Tari Eason

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.

Warriors Notes: Thurs. Win, Kuminga, Jackson-Davis, Green

The Warriors all but ended the Rockets‘ season on Thursday with a 133-110 victory in Houston that widened the gap between the two teams to four games with just six left to play. As Kendra Andrews of ESPN notes, because Golden State holds the tiebreaker over the Rockets, the Warriors’ lead for the No. 10 spot in the West is essentially five games.

Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and the Warriors relished the opportunity to deal a virtual death blow to Houston’s play-in chances, particularly after injured Rockets forward Tari Eason showed up to the game wearing a shirt that read, “Warriors, come out to play.” According to Andrews, both Thompson and Green faced the Houston crowd and yelled that phrase later in the night.

“That’s pretty lame, especially if you’re not even playing,” Thompson said of Eason’s shirt. “It’s one thing if you are out there playing, out there competing and you can back it up. But you’re just going to be trolling from the sideline? What are you doing? The time we talk smack, we’re out there competing. That’s all I have to say about that.”

Eason was limited to just 22 appearances in 2023/24 due to health issues and underwent season-ending leg surgery in March. Green said he’s looking forward to getting the opportunity to play the Rockets next season when Eason is healthy and that he hopes the two teams are fighting for a higher seed at that point.

“I love it [but] if you’re going to say that, you got to play,” Green said. “You can’t come out and say that and not play. But I know what type of player he is. He welcomes all of that. He welcomes the challenge and welcomes the fight. … Hopefully next year he’ll say the same thing and we both won’t be fighting for the play-in, we’ll be fighting for the seeding.”

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Jonathan Kuminga started 29 consecutive games for the Warriors before missing the past five contests due to a knee issue, but he’ll likely return to the bench once he’s healthy, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Golden State has won all five of those games without Kuminga, and the new-look starting five of Stephen Curry, Thompson, Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Trayce Jackson-Davis has a +26.4 net rating during that stretch. “We’ve established something here,” head coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Thursday. “If we’re playing well, we generally keep the same starting lineup.” The Warriors are “hopeful” Kuminga will be back on Friday.
  • Prior to the last five games, Green and Jackson-Davis had only played 92 minutes together this season, but Kerr has leaned heavily recently on that frontcourt duo, which now has a +16.6 net rating (and a 96.2 defensive rating) in 169 total minutes. “Trayce and Draymond together have changed our team,” Kerr said on Thursday, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “It’s pretty dramatic, the rim protection and rebounding that Trayce gives us and what that allows Draymond to do.”
  • Green is also a fan of the combination, suggesting on Thursday that playing next to Jackson-Davis gives him more freedom on defense: “It allows me to take more chances. Not necessarily chances gambling for a steal, but to clog the paint up, make extra rotations. If I’m the five, I’m the last line of defense. The things that I do off of instinct, reading the game on the fly, it’s hard to do that at the five because you’re anchoring everybody. So if I just run over here to cover up something but I’m the five, that’s leaving the rim unprotected. But if I know the rim is protected with Trayce, I’ll just go do it.”
  • Green’s tremendous defensive play since last week’s ejection in Orlando is a prime example of why the Warriors are willing to endure the veteran forward’s lows, knowing that there are likely highs around the corner, says Tim Kawakami of The Athletic. Kawakami suggests that the Warriors have always taken a practical, big-picture approach with Green, who remains a key part of the team’s on-court success.

Rockets’ Tari Eason Undergoes Season-Ending Leg Surgery

MARCH 5: Eason underwent surgery to treat a benign growth on his lower leg, the Rockets announced today in a press release. According to the team, the procedure “involved excising and bone grafting the lesion along with inserting an intramedullary rod in his tibia to help accelerate healing.”

As expected, Eason’s projected recovery time is four months.

MARCH 3: Tari Eason‘s second NBA season will come to an early end, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, who reports that the Rockets forward will undergo surgery to treat a growth on his left leg. The procedure will take place on Monday and will sideline him for the next four months, per head coach Ime Udoka.

“He had obviously been going through some things through the year and had a benign growth on the shin bone, the tibia I think,” Udoka said. “Took that blow early in the season. Flared up. He played through it with some pain. Never had a chance of fracturing. It was a pain tolerance thing. Once the pain got too high, he shut it down.

“We thought rest and rehab, he could get over it that way, but every time he ramped up, the pain came right back. After seeing all the specialists and decision makers, came to the decision that it’s best to have surgery Monday. He’ll be ready for the start of the season. A little bone graft put in there and he’ll be ready in four months.”

The 17th overall pick in the 2022 draft, Eason was a model of health in his rookie year, appearing in all 82 games in 2022/23. He showed promise by averaging 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per night, posting a shooting line of .448/.343/.752 and flashing significant defensive upside.

Eason was on track to be a key part of Houston’s wing rotation this season, but he was limited to just 22 appearances due to his health issues, which began when Pacers big man Jalen Smith fell on his leg in a preseason game. He hasn’t suited up for Houston since January 1.

Eason will be entering the third season of his four-year rookie contract in 2024/25 and is locked in on a cap hit of approximately $3.7MM. The Rockets will have until October 31 to exercise his $5.7MM fourth-year option for ’25/26. Assuming that option is picked up, which is a safe bet, the former LSU standout will become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2025 offseason.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Pelicans, Mavs, Brunson

Rockets head coach Ime Udoka said he was considering making changes to the starting lineup just before the All-Star break, but with the opening night starting five healthy again, he wants to give the group more time to show what it can do, at least for now, according to Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link).

Took a look at some things over the last 27 or so games,” Udoka said. “I think I cut 54 (games) in half and wanted to get a look when we are more whole. Looking at Dillon (Brooks) missing nine games, Fred (VanVleet) missing the last five, Jabari (Smith) missing four, and the ups and downs we had to start those games with different lineups. I felt we played a lot better, obviously, in the first 27 than the last 27. So I want to get back to that consistency, and we’ll take a look at our group going forward as is and see if we get back to the consistency and competitiveness that we had in the first 27.”

As Lerner writes, the Rockets are 18-17 with VanVleet, Jalen Green, Brooks, Smith and Alperen Sengun starting, but just 6-13 with any other lineups. They’ve also gone 1-6 without VanVleet this season. The veteran guard will be active for the back-to-back set Thursday and Friday after missing Houston’s previous five games with a left adductor strain.

I had a little bit of an extended break, so it’s really good for me, obviously, to rehab and get back healthy,” VanVleet said, per Lerner. “I had a good week to train and get some good work in. So feeling good and just excited to be back with the group.”

Rookie wing Cam Whitmore, who missed the last three games heading into the break with a sprained ankle, is expected to return this week, Lerner adds, while second-year forward Tari Eason was being evaluated by a doctor on Wednesday to determine a prognosis for his leg injury, which has kept him out for 32 games in 2023/24.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • After competing in the play-in tournament the past two seasons, once advancing to the playoffs and once being immediately eliminated, the Pelicans hope to avoid the tournament altogether by making the playoffs outright in 2023/24, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “It’s definitely one of our goals,” head coach Willie Green said. “To take another step. That step for us is to not be in the play-in. We can control our own destiny with piling up as many wins as we can.” After winning seven of eight leading into the break, New Orleans is currently 33-22, the No. 5 seed in the West. However, the Pelicans only lead the No. 8 seed Kings by one-and-a-half games.
  • Coach Jason Kidd may be preaching patience but the time for the Mavericks to win is now, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News argues. Dallas is sitting in seventh place in the West but possesses the league’s most explosive backcourt, along with frontcourt upgrades made at the trade deadline.
  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson confirmed that he wanted to stay with the Mavericks, but said they didn’t negotiate with him seriously enough during his walk year in 2021/22. Brunson would have signed for much less than he received from the Knicks if the Mavs hadn’t balked at a four-year extension early in the process. He made those comments during a podcast as relayed by Andrew Battifarano of the New York Post. “I really did want to stay in Dallas,” Brunson said on the “All The Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. “Before my fourth season in Dallas, my last season in Dallas, we try to extend our contract — whatever we can get. The most we can get is like four years and $55 million. And obviously we wanted to do that, I wanted to stay there and I thought I would be there for a long time. I liked my role there.”

Dana Gauruder contributed to this report.

Rockets’ Stone Discusses Adams Deal, Green, Deadline Talks

After the Rockets acquired Steven Adams a week before the trade deadline in a move with next season in mind, the front office had plenty of discussions about deals that would’ve helped the team more in the short term, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Houston kicked the tires on players like Kelly Olynyk, Andre Drummond, Jericho Sims, and Xavier Tillman, among others, but couldn’t find a trade that worked for both sides.

“We certainly weren’t going to do something that would hurt us on a going-forward basis,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “The moves we were the most excited about were moves where we thought that could help us in the short term and also the long term, the moves subsequent to (the trade for) Steven.
We were very excited about acquiring Steven. Subsequently, a lot of the ones we had long discussions about were moves that would have provided elements this year maybe that we don’t have, as well as stuff for the future.

“But they didn’t happen, and we’re fine with that. We like our group, and this gives everybody on our current roster an opportunity to shine.”

If the Rockets had wanted to make a more significant deal, it would’ve likely required them to part with a player from their young core: Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Tari Eason, Amen Thompson, or Cam Whitmore. But Stone said the team wasn’t looking to move on from any of those youngsters, adding that he and head coach Ime Udoka were in agreement on the deals they pursued and those they didn’t.

“We’re looking at the long term more so than anything,” Udoka said. “When you have that many young, talented players, you want to see what they become and not rush to judgment on anything.
As far as those guys, everyone’s going to check in when you have this amount of young talent. We’re trying to win. We’re in the development and winning stage at the same time, so people checked in. We knew they would. They are talented young guys, and we have some duplicated positions there. We like what we’re seeing from those guys and want to see what we are as a whole unit.”

Here are a few more of Stone’s most notable comments from Monday’s post-deadline media session:

On the acquisition of Adams:

“I think we got a really high-level basketball player. A guy who’s been a dominant rebounding force in the NBA for the last five, six years. One of the best defenders in the NBA. We obviously feel great with Alperen, but now we have two truly starter-level centers next year. Depth is extraordinarily important. On top of that, he’s a very different player and will be a good complement on and off the court for our group.”

On the long-term fit of Jalen Green, whose name popped up in some predeadline rumors:

“Jalen has been and continues to be, on paper, a great fit with us. He has a skill set that isn’t really replicated on our roster. My expectation of him – and he knows this, and I think he echoed in his postgame comments – my expectation is that the defense, which has gotten better, is still going to get a lot better. That the physicality and the efficiency are all going to get better. He needs to take those steps. That’s extraordinarily important. He’s aware of it. We’re aware of it. And that’s the challenge for him and for us.”

On Stone’s assessment of his own job performance in the past year:

“I’m happy with the choices we made. I think for the most part, we’ve gotten what we want. And the additions of Fred (VanVleet) and Dillon (Brooks) were necessary and really important. I like that we brought Boban (Marjanovic) back. I like that we have Jeff (Green). I love the hire of Ime. And then I think we did well drafting Cam and Amen. So we had a very successful offseason, which set us up to make the right steps for this season.

“But I would say for myself, similar to our young guys, it’s not good enough. And so they need to improve. Our front office — not just me, all of us, our coaching staff, all of us — we’ve got to continue on the grind and make sure the choices we make between now and the end of the season, the ones in the offseason all set us up to have the best possible chance to win a championship in the short term. Not meaning like a year or two, but not 20 years either. And that’s very much our goal. And my goal.”

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.

Rockets Rumors: Bridges, Centers, Tate, Brogdon, Core

Despite a modest 22-24 record that places them 11th in the West, the Rockets are motivated to be buyers on the trade market at next week’s deadline and will be seeking high-level talent, according to Kelly Iko, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

As The Athletic’s trio explains, the presence of new head coach Ime Udoka – and his strong influence with the team’s top decision-makers – has contributed to an acceleration of the Rockets’ timeline. Udoka has been frustrated by the team’s “inconsistencies” and is determined to make the postseason, and his level of urgency has helped convince the front office to adjust its expectations for the club and its strategy on the trade market.

The Rockets’ interest in Nets forward Mikal Bridges, reported earlier today by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, is one example of the club’s pursuit of impact players. The Athletic’s reporters confirm that Houston’s level of interest in Bridges is “extremely high,” but echo Scotto in saying that Brooklyn continues to view the 27-year-old as a cornerstone piece and has no interest in moving him.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Houston also continues to scour the trade market for more frontcourt help, with Kelly Olynyk (Jazz), Clint Capela (Hawks), Andre Drummond (Bulls), and Robert Williams (Trail Blazers) among the big men on the team’s radar, per Iko, Charania, and Amick. Udoka would like to find a center capable of not only manning the position when Alperen Sengun is on the bench but also potentially playing alongside Sengun, like Williams and Al Horford did during Udoka’s time in Boston.
  • While the Rockets will likely look to package draft capital with expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts like those belonging to Victor Oladipo, Jock Landale, and Boban Marjanovic, they also view forward Jae’Sean Tate as “movable,” according to The Athletic’s report. League sources tell The Athletic that the Celtics and Suns have shown some level of interest in Tate.
  • A ball-handler who can defend would also be on the Rockets’ wish list, league sources tell The Athletic’s trio, who mention Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon as one player who fits the bill. However, Houston isn’t eager to cut into Cam Whitmore‘s or Amen Thompson‘s minutes, which may affect the club’s aggressiveness in pursuing backcourt help.
  • Whitmore and Thompson are considered off-limits in most trade talks, according to Iko, Charania, and Amick, who say the Rockets aren’t interested in moving Jabari Smith or Tari Eason either. Jalen Green is also in that group of young players Houston would be very reluctant to trade, though The Athletic’s reporters suggest he’s not necessarily viewed as untouchable like he would’ve been a year or two ago, with Sengun having overtaken him as the player prioritized in the Rockets’ schemes. It sounds as if Houston won’t move any of its young core players in a deal for a mere rotation upgrade, but would consider including one in a package for a star.

Southwest Notes: J. Smith, Eason, McCollum, Spurs, Grizzlies

Rockets forward Jabari Smith will miss a fourth consecutive game on Saturday due to a sprained left ankle, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston will also continue to be without forward Tari Eason, who has been hampered by a lower left leg injury for the entire season. Eason has appeared in 22 games, but has been sidelined since January 1 and his return isn’t imminent.

“He’s been doing a little bit here and there, getting shots up, just not doing the contact,” head coach Ime Udoka said of Eason earlier this week, per Feigen. “He’s feeling better. We still don’t have a definite date (for Eason to return) but the fact he’s getting out here, getting shots up, moving, it’s a good sign. It’s more week-to-week. We were giving him a few weeks initially. He’ll be reevaluated soon, and we’ll go from there.”

According to Feigen, Eason is expected to begin contact work next week and ramp up from there.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Nearly two years after the Pelicans acquired CJ McCollum from Portland, William Guillory of The Athletic explores how the veteran guard has adjusted to a new city, a new team, and a new role, which continue to evolve. McCollum has served as more of a floor spacer than a point guard this season. “I think originally we approached it as, ‘Yeah, (CJ’s) the smallest player (in our starting lineup), so he’s the point guard,'” Larry Nance Jr. told Guillory. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. He can be, but he doesn’t have to be. We can run offense through (Brandon Ingram), (Zion Williamson) or a bunch of other people in the lineup. That was one of the biggest realizations for our team and for CJ. We don’t have a Tyrese Haliburton who sets the table for everybody. We have a lot of guys who are good at passing and seeing the court. We can run the offense through a few people and that makes us harder to defend.”
  • Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News passes along a couple Spurs updates, writing that Blake Wesley appears to have taken over Malaki Branham‘s role as the backup point guard and tweeting that Victor Wembanyama is confident he’ll be available for the second end of the team’s back-to-back set on Saturday after playing on Friday. Wembanyama hasn’t played in both games of a back-to-back since November.
  • Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal takes a look at how the Grizzlies may approach the trade deadline, noting that the team currently has something of a roster logjam, with 14 of the 15 players on standard deals also under contract for next season. Xavier Tillman is the only one who is on track for free agency, while Luke Kennard has a team option — the other 13 have guaranteed salaries.

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: Mavs, Pelicans, Murphy, Eason, Rockets

The Mavericks had a couple of frontcourt rotation players go down with ankle injuries in Wednesday’s blowout victory over Portland, as Dereck Lively sprained his left ankle in the third quarter and Grant Williams sprained his right in the fourth, writes Shawn McFarland of The Dallas Morning News. Neither player returned to the game.

However, head coach Jason Kidd said after the game that the two sprains were “mild,” tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, and on Thursday, both players were listed as questionable for Friday’s rematch with Portland (Twitter link via Mavs play-by-play announcer Mark Followill). Dante Exum (right heel contusion) and Richaun Holmes (personal reasons) are doubtful.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Instead of folding after being blown out by the Lakers during the in-season tournament, the Pelicans have played their best basketball of the season over the past few weeks, going 9-3, including seven double-digit wins, per William Guillory of The Athletic. As Guillory writes, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson playing selflessly and “doing the little things” has contributed to the team’s success, as has CJ McCollum adapting to a more spot-up role while being a locker room leader.
  • Pelicans guard/forward Trey Murphy is still considered day-to-day after missing the past three games with left knee soreness, head coach Willie Green said on Thursday (Twitter link via Christian Clark of NOLA.com). Murphy is questionable for Friday’s matchup with the Clippers, Clark tweets. It’s worth noting that the third-year wing had left knee surgery to repair his meniscus in September.
  • Second-year Rockets forward Tari Eason has drawn praise from head coach Ime Udoka and has been very impactful when he’s able to suit up lately, but the stress reaction he suffered in his left leg during preseason continues to be an issue, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link), who notes that rookies Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore have gotten more playing time when Eason is out. “It’s day-to-day at this point,” Udoka said of Eason. “He might have reaggravated here and there. It acts up a little bit. So continue to monitor it, but it’s something we’re going to deal with for a while. He’s been getting looked at, checked out, a ton of treatment, rehab. Rest is good for it, has been. On those games he’s played back-to-back, had to limit his minutes. The games we had days off in between, we were capping him at 25. We’d obviously like to play him more when he’s playing really well.”