping Clippers.

On his Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said he’s heard from people around the team that Williamson has lost a considerable amount of weight since December, when the Pelicans were embarrassed by the Lakers in the semifinal of the in-season tournament.

I’ve got people in New Orleans telling me that since December when the in-season tournament happened, that Zion Williamson has lost 25 or more pounds, and his performance has been excellent,” Windhorst said (hat tip to Doric Sam of Bleacher Report). “He’s playing fewer minutes and I think that helps as well, but I’ve got people telling me he’s lost 25 pounds. And I don’t mean like in the past where they say, ‘Oh, he’s added muscle’ and it’s like, ‘Has he?’

Windhorst’s ESPN colleague Andrew Lopez has heard the same from his own sources, noting that Williamson “looks completely different,” both physically and as a player.

While Williamson has mostly been known for his offensive ability to this point in his career, he played impressive defense on Kawhi Leonard late in Friday’s victory over the Clippers, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Leonard finished with just two points on 1-of-3 shooting in seven minutes in the final period.

At the end of the game, I was like, ‘I got Kawhi,’Trey Murphy said. “He was like, ‘Nah, I got it.’ I was like, ‘You got it then. I’m not going to fight you then.’ That’s what you want out of your stars. You want them to take on the challenge.”

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels, who is recovering from a torn meniscus in his left knee, was a full participant in Monday’s practice, head coach Willie Green told reporters, including Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). Daniels was doing 3-on-3 work post-practice as well, Guillory relays (via Twitter), which is another positive sign for the second-year guard, though Green said the 21-year-old still has to check a few more boxes before being cleared to return. Herbert Jones (back) and Larry Nance Jr. (non-COVID illness) were also full practice participants after missing Saturday’s game, Guillory adds.
  • The Rockets have gone 7-1 over their last eight games and now trail the Warriors and Lakers by 3.5 games for the final spot in the play-in tournament. It’s a stark contrast from the past few seasons, when the team was stuck at the bottom of the standings. As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link) writes, the Rockets know playing in high-pressure games is the next step in their development. “I’ve been on teams myself where you knew you were done by December, January,” head coach Ime Udoka said. “That’s not the best feeling. To have something to play for, but also change the mindset and mentality around here, was one of the main objectives this year. I think we did that from the start. To have a chance to play for something still at this point in the season but also finish on a strong note, guys are continuing to grow. It’s year one with me, and I think we’ve seen the progress. Things are starting to round out a little bit here and there. We’d like to have that momentum going into next year regardless of where we land.”
  • Wenyen Gabriel‘s 10-day contract with the Grizzlies expired overnight, notes Keith Smith of Spotrac (via Twitter). The Sudanese forward/center is now an NBA free agent, though Puerto Rico’s Vaqueros de Bayamon announced last week that Gabriel had signed a contract with the team for the coming season. The 26-year-old averaged 3.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in five games with Memphis.

Southwest Notes: Sengun, Landale, Murphy, Jones

Rockets center Alperen Sengun will undergo an MRI on both his right knee and ankle on Monday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

The breakout star big man was taken off the court in a wheelchair with 39.1 seconds remaining the Rockets’ 112-104 victory over Kings Sunday night, according to ESPN News Services. Sengun landed awkwardly after contesting a shot in transition by Domantas Sabonis. He immediately grabbed his right knee in agony and put his hands over his face as he was wheeled off the court.

Sengun is averaging 21.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his third season with the Rockets and is a prime candidate for the Most Improved Player award. He’s eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Even before Sengun’s injury, Jock Landale‘s role as a Rockets reserve had expanded, Jonahan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Landale has played anywhere from six to 17 minutes over the past six games, including a 9-point, 5-rebound, 4-assist outing against the Kings on Sunday. “He always stayed ready,” coach Ime Udoka said. “I think guys across the board on our team have been great as far as that this year. A big part of it is numbers more than anything. We’ve had a lot of guys play well, and they can’t all play. But they stay ready.” Landale has three years remaining on his contract, but they’re all non-guaranteed.
  • Trey Murphy continued his scoring binge against Atlanta on Sunday, firing in 28 points. The Pelicans wing has scored 20 or more points in five of the last six games. Murphy is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason. “I knew he (Murphy) was going to figure it out at some point,” coach Willie Green told Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.“From time to time, I may talk to him. But him and (coach) Corey Brewer have done a great job of refocusing and going out and doing the little things. That’s what it takes sometimes when your shot isn’t falling. Concentrating on winning plays, winning habits. There is a lot you can do to contribute to winning without scoring.”
  • Herbert Jones is a candidate one of the league’s top young defenders but the Pelicans forward won’t campaign for All-Defensive honors, he told Clark. “I have been like this all my life,” Jones said. “I have never really wanted the spotlight on me. Especially because it’s a team game. I don’t do anything alone. I really don’t care to get the credit. As long as the team wins, I’m great.”

Southwest Notes: H. Jones, Udoka, Rockets, THJ, Fudge

After seeing the way that opposing defenders sagged off of him during his first two NBA seasons, Pelicans forward Herbert Jones was determined to develop a more consistent three-point shot. He has done just that in 2023/24, writes William Guillory of The Athletic.

After knocking down just 33.6% of 2.3 attempts per game from beyond the arc in his first 144 NBA games, Jones has taken a career-high 3.5 three-pointers per game in his third NBA season and made 42.9% of them.

“Above anything else, the guy is a worker. No one could ever question his commitment to the game,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. “It’s no shock to us to see him improve as much as he has this season because he’s done what it takes to get those results.”

Jones’ improved three-point shot, which has helped boost his scoring average to a career-best 11.4 points per game, has made the 25-year-old a more well-rounded offensive player, but most of his value still comes on the defensive end of the court. As Rod Walker of NOLA.com details, while Jones isn’t particularly interested in making his own case for All-Defensive recognition, his teammates and coaches are happy to do it for him.

“I don’t know who is first-team All-Defense if it’s not Herb Jones,” Green said. “He’s one of the best in the league. The beauty is the guys he plays against, his peers, they understand that. When you have one of the best guys defensively, he should be rewarded for that.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Rockets head coach Ime Udoka spoke to Kelly Iko of The Athletic about a handful of topics, including his young players, Houston’s offensive inconsistency, and the need to be patient with a young team. Udoka said he “knew what he was signing up for” when he was hired by a franchise that hadn’t won more than 22 games in a season since 2019/20. “We have six first-round picks over the last three years with the task at hand, so I’m not surprised,” he said. “Just continuing to stay positive. We see glimpses and signs of how close we can be. And so you look at it as a positive and you’re optimistic about everything going forward.”
  • Although they’re six games out of the No. 10 seed at 26-34, the Rockets haven’t thrown in the towel on their push for a play-in spot, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). While it’s an extreme long shot, the fact that Houston has the most favorable remaining schedule of any Western Conference team provides a glimmer of hope, Feigen points out.
  • With Tim Hardaway Jr. in the midst of a slump, Tim Cato of The Athletic digs into the Mavericks‘ dilemma with the veteran wing, who has been considered a trade candidate for multiple seasons but continues to play a key role in Dallas. “We trust and need (Hardaway) if we’re going to win a championship,” head coach Jason Kidd told reporters.
  • Alex Fudge‘s two-way contract with the Mavericks is for two years, Hoops Rumors has learned. It will cover 2024/25 as well as the rest of this season.

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.

Injury Notes: Stewart, Muscala, James, Davis, Williamson, Jones, Jokic

Pistons center Isaiah Stewart will be sidelined for 10-to-14 days with an ankle sprain, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Detroit later confirmed the news via a press release.

Stewart missed Detroit’s Wednesday matchup against the Cavaliers after suffering the injury in the Sunday victory over the Thunder. The 6’8″ big man previously missed eight games in a row with a lingering toe injury. In total, he’s been unavailable for 12 games this year and will miss more with this ankle injury.

The fourth-year center is averaging 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per night while shooting 47.0% from the floor and 37.4% from beyond the arc. He has started every game but one for the Pistons this season.

We have more injury notes from around the league:

  • Stewart isn’t the only member of the Pistons dealing with an injury, as forward/center Mike Muscala exited the game against the Cavs in the first quarter. According to a release from the team, Muscala suffered a concussion and is beginning a mandated return-to-participation process that must be completed before returning to basketball activities, per the league’s concussion policy. There is no timetable for his return, according to the release.
  • Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis weren’t available for Thursday’s victory over the Celtics, according to The Orange County Register’s Khobi Price. James was listed as out with left ankle peroneal tendinopathy while Davis continues to be affected by bilateral Achilles tendinopathy and left hip spasms. “Those guys [are] dealing with two active injuries that we have been pretty much managing all year that got inflamed a little bit,” coach Darvin Ham said pregame. “Wanted to let them go through shootaround, see how it was, determined ultimately that they will be out for the night.
  • Pelicans forwards Zion Williamson (left foot bone contusion) and Herbert Jones (right adductor soreness) missed New Orleans’ Wednesday matchup against the Rockets (Twitter link). Williamson and Jones went through parts of practice on Thursday but both players, alongside Larry Nance Jr., are considered questionable to play on Friday in San Antonio, per NOLA.com’s Christian Clark (Twitter links).
  • After missing Wednesday’s contest against Oklahoma City, Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is questionable for Friday’s outing versus Portland with low back pain, according to The Denver Gazette’s Vinny Benedetto (Twitter link). The injury is not expected to be a long-term issue.

Southwest Notes: Jones, Pelicans, Thompson, Whitmore, Wemby

Despite an impending salary crunch, the Pelicans are not open to trading defensive ace Herbert Jones, Marc Stein reports in his latest notebook. Jones signed a four-year extension during the offseason.

By dealing Kira Lewis Jr. as part of the three-team trade featuring Pascal Siakam, New Orleans moved under the luxury tax. However, the Pelicans still face long-term financial challenges with Trey Murphy III eligible for a rookie scale contract extension this summer and generally trying to retain all the key pieces on arguably the league’s deepest roster.

The Pelicans are one of two NBA franchises to never pay the luxury tax.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans’ starting unit has not fared well in the second half of games and coach Willie Green is open to making changes, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune. “We have enough data to know that it’s an issue, and we are working on it,” Green said. “Right now, we want to give them a chance to correct it. But we’re at the point where anything is on the table.”
  • With Fred VanVleet, Jeff Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason sitting out on Sunday, the Rockets started rookie first-rounders Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore. In the last few weeks, both have earned more playing time due to their attention to detail and physical traits, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes. They got a defensive education trying to guard Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis. “They did pretty well,” forward Dillon Brooks said. “Most of the time, they were on Porziņgis because (Boston) was trying to get the switch, but they played them well and physical enough. They should take that and bring it to every game.”
  • The first half of the Spurs’ season is over and The Athletic’s Mike Monroe takes a closer look at how Victor Wembanyama fared up to the midway point, noting that the rookie big man has produced despite being on a minutes restriction. Wembanyama has not played more than 27 minutes in his last 12 appearances after suffering minor ankle sprains, but has averaged 21.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game during that stretch.

Seventeen More Players Become Trade-Eligible

Today is Monday, January 15, which means that a total of 17 players who signed free agent contracts meeting specific criteria this past offseason are now eligible to be traded.

Most offseason signees became trade-eligible on December 15, but players who met the following criteria were ineligible to be moved for an extra month:

  1. The player re-signed with his previous team.
  2. He got a raise of at least 20%.
  3. His salary is worth more than the minimum.
  4. His team was over the cap and used Bird or Early Bird rights to sign him.

The following players met that criteria and are eligible to be traded as of Monday:

(* Players marked with an asterisk have the ability to veto trades.)

Most of the players on NBA rosters are now eligible to be moved, though a small handful still can’t be dealt. That group includes Heat guard Dru Smith, who becomes trade-eligible on Monday, Hornets guard Ish Smith (trade-eligible on January 24), Lakers star Anthony Davis (trade-eligible on February 6), and Pistons forward Kevin Knox (trade-eligible on Feb. 8).

There are also several players who won’t become trade-eligible prior to this season’s February 8 deadline, including stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Jaylen Brown. Players on 10-day contracts are also ineligible to be dealt.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Luka, Pelicans, Wemby

Speaking today to reporters for the first time this season, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant admitted he made “a lot” of mistakes in the past and said he had “some horrible days” this year as he focused on his behavior away from basketball, according to reports from Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal and Teresa M. Walker of The Associated Press. However, he’s hopeful that he’ll ultimately benefit from his 25-game suspension and the requirements that came with it, including therapy.

“In the end, I feel like it made me better,” Morant said. “I feel like I learned some stuff about myself that I did during that process. Very eye-opening. It kind of gave me a new look on life. How I go about my days. How I carry myself.”

Morant, who acknowledged that his actions will speak louder than his words when it comes to being a better leader on and off the court for the Grizzlies, also said he felt guilty about the fact that the team has struggled without him while he has served his 25-game suspension. After winning 107 regular season games over the last two seasons, Memphis is off to a 6-17 start this fall.

“Yes, it’s definitely some guilt in that,” he said. “Obviously I’m not on the floor. Nobody like losing. … I take full responsibility of that. Even though I’m not on the floor, decisions I’ve made didn’t allow me to be out there to go to battle with my team.”

Morant remains on track to make his return on Tuesday against New Orleans. His teammates, who have been seeing what he’s doing in practice, are excited about how he’s looked and the impact his return will have on the club, as Cole writes for The Commercial Appeal. Jaren Jackson Jr. said Morant has the “same quick-trigger bounce” as he always has, while Vince Williams referred to the star guard as an “energy guy” in practices.

“I feel like he’s putting in a lot more effort on the defensive end in practice,” Williams said. “If he’s doing it in practice, I know he’s going to do it in the games for us.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Appearing on Headliners with Rachel Nichols (Twitter video link), Mavericks star Luka Doncic was asked if he’d seek an exit from Dallas if he didn’t feel like the team was moving toward title contention. Doncic suggested that’s not something he’s considered. “I feel great here,” he said. “They drafted me. I’ve felt at home since day one. I’m really happy where I’m at. I think we made some great moves this offseason. Yeah, I’m happy here.”
  • The Pelicans have the pieces to be an effective small-ball team and have been leaning more on those lineups as of late, William Guillory writes for The Athletic. In Guillory’s view, embracing a small-ball identity could take the team to new heights, so he thinks it’s important to see what a lineup consisting of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy, and Herbert Jones looks like once they’re all healthy — those five players have shared the court for just one minute so far this season.
  • Former No. 1 overall picks Anthony Davis and LeBron James are sympathetic to the expectations that Spurs big man Victor Wembanyama is facing in San Antonio, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscriber link), who notes that neither Davis nor James made the playoffs during their first two NBA seasons. “You’ve just got to go in and just play, find your way,” Davis said of Wembanyama this week. “You’re going to have ups and downs in the season. Obviously, he’s an exceptional talent. But don’t stress yourself out over the pressure from everyone else. You’ve got to know what your team wants from you. And don’t think that you have to turn the franchise around in one year.”