Kevin Porter

Rockets Notes: No. 4 Pick, Thompson, Porter, Harden

The Rockets will listen to trade offers for their No. 4 pick and they expect a lot of interest around the league, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Houston is hoping for a turnaround next season after spending three straight years in the league’s bottom three, and Iko indicates that the Rockets’ front office would have considered dealing the pick with any lottery outcome short of landing No. 1 and the chance to draft Victor Wembanyama.

“We’ve been looking at this draft for three years,” general manager Rafael Stone said after the lottery results were announced. “This is a really good draft. Very confident that there are uber-talented players that will be available.”

General counsel Clay Allen, who represented the team in the lottery room for the third straight year, admitted being more nervous this time because a potential franchise player like Wembanyama was at stake. According to Iko, Allen mostly sat in silence after the results were official and he realized that the French big man had gone to the division-rival Spurs.

“Severe disappointment,” Allen said. “This is my third year here. We’ve gotten the second and third picks in the past. I was really hoping we were going to be No. 1. … You can’t affect this at all, but you don’t want to let people down.”

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • Overtime Elite star Amen Thompson is aware that he’s listed fourth in many mock drafts, and he told Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle that he would be excited to come to Houston if that’s how the draft plays out. Thompson has a meeting scheduled with the Rockets at the NBA Draft Combine on Thursday after holding sessions with the Magic and Trail Blazers on Wednesday. He listed several aspects of his game that he believes can help a team right away. “Getting to the cup, getting in the paint, facilitating, defense — that’s already ready,” Thompson said. “The shot’s going to come. Everything’s going to come. I’m not a finished product yet.”
  • Kevin Porter Jr. spoke to players at the combine on Wednesday at the invitation of the NBPA, Feigen adds in another Chronicle story. Porter also sat with Stone and new Rockets coach Ime Udoka as they watched one of the scrimmages.
  • In a separate piece, Feigen examines the risks and rewards of a potential reunion with James Harden. A report earlier today stated that Harden will turn down his $35.6MM player option for next season in hopes of signing a long-term contract.

Rockets Notes: Udoka, Green, Smith, Porter

At his introductory press conference as the Rockets‘ new head coach, Ime Udoka publicly addressed the events in Boston for the first time since his suspension was announced last fall, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Without revealing many specifics of the incident, Udoka admitted that he made a mistake and said he hopes the experience will ultimately make him a better coach.

“Really, that time off and really a full understanding of how many people you impact with a poor decision, that starts with ownership and accountability,” he said. “I preach that to players. I take responsibility for my part in it. I took leadership and sensitivity training and some counseling with my son to help him improve the situation I put him in. You can grow from adversity — and I think I’ve done that this year — if you … take the right steps.”

Owner Tilman Fertitta said the Rockets received approval from the commissioner’s office before hiring Udoka, who received a four-year, $28.5MM contract. After three years of rebuilding, the organization was eager to add a coach with a proven track record.

“The NBA told me that they felt very comfortable with Ime becoming the coach of the Houston Rockets,” Fertitta said. “That felt good to me after a lengthy conversation. We’re a forgiving society, and everybody makes mistakes.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Udoka should have an immediate influence on the Rockets’ young talent, states Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Weiss expects Udoka to help Jalen Green learn how to slow down his game and play under control, and he envisions Jabari Smith Jr. developing into an exceptional defender in the role that Robert Williams plays in Boston. Weiss points to Kevin Porter Jr. as someone who could either improve under Udoka’s guidance or wind up being shipped to another team.
  • With their coaching hire out of the way, the Rockets will turn toward maximizing the roughly $60MM in cap space they’ll have this summer, Feigen adds in another Chronicle article. According to Feigen, the organization is still committed to the core pieces of its rebuilding process — Green and Smith, along with Tari Eason and Alperen Sengun — but Udoka talked about the need for a “different” type of big man. The front office will also prioritize shooting and hopes to add some veterans to an inexperienced roster.
  • Fertitta revealed that the Rockets plan to build a new $70MM practice facility, Feigen states in a separate story. It’s expected to be completed for the 2024/25 season.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Irving, Mavericks, Porter

After getting more discouraging news about Zion Williamson this week, the Pelicans are preparing to face the start of the postseason without him, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin announced that Williamson remains out indefinitely due to a hamstring injury, making him unavailable for the play-in tournament or possibly even a first-round playoff series if New Orleans is able to qualify.

Griffin told reporters on Friday that Williamson has participated in 3-on-3 drills with coaches, but he hasn’t been cleared for 5-on-5 scrimmages. Griffin also revealed that Williamson hasn’t met some “objective metrics” in the weight room or on the court, and he’s still hesitant sometimes when pushing off with the injured leg.

“We want Z back, for sure. But we can’t put a lot of time and focus into ‘What ifs.’ Right now, this is reality. That’s what we have to look at,” coach Willie Green said. “Over the last 10 games, we’ve been playing extremely well. We have to continue to do that. When that time comes when Z can step on the floor and go, then it’s, ‘Let’s go.’”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • When the Mavericks traded for Kyrie Irving in February, he requested that reporters refrain from asking him about free agency until the season was over, notes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Those questions are sure to come on Sunday when Dallas ends a disappointing campaign that fell short of the play-in tournament. Townsend adds that although the Mavs have a 9-17 record since trading for Irving, he hasn’t created any distractions in Dallas after a string of off-the-court incidents with Brooklyn. The biggest question facing the team in the offseason is how much of a commitment to make to Irving, who is eligible for a five-year, $272MM contract with the Mavericks or a four-year, $201.7MM deal with another team.
  • After finding themselves under NBA investigation for resting players Friday night with a play-in spot still within reach, the Mavericks will use a depleted roster again on Sunday, Townsend tweets. Irving, Luka Doncic, Reggie Bullock, Tim Hardaway Jr.Josh Green and Maxi Kleber will all sit out the game against the Spurs.
  • Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. will miss Sunday’s game with soreness in his right knee, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. That will leave him at 59 games, one short of the 60 needed to make his games-played bonus for next season considered to be likely. Feigen adds that it won’t affect Porter’s salary (he could still earn the bonus by playing in 60 games next season), but it will open some cap room for Houston to use this offseason. The bonus accounted for $2.38MM of Porter’s cap hit for the 2023/24 season, explains Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

Western Notes: Markkanen, Lakers, Warriors, Porter

A native of Finland, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen is required by law to serve in the country’s military before he reaches the age of 30. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Markkanen intends to fulfill that mandatory service during the coming offseason.

“Lauri has always said he was going to do this,” Markkanen’s agent Michael Lelchitski said of his client. “It’s important for him as a citizen to fulfill his civic duty and not have any kind of preferential treatment just because he is a famous athlete.”

As Shelburne writes, Markkanen has had to postpone his service a couple times already, including last spring when the Cavaliers made the play-in tournament — those games conflicted with his tentative reporting date.

According to Shelburne, Markkanen will complete his service at the Defence Forces’ Sports School in the southern part of Helsinki. She adds that many of the school’s conscripts are professional or amateur athletes, whose primary task during their service is to “train reconnaissance squads for emergency and wartime conditions.”

“Of course I’d rather be working out like I normally do (in the offseason), but I’ve heard they do a good job of combining the two,” Markkanen said. “You’re able to do your job working as an athlete and your basic training at the same time.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis are proud of their team for clinching an above-.500 finish after getting off to a 2-10 start, notes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Davis said that he and James credit the team’s in-season additions for helping to lead that turnaround. “We pointed to some guys and were like, ‘We thank y’all. It didn’t look like we were going that way to start the season,'” Davis said. “Man, we just kept pushing and kept grinding. And obviously the guys that were able to come in here helped us get some more wins and ultimately finish above .500.”
  • Now that Andrew Wiggins is back with the Warriors, the defending champions look like a legitimate threat to win another title, contends Sam Amick of The Athletic. Veteran sharpshooter Klay Thompson agrees with that assessment, despite the fact that Golden State still hasn’t even secured a top-six seed in the West. “I don’t see a team who can beat us in a seven-game series when we’re healthy,” Thompson said on Friday, according to ESPN’s Kendra Andrews.
  • Considered a wing when he first arrived in Houston, Kevin Porter Jr. has fully embraced his transition to a point guard role, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Porter feels good about the strides he made in that role in 2022/23 and believes the Rockets showed growth as a whole, even if their 21-60 record doesn’t reflect that. “I feel better about my process this season,” Porter said. “I definitely made improvements. Definitely seeing what I have to work on going into the offseason. I think it was a good year individually for myself. As a team, I definitely don’t think the record shows our improvement.”

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Kyrie, Sochan, Porter

In his latest diary entry for Andscape, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum discussed a handful of topics, including injured teammates Zion Williamson and Jose Alvarado and his expectations for the home stretch of the season. Perhaps most notably, he confirmed that his own right thumb injury will require surgery during the offseason.

“I knew the final outcome would probably be surgery, and I was notified that that’s what it’s going to have to be,” McCollum wrote. “It’s my shooting hand, so you’re always a little nervous. So, I’ve just been checking in with a hand specialist out of New York and just making sure things are progressing and continue to get images every couple weeks to track the progress as to what type of surgery I may need, what’s the process going to look like and I’m comfortable with what I’ve been hearing so far, so I’ll be all right.”

McCollum acknowledged that it hasn’t been ideal playing through the thumb injury, which has “affected how I dribble, shoot, pass, (and) absorb passes.” However, he said that shutting it down for the season has never been an option he seriously considered, since he believes he can still be effective.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Dallas is just 7-12 since Kyrie Irving made his Mavericks debut and has slipped out of the top 10 in the West, but Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) has heard only positive things about the guard’s professionalism and locker room presence since last month’s trade. Blaming Irving for Luka Doncic‘s recent frustration wouldn’t be “fair or accurate,” MacMahon adds.
  • A nagging right knee injury will sideline Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan on Sunday for the seventh time in his last 11 games. However, the rookie has downplayed the issue as “nothing serious” and head coach Gregg Popovich said the team “probably” won’t shut down Sochan for the season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). It sounds like there’s no concern that the knee problem will turn into a major injury, and the Spurs want to give Sochan all the reps they can before his first NBA season ends.
  • Despite the way in which his time in Cleveland ended, Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. still values the time he spent with the Cavaliers and said he’s looking forward to playing in Cleveland on Sunday, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “I would say that’s the first time I learned about the business of the NBA,” Porter said of the trade that sent him to Houston following a locker-room incident with the Cavs. “But we’re all still close, still. Those relationships are still there and very valuable to me, and (to) the other side, too. Definitely, a lot of people would say it was bad, a bad (ending). It was (for) the best for both of us.”

Texas Notes: Irving, Doncic, Porter, Mamukelashvili, Champagnie

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving was held out of Saturday’s game at Memphis because of soreness in his right foot, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd informed reporters of the decision a couple of hours before gametime.

“He tried to go through the shootaround, went through the shootaround and from that point, felt like we needed to take a look at it when we got back home,” Kidd said. “So the best thing was to sit him tonight.”

The team will return to Dallas after tonight’s game and will host the Grizzlies on Monday. Irving’s status for that game will depend on what the medical testing reveals.

Kidd also said Luka Doncic is considered “day to day” with a left thigh strain that prevented him from finishing Wednesday’s game.

There’s more NBA news from Texas:

  • Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. was relieved to be able to play tonight after missing just one game with a left thigh bruise, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Porter expected to be day-to-day after an earlier injury to his left big toe, but he wound up missing 20 games. “It was definitely a frustration,” he said. “I want to play as much as I can. Definitely, missing those 20 games, I want to get as many games back that I missed. Injuries are part of the game. You just have to react and do your work after it happens.”
  • Sandro Mamukelashvili didn’t play until the fourth quarter Friday night, but he scored 11 points in his matchup with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to help the Spurs surprise the Nuggets, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Mamukelashvili has shown some promise in the three games since San Antonio claimed him off waivers last week, McDonald adds.
  • Spurs rookie Julian Champagnie was a big scorer at St. John’s, but he tells Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News that he doesn’t mind being a role player while he tries to earn a steady NBA job. Champagnie has spent most of the season in the G League, but he got to play in a pair of games against the Rockets last weekend. “I don’t need too many shots,” he said. “I am a guy who fills the gap, and I am perfectly fine with that. It’s what I like to do anyway.”

Southwest Notes: Porter, Morant, Kyrie, Jones, Vassell

After returning on Wednesday from a 20-game absence due to a toe injury, Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. admitted that he still wasn’t 100%, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. However, Porter considers it important to play during the final stretch of the season to try to carry some positive momentum into the offseason.

“There’s definitely going to be some tolerable pain going on,” Porter said. “I want to play. This is the best I can get it. Can’t get it 100 percent, so I will play.

“Just the passion and love I’ve got for the game. I’ve been away, been trying to do everything I can to get back on the court. Twenty games later, I’m at this point. This is the best I can get as far as my toe. The pain’s not too bad. I can play through it.”

As Feigen observes, injuries have prevented the Rockets from getting an extended look at their young core together this season, so the hope is that they can stay relatively healthy down the stretch. The starting lineup that Houston employed on Wednesday – Porter alongside Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Alperen Sengun, and Kenyon Martin Jr. – is probably the one the team would like to lean on down the stretch, but it has been used just four times so far this season.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, whose alleged involvement in a pair of off-court incidents had been previously reported, has been accused of threatening a security guard at a Memphis mall, according to reporting from Molly Hensley-Clancy of The Washington Post. The Post’s report also stated that the 17-year-old who was punched by Morant last summer during a pickup game claimed that the Grizzlies star went into his house and reemerged with a gun visible in his waistband. Morant’s lawyer and agent put out statements on Twitter vehemently disputing that claim, but didn’t address the incident involving the security guard.
  • On Thursday, two days after expressing a need to scale back the pressure he’s putting on himself with his new team, Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving scored 40 points to complement Luka Doncic‘s 42 in a victory over Philadelphia. The Mavs are still just 2-4 in games the two stars have played together, but are confident that the wins will come, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “They’ve got to work through the kinks,” head coach Jason Kidd said of his backcourt duo. “But I think at the end of the day, we’ll be happy with what we have.”
  • The Spurs got two of their top rotation players back on Thursday, as Tre Jones (left foot soreness) returned from a five-game absence, while Devin Vassell (left knee surgery) played for the first time since January 2. Both players were on minute limits, but had positive plus-minus ratings in a victory over Indiana, with Vassell scoring 18 points in 23 minutes. “It’s refreshing, man,” Spurs center Zach Collins said, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “These guys mean so much to our team. We’ve had a lot of guys hurt, one through 15. But Tre and Devin were starters for us. To get them back, is going to make the game a lot easier for us.”

Rockets Notes: Harden, Green, Porter, Kaminsky

The possibility that Sixers guard James Harden might return to Houston in free agency this summer remains as strong as ever, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. League sources expect the Rockets, who will have ample cap space, to aggressively pursue Harden once he turns down his $35.64MM player option. Sources close to Harden confirm to Iko that he’s considering the move.

Harden forced his way out of Houston two years ago after the loss of coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey. His relationship with the organization appeared confrontational — he reported late and out of shape to training camp and having numerous clashes with coaches and teammates — but sources tell Iko that it never became acrimonious. Harden was disappointed that the Rockets were no longer contenders, and management was unhappy with how he handled the situation.

Harden still has a good relationship with team owner Tilman Fertitta and has maintained strong ties in the Houston area, Iko adds. Also, former Sixers minority owner Michael Rubin, a good friend of Harden’s who played a role in his desire to come to Philadelphia, sold his stake in the team last June.

Money will be an important factor in Harden’s decision, Iko notes, which gives the Sixers an advantage. Holding his Bird rights, they can offer up to a projected $272MM over five years, while Houston and any other potential suitor will be limited to four years at about $202MM. Iko states that if he stays in Philadelphia, Harden will expect to be compensated for taking a deal below his market value last summer to help the team sign several free agents.

There’s more from Houston:

  • After returning Tuesday from a groin injury, Jalen Green is thankful that the damage wasn’t worse, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The injury sidelined the second-year guard for two weeks and forced him to miss the Rising Stars event at All-Star Weekend. “I actually called Coach the other day and was just telling him, ‘The last 24 games, I’m with you,’” Green said. “’I’m ready to lock in. Whatever we’ve got to do, we’ve got to string together some wins.’”
  • Coach Stephen Silas is optimistic that Kevin Porter Jr., Green’s backcourt partner, will be able to return Wednesday night, Feigen tweets. Porter has been out of action since January 11 with a foot contusion.
  • Today is the last day that players can agree to a buyout and still be eligible for the postseason with their new team, which makes it significant for Frank Kaminsky, notes Ben DuBose of RocketsWire. Of the four veteran players the Rockets acquired at the trade deadline, Kaminsky is the only one left on the roster — John Wall, Danny Green, and Justin Holiday were all released.

Southwest Notes: Finney-Smith, Poeltl, Porter Jr., Pelicans

Dorian Finney-Smith signed a four-year extension last season, which ensured financial security. That commitment from the Mavericks doesn’t mean he’ll still be wearing the team’s uniform after this year’s trade deadline. He told The Dallas Morning News’ Callie Caplan that the fact other teams might want him means they recognize his contributions.

“It’s one of those things that I created value in this league,” the Mavericks forward said. “That’s a good thing, but other teams, the organization, got to do what’s best for them. They’re not always going to make the best decisions in your favor.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Jakob Poeltl is one of the hot names on the trade market, but the Spurs don’t necessarily need to trade the impending free agent, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News notes. Poeltl has said multiple times in recent months he would love to stay in San Antonio and the Spurs have plenty of cap flexibility this summer. They’ll also be on the upswing with the addition of high lottery pick and Poeltl’s skills blend well with any star-level talent.
  • Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr., who will miss his 10th consecutive game on Wednesday, isn’t close to returning, according to Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle. Porter has not begun any basketball activities and doesn’t have a timetable. While the injury has been described as a left foot contusion, his left big toe is the issue. “It’s just irritated. It’s something to do with my joint, but it’ll be fine,” Porter said. “We’ve just been taking it a day at a time, really.”
  • The Pelicans shouldn’t feel pressured to make a move before the trade deadline, Will Guillory of The Athletic opines. Their top players have not seen much court action together due to injuries and they still have a long way to go to develop the chemistry and cohesion they’ll need in the playoffs. With the salary commitments they already have, they should continue building internally with their assets, Guillory adds.

Injury Updates: Booker, Paul, Metu, Green, Smith Jr., Ingram

Devin Booker isn’t close to returning from his groin injury, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets. The Suns star, who was injured on Christmas Day, has been limited to non-contact drills, according to coach Monty Williams. There’s no firm date for Booker’s re-evaluation.

Suns point guard Chris Paul suited up on Sunday against Memphis after missing seven games due to a sore right hip, Rankin adds.

We have more injury news:

  • Kings forward Chimezie Metu underwent an MRI on his left knee, which showed no structural damage, James Ham of tweets. Metu has a bone bruise and is listed as questionable for Monday’s game against Memphis.
  • Grizzlies shooting guard Danny Green continues to progress from the torn ACL in his left knee, which he suffered last May, Michael Wallace of tweets. Green is playing 5-on-5 with no setbacks, but there’s no timetable on his return to action. The veteran wing was traded by Philadelphia in June.
  • Rockets rookie forward Jabari Smith Jr. is listed as questionable to play on Monday against Minnesota, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He missed Saturday’s game due to a right ankle sprain. Kevin Porter Jr. will sit out for the seventh straight game due to a foot injury.
  • Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram played 5-0n-5 in practice on Saturday, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets. Ingram has been sidelined since Nov. 25 due to a toe contusion.