Sterling Brown

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.

Coronavirus Notes: Referees, Vaccine, S. Brown

NBA players, coaches, and team personnel aren’t the only ones dealing with the league’s new coronavirus protocols this season. As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes, referees will be tested daily and will have to comply with new league rules related to indoor gatherings.

The NBA is also looking to reduce referees’ travel, Reynolds adds. While the league usually makes an effort to avoid having the same referee(s) work a particular team’s games more than once every few weeks, that may not be the case in 2020/21.

“Obviously, we won’t be able to eliminate all travel,” NBA VP Monty McCutchen said. “As much as we would like to, that won’t be possible. But just like the league took into consideration many scheduling issues for the teams to significantly reduce travel, we’re going to look at as many possibilities on a one-year basis to reduce travel so we can effectively serve the game while still living in this pandemic.”

Here are a few more updates related to COVID-19:

  • The league office is working on establishing a policy for the use of coronavirus vaccines around the NBA, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who says the league wants to make sure its players are educated about vaccine choices, possible side effects, and efficacy. Timing will also be an important issue — the league is also wary of the perception of “jumping the line” ahead of higher-risk segments of the population, and recognizes that competitive balance concerns could arise if certain teams and players are vaccinated before others.
  • In an interesting story for Yahoo Sports, Vincent Goodwill takes a look at how coaches around the NBA are preparing to work around the coronavirus this season and how they’ll try to ensure their players are all following the league’s protocols. “You try to put the fear of God into them,” one coach told Goodwill.
  • Newly-added Rockets wing Sterling Brown had yet to practice with the team as of Wednesday due to COVID-19 protocols, head coach Stephen Silas said (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN). Due to the delay, I wouldn’t expect Brown to be ready to go when Houston tips off its preseason schedule on Friday night.

Contract Details: Rockets, Tatum, Ibaka, Craig, Patterson

Sterling Brown‘s new deal with the Rockets is a one-year, minimum-salary contract that is fully guaranteed, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). That makes it one of the simpler, more straightforward deals Houston has finalized this week.

Newly-signed forwards Bruno Caboclo and Jae’Sean Tate, on the other hand, got multiyear contracts, but they both only have $50K guarantees for now, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Caboclo will have his 2020/21 salary fully guaranteed if he’s on the opening night roster, while Tate will get a $500K partial guarantee if he survives to the regular season opener, Marks writes.

While Caboclo has a two-year, minimum-salary deal, Tate’s three-year contract required the Rockets to dip into their mid-level exception and is worth more than the minimum in year one. As Smith details (via Twitter), Tate’s first-year salary will be $1,445,697 – typically the minimum for a player with one year of NBA experience – instead of the standard rookie minimum of $898,310.

Here are a few more new contract details:

  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum got a 15% trade kicker on his new five-year, maximum-salary extension with Boston, while big man Serge Ibaka received a 15% trade kicker on his two-year contract with the Clippers, according to Keith Smith (Twitter links).
  • Torrey Craig‘s one-year deal with the Bucks is a guaranteed contract worth the veteran’s minimum, tweets Smith. That doesn’t come as a surprise, as Milwaukee had no exception money left besides the minimum for Craig.
  • Rather than re-signing him to a minimum-salary contract, the Clippers re-signed Patrick Patterson using his Non-Bird rights, giving him 20% more than the minimum, according to Bobby Marks (Twitter link). That means a one-year, $3.08MM contract for the veteran forward.

Rockets Officially Announce Four Signings

The Rockets have issued a press release officially confirming that they’ve completed four recently-reported free agent contracts. Those deals are for the following players:

Caboclo, Tate, and Brown will all be part of Houston’s 15-man roster in 2020/21, while Jones will occupy one of the team’s two-way slots, alongside Kenny Wooten. Brown reportedly received a one-year contract, with Caboclo getting one year plus a second-year team option. Tate reportedly signed a three-year deal worth a little above the minimum.

Once the Rockets officially sign DeMarcus Cousins and Kenyon Martin Jr., as is expected, they’ll have one open spot remaining on their projected 15-man squad for the regular season.

The team previously made a formal announcement to confirm the acquisition of its top free agency addition, Christian Wood.

Rockets To Sign Sterling Brown

Shooting guard Sterling Brown has agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockets, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Because Brown never received a qualifying offer from the Bucks, he was able to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent.

The 6’5″ swingman was drafted by the Bucks with the 46th pick in 2017 out of SMU. The 25-year-old has a career slash line average of 5.2 PPG/3.1 RPG/1.0 APG across his three seasons in the league. He also has connected on an average of 77.4% of his free throw attempts, 41.7% of his shots from the floor, and 34.5% of his 2.6 three-point looks per contest.

His shooting should be a solid attribute to a changing Rockets club that still prioritizes surrounding stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook with switchable perimeter scorers, though how long those All-Star guards will stay with the franchise remains up in the air now.

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.

Central Notes: Brown, Pacers, Markkanen, Carter, Pistons

Bucks guard Sterling Brown has reached a $750K settlement agreement with the City of Milwaukee stemming from his lawsuit accusing police officers of racially profiling him and employing excessive force for a January 2018 parking violation, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

It was over a year ago that Brown turned down a $400K settlement offer from the city. That offer also didn’t include an admission of liability, which was a sticking point for the Bucks guard. As Charania details, the new agreement will see the city admit to a constitutional violation and commit to incorporating changes in the Police Department’s standard operating procedures.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Pacers are hiring Kaleb Canales as an assistant coach, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The newest member of Nate Bjorkgren‘s staff has served an assistant for the Trail Blazers, Mavericks, and – most recently – the Knicks, and was briefly Portland’s interim head coach in 2012.
  • Appearing on The Lowe Post podcast, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony passes along some Bulls-related chatter, telling colleague Zach Lowe that he’s heard the team is higher on Lauri Markkanen than Wendell Carter at this point (hat tip to RealGM). Givony suggests that if Chicago wants to move up from No. 4 to No. 1 in the draft, the team may have to part with Carter to do so. “It seems like a pretty hefty price to me, but that is what it’s going to cost it looks like,” Givony said.
  • Keith Langlois of Pistons.com takes a look at how new Pistons general manager Troy Weaver plans to balance the team’s long-term priorities with his aversion to bottoming out and writing off full seasons.

And-Ones: Fans In Stands, Dotson, Barnes, Harris

The NBA has pushed back next season until January with the hope of having fans in the stands but the expectation of crowds may be optimistic, Mark Medina of USA Today reports. It’s unlikely a COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available at that point and having large crowds in an indoor facility could lead to a super spreader event, according to multiple health experts who spoke to Medina. Rapid testing could make it more feasible to allow fans into indoor arenas, the story adds.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Western Carolina’s Carlos Dotson has agreed to a deal in France with JSA Bordeaux, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. The 24-year-old big man averaged 15.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG last season while receiving SoCon First Team All-Conference honors.
  • The Players Association has made committee appointments for the NBA Foundation, created in partnership with the league, as well as the new Social Justice Coalition formed when the players agreed to continue the season in late August, Shams Charania of The Athletic writes. Kings forward Harrison Barnes and 76ers forward Tobias Harris will serve as player reps on the NBA Foundation, while Jazz guard  Donovan Mitchell, Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony and Bucks guard Sterling Brown will serve on the Social Justice Coalition.
  • NBPA executive director Michele Roberts anticipates that free agency will begin no later than December 1st. Get the details here.

Lowe’s Latest: Redick, Bertans, Collins, Drummond, OKC, More

A number of players who have been mentioned as trade candidates this season may not be moved – or may not be available at all – at Thursday’s deadline, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an article jam-packed with trade-related rumors and speculation.

For instance, teams who have called the Pelicans asking about J.J. Redick have been “shooed away,” sources tell Lowe. The Wizards have taken a similar approach to clubs inquiring on Davis Bertans, though Lowe notes that could change if Washington is offered something concrete that moves the needle more than a future first-round pick.

As Shams Charania of The Athletic reported last week, teams have been monitoring John Collins in case the Hawks think about trading him, but there’s no indication Atlanta has interest in moving Collins “on any of the general terms being bandied about,” Lowe writes.

The Pistons‘ talks involving Andre Drummond aren’t entirely dormant, but it’s “far from a sure thing” that he’ll be moved, according to Lowe, who suggests that even if Detroit does make a deal, the return will likely be less than the team envisioned.

Meanwhile, the Thunder have been mentioned all season long as a potential seller, given their offseason moves and their veteran trade candidates. But the safest bet is that they stand pat with guys like Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams, per Lowe.

As Lowe points out, the Thunder could still have leverage to make deals after the season, when Schroder and Adams will be entering contract years and Gallinari will be a prime sign-and-trade candidate. The Heat are among the teams to inquire on Gallinari this season, sources tell Lowe.

As noted above, Lowe’s latest ESPN piece is filled with many more trade rumors and notes. Here are several of the highlights:

  • Lowe confirms a previous report that the Nuggets and Heat are among the teams to express interest in Jrue Holiday. Lowe also names the Raptors as a club that would be an ideal fit for the Pelicans guard, but he has a hard time envisioning a deal involving any of those teams unless they’re willing to part with young players like Michael Porter Jr., Tyler Herro, or OG Anunoby, which seems unlikely.
  • The Pacers could probably net a first-round pick for backup guard Aaron Holiday, but haven’t shown any real interest in moving him, says Lowe.
  • The chatter about the Trail Blazers making a major win-now move has died down, sources tell Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, the Lakers have explored the Kyle Kuzma market and are eyeing several ball-handlers, including Kings swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has also received interest from the Hornets.
  • The Sixers don’t intend to include Matisse Thybulle in any deal and seem most likely to “tinker” around the edges of their roster, per Lowe.
  • The Grizzlies have asked for a first-round pick from teams inquiring on Jae Crowder, according to Lowe. However, he’d “bet heavily” against any potential trade partner meeting that price.
  • Lowe provides updates on both Morris brothers, suggesting that the Knicks “seem hell-bent” on keeping and re-signing Marcus Morris, and citing sources who say the Pistons could probably get a second-round pick for Markieff Morris.
  • A lot of teams have asked the Bucks about Sterling Brown, while Pistons youngsters Christian Wood and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have also generated interest, according to Lowe, who thinks that Detroit is more likely to engage in talks on Wood than Mykhailiuk. Lowe also hears that a few clubs have “poked around” on Kings big man Harry Giles, and identifies Denzel Valentine (Bulls), Jakob Poeltl (Spurs), Marvin Williams (Hornets), and Malik Monk (Hornets) as other under-the-radar trade candidates to watch.

Central Notes: Sexton, Dunn, Brown, Holiday

Second-year Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton is keenly aware of his Twitter critics, who often attack his court vision and passing acumen. He is taking a promisingly levelheaded approach to fan appraisals, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“If there was no criticism then what can you work on and what can you get better at? That’s just like any job,” Sexton noted. “So, whatever they say I can’t do I’m going to do it.” The No. 8 pick in 2018, voted a second-team All Rookie for the 2018/19 season, has averaged 17.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 2.4 APG this season for the Cavaliers.

Sexton has been adjusting to a new system in Cleveland under new Cavs head coach John Beilein. He has been moved from his pure point guard position last season to a universe of shared ball-handling duties, where he splits lead guard responsibilities with new backcourt mate Darius Garland.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago takes a look at Kris Dunn‘s development in his new role as the Bulls‘ lead perimeter defender. The 6’3″, long-limbed No. 5 pick in the 2016 NBA draft struggled as Chicago’s starting point guard last season. Injuries to Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison compelled coach Jim Boylen to enlist Dunn’s services as spot starting small forward in their absence. Dunn, a 2020 restricted free agent, has been hyper-efficient, and is currently leading the league in total steals with 58.
  • During a recent roundtable conversation at Racine Correctional Institution, Bucks swingman Sterling Brown discussed his ongoing lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee. “They tried to get me to settle for it. I feel like it was just a slap in the face,” Brown told ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard. “The money is not the biggest concern. It’s not a priority for me.” Brown alleges that Milwaukee police officers were racially profiling him and employing excessive force by tasing him for a January 2018 parking violation.
  • Pacers wing Justin Holiday, signed to the team’s room exception with a one-year, $4.8MM contract this summer, has been enjoying a solid season thus far with his seventh NBA team, as the Indianapolis Star’s J. Michael observes. “I never understood why (I didn’t stick) because teams that have actually had me know what I can do,” Holiday said. He is shooting 37.7% from deep this season.