Stephen Silas

Southwest Notes: Silas, Griffin, Mavericks, Zion

Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is trying to maintain a rosy outlook despite Houston’s recent 13-game losing streak, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“It’s encouraging to know when we get back and we’re healthy and we’re whole and we’re in a position [where] we have enough guys to compete, we’re going to be just fine,” Silas said.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • During a recent interview with team broadcaster Todd Graffagnini of ESPN New Orleans, Pelicans team president David Griffin explained the reasoning behind the team prioritizing its veterans over its youth. “So where we’re struggling right now is finding a way to play those guys in a way that makes sense within the framework of a system that doesn’t allow for practice to put them in a position to succeed when they’re on the court,” Griffin said (a transcript is viewable here). “So it’s complicated, and I think the coaches have done a remarkable job of trying to find the balance there. I really take exception to the idea that, well, if you’re losing, you might as well be playing the young kid, that that doesn’t make any sense.”
  • The Mavericks have brought back rookies Josh Green, Tyler Bey and Tyrell Terry from the G League, according to The Dallas Morning News. Green and Bey were playing for the Salt Lake City Stars while in Orlando for the NBAGL “bubble” campus. Terry suited up for the Memphis Hustle.
  • Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will start in place of Sixers center Joel Embiid in the starting lineup for tonight’s All-Star game, Adrian Wojnarowski of EPN tweets. Embiid and his Philadelphia teammate Ben Simmons will be missing the contest as a result of COVID-19 contact tracing. Scott Kushner of The Times-Picayune details how Williamson’s exciting offensive game makes him an ideal fit for the All-Star stage.

Southwest Notes: Cousins, McDermott, Spurs, Pelicans

Although the Rockets and DeMarcus Cousins intend to amicably part ways, it’s possible the veteran center hasn’t played his last game for the team yet. Addressing the Cousins situation on Sunday, head coach Stephen Silas said the 30-year-old was still at practice and that the plan was to have him continue to start at center as long as he remains on Houston’s roster, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Cousins’ representatives and the Rockets are working on a potential trade or release that would get the big man to a team of his choosing. Other players in similar situations, like Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, are being held out of action while their teams look to finalize a resolution, but Silas’ comments indicated the Rockets aren’t necessarily committed to that same approach.

Still, Cousins’ availability in the coming days will hinge in large part on his health. He has been ruled out for Monday’s game due to a sore right heel and it’s safe to assume the Rockets will be very cautious with the big man as they explore the trade market in search of a potential deal.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • With the Grizzlies‘ roster getting a little healthier, the team has sent two-way player Sean McDermott to the G League bubble, transferring him to the Memphis Hustle (Twitter link). McDermott has been a depth option on the wing for the Grizzlies this season, appearing in just eight games, so he’ll see more frequent playing time for the Hustle.
  • The Spurs also made a pair of G League transactions, announcing (via Twitter) that they’ve recalled guard Tre Jones and forward Luka Samanic from the Austin Spurs. Jones had been leading the G League with 9.7 assists per game, while Samanic ranked in the top six in the NBAGL in both PPG (21.8) and RPG (11.3).
  • The Pelicans continue to gradually increase the number of fans allowed at the Smoothie King Center, issuing a press release today confirming that capacity will increase to 2,700 as of Wednesday. New Orleans, whose previous capacity was 1,900 fans, hope to bump that number up to 4,000+ by season’s end.

Rockets Notes: Wood, Patton, Starting Lineups, Mini-Camp

Rockets starting center Christian Wood is striving to return from his right ankle injury to the court before the All-Star Game, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “I want to come back before All-Star break,” Wood said. “If I had to give you a percentage of where my ankle is, I’d probably tell you 80 percent.”

Wood, in the midst of a career season during his first year with the Rockets, has been trying to think positively about the injury. “It was definitely hard to deal with at first,” Wood said of his ankle sprain. “But then when I found out the news wasn’t as bad as it seemed, I was grateful and thankful that it could have been worse.”

There’s more out of Houston:

  • Newly-added Rockets two-way center Justin Patton is hoping to stick with Houston, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. “That’s the sole reason for what I’m doing,” Patton says. “Every single day I’m working with a chip on my shoulder, proving a point, just as everybody else on our team right now.” Numerous foot injuries have limited Patton to just nine NBA appearances since he was drafted with the No. 16 pick out of Creighton in the 2017 draft. He has exhibited flashes of promise, however, at the G League level.
  • The Rockets have struggled to build chemistry through a flurry of 16 different starting lineups, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “Perfect example today in practice, Eric (Gordon) and Tuck (P.J. Tucker) have this like language that they speak to each other that makes sense to them,” head coach Stephen Silas said. “We as a group don’t have any of that… You see teams that have been together a long time and have had steady lineups throughout the season are at the top of the league.”
  • Since the Rockets had their weekend slate of games postponed because of ongoing weather problems in Texas, the team was able to have a three-practice “mini-camp,” as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle details. Silas is hopeful that the new-look team will be able to parlay these intense workouts into chemistry. “It feels great to really get down to the bare knuckles of offense and defense,” Silas said. “We broke down today and did some live two-on-two which we haven’t been able to do all season.”

Southwest Notes: Tre Jones, Silas, Pelicans, Bane

A seven-game losing streak has seen the Rockets plummet in the Western Conference standings. Houston is currently the No. 13 seed with an 11-17 record, and head coach Stephen Silas is struggling to determine how to break out of the slump, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle details. Silas concedes that adjusting to the absence of several key frontcourt contributors has been a big hurdle.

“There’s some sleepless nights for sure,” the Rockets’ coach said. “But internally, my nature is to be positive, No. 1, and to be a problem solver, No. 2. So as each guy goes down or as each challenge arises based on our roster or who we’re playing, it’s just my nature to not make it emotional and concentrate on the problem-solving part of it.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs point guard Tre Jones is impressing during his tenure with San Antonio’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. Jones has appeared in just nine games with San Antonio, but Austin head coach Matt Nielsen lauded the rookie’s court vision. Jones leads the G League with 9.8 assists per game for Austin. “He’s a fantastic reader of basketball when the plays are in front of him,” Nielsen said. “At the same time, he knows how to use his teammates and get them involved.”
  • Pelicans star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are continuing to figure out how to collaborate in late-game scenarios, per Scott Kushner of NOLA.com“We’re going to get in the lab, individually and as a team, and prepare for a different outcome,” Williamson said following a recent late-game defeat.
  • Grizzlies rookie shooting guard Desmond Bane, the No. 30 pick out of TCU who currently leads all 2020/21 rookies in three-point shooting accuracy (48.2%), is set to rejoin Memphis for the club’s game against the Pistons tomorrow, following a four-game absence due to personal matters, per Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Southwest Notes: Porter, SVG, Grizzlies-Thunder, Jones

New Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr., who has participated in only one practice since being added to Houston earlier this month from the Cavaliers, has a lot to gain from his new G League assignment, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle opines.

“[The G League assignment] is for him to get his feet wet with what we do and how we do it,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said of Porter. “And then, he hasn’t played in quite a while. So, to have consistent games night after night or every other night is important for him and his growth as far as being a part of our team.”

There’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans have not seen their defense take the strides they were hoping for under new coach Stan Van Gundy, per Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Van Gundy has previously coached several top-10 defenses in his prior head coaching stops with the Heat, Magic and Pistons. “We need a whole different defensive disposition,” Van Gundy said. “We just do. To keep the ball in front of us. To fight. To make shots more difficult.”
  • A GrizzliesThunder matchup in Memphis, initially projected to be played during the second half of the NBA season schedule, has been shifted up to Wednesday, February 17 at 8 p.m. CT, per a Grizzlies press release.
  • Spurs rookie guard Tre Jones has been assigned to San Antonio’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Jones will travel to Orlando to join the NBAGL “bubble” campus.

Rockets Notes: Harden Trade, Wall, House, Wood

The idea that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told general manager Rafael Stone not to trade James Harden to the Sixers – whose front office is led by former Rockets GM Daryl Morey – is incorrect, reports Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Fertitta stays out of trade discussions, according to Feigen, who says that Stone and Morey had “extensive” discussions. In fact, talks on Harden advanced to the point where Stone made one final demand of the Sixers in the final stage of negotiations and would have traded the former MVP to Philadelphia if Morey had agreed.

As Feigen explains, Stone wanted one more draft pick or player – believed to be Tyrese Maxey – and less protection on the draft picks included in the Sixers’ offer. Philadelphia was unwilling to meet those demands, so Houston made a deal with Brooklyn. Morey has since told confidants that he thinks his former lieutenant Stone made a great trade, according to Feigen.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • While some reports have suggested that Harden favored Tyronn Lue for the Rockets’ head coaching job over Stephen Silas, the team actually didn’t know which coaching candidate Harden liked best, Feigen writes in the same story. While Russell Westbrook preferred Lue, Harden never expressed a strong preference, which may have been due to his simmering desire to be traded. Westbrook and Harden both ultimately signed off on the hiring of Silas, Feigen notes.
  • Rockets point guard John Wall isn’t accompanying the team on its road trip this weekend due to a sore knee and isn’t expected back in the lineup until at least Tuesday, according to Feigen. Danuel House (health and safety protocols) also won’t play until Tuesday at the earliest, while Christian Wood (ankle) will miss at least Friday’s game in Detroit.
  • Injuries, absences related to COVID-19, and the Harden trade had the Rockets playing rotational roulette during the first month of this season, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, who suggests the club will ideally be able to get a better read on its roster in the coming weeks.

Rockets’ Players, Silas Discuss Harden Situation

On Tuesday night, James Harden said that he didn’t feel as if the Rockets were “good enough” to compete with the NBA’s best teams, suggesting that there wasn’t enough talent on the roster and that he didn’t think the situation could be fixed.

Those comments may essentially represent his farewell to Houston, as they appear to have accelerated the Rockets’ efforts to trade him. They also didn’t sit well with some of the teammates he was throwing under the bus.

Addressing the situation today, DeMarcus Cousins pointedly stated that he came to Houston to play with John Wall, and expressed his displeasure with Harden’s public critique of the Rockets and the way he has handled himself over the last month or two.

“He can feel however he wants to about the organization or whatever his current situation is, but the other 14 guys in the locker room have done nothing to him,” Cousins said, per James Herbert of CBS Sports (Twitter link). “So for us to be on the receiving end of some of the disrespectful comments and antics, it’s completely unfair to us.”

While Cousins was referring in part to Harden’s press conference on Tuesday, he made it clear that it’s not as if everyone was on the same page up until then.

“The disrespect started way before any interview,” Cousins said (Twitter link via Herbert). “Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court. I mean the disrespect started way before.”

While other Rockets players who have addressed the Harden situation since Tuesday night weren’t quite as blunt as Cousins, Christian Wood acknowledged that the situation has “been going on since training camp” and said Harden’s comments hurt team chemistry (Twitter links via Herbert).

Wall, who spoke to reporters shortly after Harden did on Tuesday, expressed his frustration with his backcourt mate’s unwillingness to buy in.

“When the one through 15 guys are all on the same page… you all will be fine,” Wall said (video link via Bleacher Report). “But when you have certain guys in the mix that don’t want to buy in all as one, it’s going to be hard do anything special or do anything good as a basketball team.

“… It’s only been nine games. Like, come on, man, you’re gonna jump off the cliff off of nine games? There’s a lot of basketball still to be played.”

Head coach Stephen Silas was diplomatic about the situation, telling the media today that Harden “was nothing but professional” to him personally and calling the saga a “crazy NBA situation” (Twitter links via Herbert). With Harden away from the team, Silas said he’s focused on the other players on Houston’s roster.

“The reaction (to Tuesday’s comments) was less about what James said and more about the group, and how the group would feel about what he said,” Silas said, noting that he believes the Rockets are better than their 3-6 record suggests. “That was my main concern because that’s hard to hear. Especially when you don’t believe it and you know it not to be true.”

While it seemed for a time that the Rockets might drag out their Harden trade talks until the March deadline, it now appears likely that a deal will be completed this week.

Rockets Notes: Wood, Harden, McLemore, Martin, House, More

New Rockets center Christian Wood has been a revelation on offense in Houston so far, but in order to maximize his overall impact, he needs to become a more consistently reliable rim protector, as Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes.

“For us to be a great defense, it’s all about protection in the paint, protecting that rim,” Eric Gordon said on Monday. “If guards come down and they have to think about scoring over Christian Wood, that’s gonna help us.”

According to Iko, rebounding is also an area the Rockets will need to improve. When the team was playing micro-ball last season, its poor rebounding numbers were understandable, but those struggles have carried over to the early part of 2020/21, even with Wood and other big men now part of the rotation. Houston currently ranks 29th in rebounding percentage.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • While James Harden has made it clear that he wants to be traded out of Houston, he still has to prove what sort of sacrifices he’s willing to make if he wants to win a championship, writes Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated. Some executives who spoke to Beck were skeptical that the former MVP would readily change his playing style to help a new team. “James is like Allen Iverson: He wants to win his way and put up historical numbers while he’s winning,” one veteran Eastern Conference executive said. “I would never question their desire to win, but they all want to win on their terms.”
  • Ben McLemore and KJ Martin, who were self-isolating after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19, have returned to the team but are focusing on improving their conditioning and aren’t traveling to Indiana for Wednesday’s game, says Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Danuel House, who continues to be nagged by a sore back, also won’t be with the club for that game.
  • In a separate article for The Houston Chronicle, Feigen takes a look at the strong start Sterling Brown has enjoyed after signing with the Rockets as a free agent in November.
  • Kelly Iko and Tim Cato of The Athletic revisit Stephen Silas‘ days as an assistant coach with the Mavericks and explore how that position helped prepare him for his first head coaching job in Houston.

Texas Notes: Burke, Spurs, KP, Wood

Mavericks reserve point guard Trey Burke has dealt with a variety of ups and downs in 2020, writes Dwain Price of Mavericks.com. Burke’s year had an ignominious start when the Sixers waived him before the coronavirus pandemic caused a 2019/20 season pause.

Burke was then dealt a blow when he contracted the COVID-19 before the 2019/20 NBA season restart. “Everyone knows about the corona situation – me coming down with corona and getting through that and getting to Orlando and helping the team produce,” Burke said. His subsequent performance in the Orlando restart for the Mavericks earned him a three-year, $9.45MM deal in the 2020 offseason.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • The Spurs have announced in a press release that they will keep fans out of the AT&T Center for the foreseeable future this season. “While we are confident in the plans and protocols we have in place, we are uncomfortable hosting fans at this moment as the COVID-19 numbers and data in our community continue to trend in the wrong direction,” team president R.C. Buford said in the statement.
  • Center Kristaps Porzingis took part in his first full-contact Mavericks team practice since an October right knee lateral meniscus surgery, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Head coach Rick Carlisle expects that Porzingis will likely return to the court for Dallas in January. “Sometime in the next couple of weeks isn’t far-fetched,” Carlisle said.
  • Despite an 0-2 start and some off-court pathos, new Rockets big man Christian Wood has impressed new head coach Stephen Silas thus far, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “Still trying to find his way, and we have to make sure he’s rolling and popping at the right time,” Silas said. “He started off really good hitting those three 3s early, but he’s got a little ways to go as well. We all do.” Wood is currently averaging 27.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG in 40.0 MPG for a depleted Rockets squad. He also has a stellar shooting line of .548/.571/.667.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Dinwiddie, Tucker, Silas

Spencer Dinwiddie‘s partial ACL tear further reduces the odds of the Nets and Rockets working out a trade involving James Harden this season, in the view of Matt Young of The Houston Chronicle, who notes that Dinwiddie and his $11.5MM salary likely would’ve been a key part of any package Brooklyn could put together.

Dinwiddie’s injury doesn’t mean he can’t be traded, but it significantly diminishes his value, since he can reach free agency in 2021 and may not play another game on his current contract. Still, ESPN’s Zach Lowe suggested during his Monday episode of The Lowe Post that the Dinwiddie injury doesn’t really change the Nets’ and Rockets’ outlook for Harden, since the two teams had made no progress toward a deal anyway.

“Spencer Dinwiddie’s health did not make or break the Nets’ ability to get James Harden,” Lowe said, per RealGM. “It’s unclear to me, frankly, if those teams have had anything resembling a serious conversation about James Harden. Let’s make that clear. I don’t sense that there’s been hardly any traction there at all. And maybe the way the Nets started had them thinking ‘Why are we messing with this?'”

Here’s more on Harden and the Rockets:

  • Harden, who has averaged 39.0 PPG and 12.5 APG on .595/.500/.920 shooting in his first two games of the season, has provided the Rockets with a reminder of why it doesn’t make sense to trade him for “50 or 60 cents on the dollar,” writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
  • The Rockets will remain shorthanded on players until Wednesday and haven’t been able to conduct a full practice in about a week, but P.J. Tucker doesn’t think the team should view that as excuse for a slow start, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “It’s our jobs to play basketball. This happens,” Tucker said. “Guys go down with injuries, guys go down for being sick, guys go down for family issues. You miss guys all the time. It just makes it next man up. It’s an opportunity to go out and play.”
  • Stephen Silas reportedly wasn’t Harden’s first choice when the Rockets were searching for a new head coach this offseason, and his hiring may have even contributed to the former MVP’s decision to request a trade. However, Harden likes what he has seen from Silas so far, as Mark Medina of USA Today writes. “He did a great job,” Harden said of his new coach after the team’s first game on Saturday. “Very confident, knew what he was drawing up and knew where to put his guys at.”