Ime Udoka

Rockets Notes: Brooks Deal, Green, Harden, Martin

The Rockets‘ multi-team sign-and-trade deal for Dillon Brooks will expand further to include the trade agreement between Houston and the Clippers involving Kenyon Martin Jr., according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

Houston’s deal that sends TyTy Washington and Usman Garuba to the Hawks will also be part of the Brooks sign-and-trade with the Grizzlies. With the Clippers involved and the Thunder set to take on Patty Mills in the complex transaction, it will be at least a five-team trade.

The Rockets, who acquired a second-round pick from Brooklyn for Mills and are getting two more from the Clippers for Martin, will send out five second-rounders in the deal — two to Atlanta and three to Oklahoma City. Those three picks going to the Thunder haven’t been reported yet, so it’s possible they’ll just be the three selections that Houston is receiving from the Nets and Clippers.

As we wait for the Rockets to complete their offseason moves, here are a few more notes out of Houston:

  • Jeff Green‘s contract with the Rockets, originally reported to be worth $6MM for one year, will actually be for $16MM over two, with a non-guaranteed second year, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Marks adds that Green’s first-year cap hit will be $8MM. If that figure is precise, rather than rounded, it means the forward will have to be signed using cap room rather than the room exception, which maxes out at $7.7MM.
  • The hiring of Ime Udoka as head coach was a major factor in the Rockets’ decision to pivot away from James Harden and toward Fred VanVleet in free agency, a league source tells Steve Bulpett of “From everything we’ve gotten out of there, it was a matter that Ime didn’t want him,” the source said. “At the beginning, were they thinking about Harden? Yeah. But then they hired Ime, and Ime said, ‘It’s not going to work here.'”
  • Appearing on The IkoSystem podcast, Kenyon Martin Jr. spoke to Kelly Iko of The Athletic about the trade that will send him from the Rockets to the Clippers. Martin said that he appreciates the opportunity the Rockets gave him and added that Houston “will always have a place in my heart,” but admitted he’s looking forward to returning home to Los Angeles, where he was born and raised (Twitter audio clip).

Rockets Notes: Lopez, Whitmore, Draft Night, Splitter, Thompson

The Rockets are a “real threat” to the Bucks to sign veteran center Brook Lopez, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (hat tip to

Lopez is entering unrestricted free agency, as his four-year, $52MM contract expired after the season. Lopez, 35, remains one of the top players at his position. He started 78 games this past season and averaged 15.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG and a career-best 2.5 BPG. He also made 37.4% of his 3-point attempts.

Houston’s interest in Lopez has previously been noted. The Rockets have a 20-year-old center in Alperen Sengun, a 2021 first-rounder, but Lopez could also serve as a mentor to Houston’s youthful frontcourt bigs while stabilizing its defense and stretching the floor offensively.

We have more on the Rockets:

  • Villanova forward Cam Whitmore says he’s baffled by reports that he has a medical issue that contributed to his surprising slide in the first round, ESPN News Services relays. Projected to go as high as No. 4 in the draft, he dropped into Houston’s laps at the No. 20 slot. “I promise you there’s not (a medical problem),” he said. “I have no idea. I don’t know what happened. But I feel fine. It’s my body. If they think it’s something different, they have their own opinions. But at the end of the day, it’s my body.”
  • GM Rafael Stone tried in vain to trade up from the No. 20 spot and were stunned was Whitmore was still available, according to Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle. “We always intended to try and trade up in this draft,” Stone said. “But we also talked about, if that wasn’t successful, trading out if we didn’t like somebody at the pick. And we were talking to a number of teams about what that would look like, and some of those potential transactions were very attractive. But again, not nearly as attractive as picking Cam, which is what we did.” The Rockets reportedly made trade inquiries with the Lakers (No. 17), Heat (No. 18), and Warriors (No. 19). Stone added the medical staff had evaluated Whitmore and there were no concerns about his health.
  • The Rockets are close to adding Tiago Splitter to Ime Udoka’s staff, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets. Splitter worked with Udoka on the Nets’ staff before Udoka was hired as the Celtics’ head coach.
  • Lottery pick Amen Thompson came away from his pre-draft workout with the Rockets convinced that the franchise was ready to exit from the rebuilding stage, he told Iko. “Just that they were looking for a change,” Thompson said of last week’s visit. “They were looking to turn the franchise around and get some wins. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Rockets Rumors: Harden, FA Targets, Thompson, Martin, Splitter

Although there have been several reports in recent weeks and months linking free agent guard James Harden to Houston, there have also been rumblings that the Rockets aren’t interested in giving the former MVP a maximum-salary contract, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said on the HoopsHype podcast.

Scotto’s guest on the podcast, Kelly Iko of The Athletic, agrees with that statement, noting that Houston would like to add three or four veterans this offseason and doesn’t want to be using $45MM of its $60MM in cap room on a single player.

According to Iko, people within the Rockets’ organization – including players – and people close to Harden are fairly split on whether or not the 10-time All-Star will return to Houston, with some confident about the odds of a reunion and others skeptical. Skepticism is the dominant view among rival executives who have spoken to Steve Bulpett of — many of those execs expressed confusion about the fit, though some did suggest that a short-term deal might make some sense.

If the Rockets don’t land Harden and look elsewhere on the free agent market for a point guard, Iko views Fred VanVleet as a more likely target than Kyrie Irving. Both Iko and Scotto have also heard that Austin Reaves is a player Houston likes, though Reaves will be a restricted free agent and the Lakers are considered likely to match any offer sheets he signs.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Iko views Brook Lopez as a bit of a “pipe dream” for Houston, since the veteran center seems likely to remain with the Bucks. Iko names Clint Capela, Kristaps Porzingis, Myles Turner, Josh Hart, Dillon Brooks, as Kelly Oubre as possible targets for the Rockets in free agency or via trades, though he again acknowledges that some of those options are more viable than others. Hart, for instance, is considered a strong bet to remain with the Knicks, as Scotto points out.
  • New head coach Ime Udoka will have “a huge say in who he coaches,” according to Iko, which could be an important factor as the Rockets consider which players to pursue most aggressively this offseason.
  • Iko believes Overtime Elite guard Amen Thompson will be the top prospect on Houston’s board if there are no surprises in the top three picks in the draft. Iko has heard the Rockets believe the gap between Thompson and Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson isn’t as big as the consensus suggests.
  • Coming off a strong season, Kenyon Martin Jr. would “prefer to get paid now,” either as a restricted free agent or on an extension, says Iko. However, it remains to be seen whether Martin is in the Rockets’ long-term plans or if he might end up back on the trade block in the coming weeks. It’s possible Houston could postpone its decision on Martin, simply exercising his minimum-salary team option and determining during the season whether to try to extend or trade him.
  • According to Iko, Tiago Splitter, who worked with Udoka in Brooklyn and played with him in San Antonio, may be a candidate to join the Rockets’ coaching staff — especially if the team’s pursuit of Aaron Miles doesn’t pan out.

Coaching Notes: Vogel, Rockets, Nets, Pacers

The Suns didn’t fill their coaching vacancy until after the Sixers hired Nick Nurse, but sources tell Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic that Frank Vogel was the first choice in Phoenix all along. Nurse had an interview with the Suns and was among five finalists for the job, along with Vogel, Suns associate head coach Kevin Young, Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez and former Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers.

After dismissing Monty Williams following a second-round playoff ouster, Phoenix was interested in finding someone with championship experience, according to Rankin, which is why Vogel, Nurse and Rivers were all contacted. Vogel benefited from his reputation as a strong defensive coach, as the Suns are determined to improve on that end of the court. The final five candidates met with team owner Mat Ishbia and president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones, Rankin adds.

Vogel became the frontrunner for the job after an impressive interview, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. Reports that Devin Booker pushed for Young to get the head coaching job are “overexaggerated,” Gambadoro adds (Twitter link). Young opted to remain with the team as an assistant coach. Gambadoro also disputes a report that Phoenix offered the job to Nurse (Twitter link).

There’s more coaching news to pass along:

  • Three members of Ime Udoka‘s coaching staff with the Celtics will join him in Houston, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The Rockets are hiring Ben Sullivan, Mike Moser and Garrett Jackson, and Scotto states that they’re considering Boston assistant Aaron Miles, who has also received interest from other teams. Scotto adds that teams have also reached out to Celtics assistant Jarrell Christian, as head coach Joe Mazzulla is expected to rebuild his staff this summer.
  • Ronnie Burrell, who was named G League Coach of the Year with the Long Island Nets, will join Jacque Vaughn’s coaching staff in Brooklyn, Scotto tweets. Burrell has been with the G League team since 2019.
  • Former Pacers player Shayne Whittington has joined Indiana’s coaching staff, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Mavs, Rockets, Beverley

Following a series of cryptic social media posts from Ja Morant, police in Tennessee visited the home of the Grizzlies star to check on him, a spokesperson for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office tells TMZ Sports.

Morant had published Instagram stories telling his mother, father, and daughter that he loved them, followed by one that was simply captioned, “Bye.” He deleted them a short time later.

The police spokesperson tells TMZ Sports that Morant is “fine” and that he told the officers who came to his home that he’s simply taking a break from social media.

Morant has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities by the Grizzlies after an Instagram Live video appeared to show him brandishing a gun. The NBA’s investigation into that video is ongoing — given that Morant was suspended during the season for a similar incident, there’s an expectation that he’ll be facing another suspension at the start of the 2023/24 season.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Tim Cato of The Athletic breaks down some reasons why the Mavericks should trade the No. 10 overall pick and some reasons why they’ll consider keeping it. In Cato’s view, Dallas is more likely to move the pick than to hang onto it, but it remains to be seen how valuable a trade asset it will be — there may be some higher lottery picks available on the trade market, and the first- and second-tier prospects in this year’s draft class will likely be gone by No. 10.
  • While much of the focus in Houston is on the No. 4 overall pick, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required) notes that the Rockets also control the No. 20 selection and considers which prospects could be on the team’s radar at that spot. Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino and Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh are among the prospects in that range who get a look from Feigen.
  • Asked on his podcast about the possibility of reuniting with James Harden in Houston, where he spent five seasons earlier in his NBA career, free-agent-to-be Patrick Beverley expressed enthusiasm about the idea of joining the Rockets and called Ime Udoka a “great” coach (Twitter video link via Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston).

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Mazzulla, Offseason, Gallinari

The Celtics‘ locker room never really got over Ime Udoka‘s sudden departure as the team’s head coach, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Monday during an appearance on NBA Countdown (YouTube link). Udoka was suspended and then dismissed after he engaged in what was described as an improper relationship with a female staffer, and Celtics players never got the full story about what happened, according to Wojnarowski.

“These players did not accept the organization’s reasoning for doing it. They thought it was a wild overreaction. There were a lot of the people on the outside who thought it was an overreaction, (that) it was an HR matter,” Wojnarowski said (hat tip to RealGM). “I think for this team, and talking with management, they never got any more answers than the public was getting on this. That doesn’t mean they haven’t accepted Joe Mazzulla as head coach, but this is a team that really believed in Ime Udoka (and) had a strong connection with him.”

As Wojnarowski notes, the Celtics lost top assistant Will Hardy last spring to Utah, then promoted Mazzulla in September and saw another assistant, Damon Stoudamire, leave for a college job in March. The lack of veteran experience on the staff to support Mazzulla, a first-time head coach, may have been an issue during this postseason, according to Wojnarowski, who suggests Boston perhaps should’ve made it a priority to add a seasoned assistant.

The Celtics are reportedly looking at candidates such as Frank Vogel and Stephen Silas for possible roles on their staff for next season.

As Boston prepares for Game 4 and aims to begin climbing out of a 3-0 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals, let’s round up a few more Celtics notes…

  • A veteran scout who spoke to Steve Bulpett of believes that Mazzulla is taking too much of the blame for the Celtics’ disappointing showing vs. Miami, arguing that many of the team’s current issues were problems under Udoka and Brad Stevens too. “Sharing the ball, ball movement, just dribbling out the clock, lot of isolation basketball, defensive lapses,” the scout said. “All these things have existed for years.” A coach who spoke to Heavy agreed that Boston’s struggles aren’t Mazzulla’s fault: “At this stage of the playoffs, your weaknesses are exposed. They were exposed last year in the Finals.”
  • With the Celtics facing elimination on Tuesday, David Aldridge of The Athletic takes a look at two paths available to the franchise this summer, arguing that Boston would be better off staying the course than blowing up its roster.
  • Celtics forward Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL last August in international play before he appeared in a single game for Boston. Could Gallinari – who missed the entire 2022/23 season and will likely exercise a ’23/24 player option to remain with the C’s – return from that injury for Italy at this year’s World Cup? He spoke to Joe Vardon of The Athletic about that possibility, pointing out that he’s still not taking “game-type” contact and would need the Celtics’ blessing to suit up for the Italian national team.

Rockets Rumors: No. 4 Pick, FA Targets, Coaching Staff, More

Multiple teams have already expressed some level of interest in acquiring the Rockets‘ No. 4 overall pick, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

It remains to be seen just how much value that pick will have and whether it would be enough to be the centerpiece of a deal for an impact player, Iko writes. Because the draft is perceived to have a drop-off after No. 3, Houston is also considering whether it would be possible to move up into the top three with a package centered around the Nos. 4 and 20 overall picks, league sources tell Iko.

If the Rockets keep their lottery pick and there are no surprises in the top three, Overtime Elite wing Amen Thompson could be the player atop Houston’s board, according to Iko, who says that several people within the organization are high on Thompson. Iko hears that both Amen and his twin brother Ausar Thompson had positive interviews with the team at last week’s combine.

No matter what happens with the No. 4 pick, the Rockets intend to be aggressive in their pursuit of veterans this offseason, with a desire to improve their play-making, shooting, and defense, Iko adds. League sources tell The Athletic that James Harden is Houston’s top free agent target, with Brook Lopez, Dillon Brooks, Donte DiVincenzo, Jordan Clarkson, Cameron Johnson, and Austin Reaves among the other players the team may pursue.

Acquiring an established point guard will be a primary objective for Houston this summer, per Iko, so if they miss out on Harden, the Rockets could explore a trade for a veteran like Mike Conley or Chris Paul.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • New Rockets head coach Ime Udoka recently traveled to Los Angeles to visit with Jalen Green, says Iko. That time spent with Green – which included workouts and a dinner – is part of Udoka’s efforts to get to know his new team before the fall. “I’ve gotten the chance to spend a lot of time with the players. Got some lunches, dinner, gym time with guys,” Udoka told Iko. “Also been busy putting together a staff, getting to know everybody, but the most important thing is to spend time with the guys, build a relationship with them, and I’ve done quite a bit of that.”
  • Speaking of Udoka’s staff, Iko reports that assistant coaches Lionel Hollins and Rick Higgins aren’t expected to be back with the Rockets next season. However, it’s unclear whether or not Mahmoud Abdelfattah – another assistant under Stephen Silas – will return. Abdelfattah was part of the Rockets’ contingent at last week’s combine and has frequently been at the club’s facility since the end of the season, sources tell The Athletic.
  • The Rockets could be the long-term winners of the blockbuster trade that sent Harden to Philadelphia and Ben Simmons to Brooklyn, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Houston controls the Nets’ first-round picks from 2024-27 (either outright or via swaps) and may be in position to steal Harden away from the Sixers this offseason.

Coaching Rumors: Lue, Popovich, Pistons, Raptors, Udoka

The Bucks and Suns are rumored to be interested in Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, but he’s still under contract for two more seasons, though only one of those is thought to be guaranteed.

There’s growing skepticism among those close to the coach and the Clippers that a rival team would be able to poach Lue away, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

The Clippers still hope to contend for championships going forward despite another disappointing playoff exit in 2022/23, and owner Steve Ballmer is known to be a “huge fan” of Lue. As Fischer observes, the Bucks and Suns also don’t have much in the form of future first-round picks, which would likely be necessary to acquire Lue — assuming the Clippers would even permit a rival to interview him, and there’s no indication they would — while he’s still under contract.

The Bucks do have their 2029 first-rounder available, but Fischer suggests they’ll likely use it to acquire a player — either this offseason or in the future. Sources tell Fischer that Milwaukee contemplated dealing the pick to try to land Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic ahead of the February trade deadline.

Here are some more coaching rumors from around the NBA:

  • Gregg Popovich, the longest-tenured head coach in the league, is expected to stay with the Spurs for as long as he wants to continue coaching, and there’s no indication that the Hall-of-Famer plans to retire next season, especially after San Antonio won the draft lottery. However, Popovich’s contract expired at the end of the season, and he hasn’t signed a new deal yet, sources tell Fischer.
  • The fact that the Pistons have yet to hire one of their three coaching finalists has left coaching agents around the league wondering if they’ll reopen their search and consider more candidates, Fischer writes. The three finalists — Kevin Ollie, Charles Lee and Jarron Collins — met with owner Tom Gores last week, Fischer confirms. Detroit is thought to have interest in Monty Williams, who was fired by the Suns last week, so that might explain the holdup. That said, Adam Zagoria of hears from sources that the job is expected to come down to either Ollie or Collins (Twitter link).
  • According to Fischer, the Raptors hope to be “blown away” in an interview with one of their long list of coaching candidates. Toronto is believed to be open to an “unconventional” choice. Assistant coaches Jim Sann and Rico Hanes are expected to be retained regardless of who is named head coach, sources tell Fischer.
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated hears (via Twitter) that Ime Udoka “wants to do right” by his former Celtics assistants, and will extend those interested an invitation to join him with the Rockets after his unceremonious departure from Boston. Royal Ivey, who worked with Udoka on the Nets, recently joined his staff in Houston.

Southwest Notes: Udoka, Ivey, Spurs, Mavericks

Ime Udoka understands that the Rockets hired him as their head coach to help the team become competitive again. In an interview with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Udoka talks about how Houston can take the next step in its development, going from a team of highly rated prospects to a cohesive unit capable of contending for a playoff spot.

Udoka discusses the possibility of using Jalen Green and Jabari Smith in setups similar to what he did with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in Boston. He also repeats a message that he emphasized at his introductory press conference — youth won’t be an excuse for failure.

“I want guys that can catch on quickly but also adapt to what we’re trying to do,” Udoka said. “I’m not gonna hold anything back defensively or schematically because we’re a young group, that’d be going against what I’m saying. I want guys to get up to speed quickly, have smart, cerebral players that can do a lot of different things.”

The Rockets will have nearly $60MM in cap space to try to improve their roster this summer, and there have been persistent rumors that James Harden is interested in returning. Udoka said he expects the front office to target free agents who will mix well with the young core already on hand.

“You want to add veterans that aren’t just a voice only, you want them to be out there, play and push the guys,” he said. “But, as I’ve said, regardless of free agency and the draft, we still have a group of guys we want to grow, and we’re looking for internal growth. More so than necessarily looking for an outside guy to try to save the day.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Nets assistant Royal Ivey will join the Rockets‘ coaching staff, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Ivey is the first assistant coach to be added since Udoka was hired last month.
  • The Spurs are reaping the financial benefits of winning the draft lottery, writes David Rumsey of Front Office Sports. San Antonio fans are thrilled at the prospect of adding Victor Wembanyama, and team employees worked well past midnight Tuesday to handle new season ticket requests.
  • The Mavericks are ready to make a “meaningful overhaul” to their roster after missing the playoffs, team sources tell Fred Katz and Tim Cato of The Athletic. Dallas was relieved to keep its first-round pick, which will be 10th overall, in Tuesday’s lottery. The pick remains top-10 protected for the next two years, leaving Dallas with only its 2027 first-rounder to use as a trade asset. The Mavericks were one number away from moving up to fourth in the draft, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.

Rockets Notes: Eason, Smith, Udoka, FA Targets

Rockets forward Tari Eason has switched agents. Eason is signing on with Wasserman, his new agency has announced (Twitter link).

Excel Sports Management had served as Eason’s prior representation to this point. Per Liz Mullen of The Sports Business Journal, Thad Foucher and Chafie Fields will be his Wasserman reps.

The 6’8″ forward out of LSU appeared in all 82 games for Houston in 2022/23, averaging 9.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 APG and 0.6 BPG off the bench.

There’s more out of Houston:

  • 2022 Rockets lottery pick Jabari Smith Jr. is switching his jersey number ahead of his second NBA season, from No. 1 to No. 10, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Smith had worn No. 10 while at Auburn, but former teammate Eric Gordon had already staked his claim to that number prior to Smith’s arrival. With the veteran shooting guard now on the Clippers, a path has been cleared for Smith to secure his former college digits.
  • New Rockets head coach Ime Udoka was brought aboard after thorough vetting from Houston decision makers. Kelly Iko of The Athletic takes a deep dive into the process of bringing the former Celtics head coach to the Rockets, who also seriously considered former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and ex-Hornets head coach James Borrego. Houston was said to be intrigued by the quick, strong bond Udoka had forged with Boston players during his lone NBA Finals-bound with the club.
  • In a separate piece, Iko spoke with various scouts around the league about several possible free agent targets for the Rockets this summer. Iko took a look at former Houston guard James Harden, who won an MVP in 2018 with the Rockets, and restricted Lakers free agent Austin Reaves. Veteran forwards Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, along with Bucks wing Khris Middleton, were also examined.