Jeff Green

Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Report: Rockets signing Luc Mbah a Moute

Leave a comment

Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha is sitting out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Enter Luc Mbah a Moute.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like Sefolosha, Mbah a Moute is a versatile defensive forward who can make open 3-pointers and fits well into Houston’s system.

In theory.

Mbah a Moute, who played well for the Rockets in 2017-18, looked like a major loss when he left for the Clippers in 2018. But he has struggled to stay healthy. He hasn’t played in the NBA since October 2018. Houston worked out the 33-year-old in March – and didn’t sign him. That’s telling.

Expect Mbah a Moute to fall behind Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker, Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Danuel House on the Rockets’ depth chart. It’d be a good outcome for Houston if Mbah a Moute helps in spot minutes.

But if Mbah a Moute proves to be effective in a Rockets uniform, that’d at least look quite natural. We’ve seen it before.

Report: Thabo Sefolosha won’t play for Rockets in NBA resumption

Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

These have been heavy times for Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha, who was a victim of police brutality in 2015. Though he expressed excitement about the opportunity to play in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World, Sefolosha also expressed reservations about distracting from current movement for racial justice and spending so much time away from his family.

It’s a lot to evaluate.

Weighing it all, Sefolosha has decided to sit out the rest of the season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Assuming he doesn’t qualify for an exemption or face discipline for deciding past the original deadline (which was seemingly soft), Sefolosha will lose $224,978 in base salary plus $28,122 for each playoff game Houston plays (up to $393,712 in total lost base salary).*

*With league-wide revenue way down, no players will receive their full base salary.

The Rockets probably would’ve relied on Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker as much at possible at forward, anyway. Sefolosha probably wouldn’t have cracked Houston’s playoff rotation, but he could have played effective defense while spacing the floor in spurts. Now, the Rockets will turn to Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Danuel House to handle forward minutes behind Covington and Tucker.

Houston previously waived Isaiah Hartenstein to sign David Nwaba. If they knew Sefolosha’s decision sooner, the Rockets could have kept Hartenstein. But Houston can also sign a replacement for Sefolosha, so maybe Hartenstein would’ve been dropped regardless.

The 36-year-old Sefolosha will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. If he wants to continue playing, he can still help in a limited role and should draw minimum-salary offers.

Kevin Durant and beyond, Prince George’s County’s basketball shines

Prince George's County
Showtime
Leave a comment

The DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program has been renowned for decades. Longtime coach Morgan Wootten won so much, he made the Basketball Hall of Fame. His most famous victory came in 1965, when DeMatha snapped the 71-game winning streak of Lew Alcindor and Power Memorial (N.Y). DeMatha has produced several NBA players, including Adrian Dantley and Danny Ferry.

Victor Oladipo grew up near DeMatha, attending elementary school just down the street.

Yet, he never even heard of DeMatha until eighth grade.

“Growing up, I was a little anti-social,” Oladipo said. “My parents didn’t really let me go anywhere, go out, hang out with friends. That’s not really our forte. That wasn’t really our speed.”

After attending a DeMatha game with someone, Oladipo was intrigued. He researched the school, became impressed with its pedigree and wanted to enroll. He went to the office to get a registration form and bumped into current DeMatha coach Mike Jones. Jones asked whether Oladipo was signing up for summer league.

“What’s summer league?” Oladipo replied.

Oladipo learned quickly about the basketball scene in Prince George’s County, Md. – the elite talent, year-round infrastructure and deep passion. For anyone else unfamiliar with PG, a new documentary (“Basketball County: In The Water,” 9 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Showtime) showcases the county’s rich basketball legacy.

PG boasts eight current NBA players:

With a population of about 900,000, Prince George’s County sits just east of Washington D.C. PG is one of America’s wealthiest majority-black areas. Though the wealth tends to be concentrated outside the Beltway (a highway that encircles D.C. and cuts through Prince’s George’s), there’s plenty of socioeconomic diversity throughout the county.

A common link: Basketball.

The documentary explores several key reasons basketball thrives in PG – including a population shift from D.C. (which took to basketball from the early days of the sport), a robust parks-and-rec system and a strong network of support.

Writing for ESPN in 2008, Chris Palmer described PG as a place where “a new status symbol has gained traction: a son who is a big-time prospect.” Beyond parents, there are legions of coaches willing to help (and share in the glory).

Curtis Malone stood out.

Curtis Malone
Showtime

Co-founder of D.C. Assault, Malone built one of the nation’s strongest AAU programs. He helped numerous players, guiding some through rough childhoods, many to college and even some to the NBA. He was also a drug kingpin. His complicated tale is the most fascinating section of the documentary.

“Y’all can say whatever the f— y’all want about him. Y’all can talk dirt,” former Assault and NBA player Michael Beasley said in the documentary. “He always had the kids first, man. He always put the kids first. He always fed the kids before he ate.”

Not mentioned in the documentary: Beasley’s since-dropped 2011 lawsuit against Malone, alleging an agent bribed Malone to persuade Beasley to hire that agent.

The documentary has an issue similar to that of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The subjects hold creative control. Durant, Oladipo and Cook are executive producers.

The documentary also curiously includes Steve Francis, who sometimes trained in Prince George’s but can more accurately claimed by bordering Montgomery County. There’s no need to exaggerate PG’s legitimately extraordinary basketball output. The county’s NBA ranks were even stronger just a few years ago, before Beasley, Ty Lawson, Thomas Robinson, Dante Cunningham, Roy Hibbert and Chinanu Onuaku fell out of the league.

But, overall, the documentary presents a highly enjoyable look into a hoops hotbed that rivals any in the country.

In many ways, that’s thanks to Durant.

Kevin Durant
Showtime

Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures is behind the film directed by John Beckham and Jimmy Jenkins. More importantly, Durant carries the superstar draw that boosts a project like this.

Durant fulfilled his promise unlike else from PG. Many thought that’d be Len Bias, who tragically died of a cocaine overdose two days after the Celtics drafted him No. 2 in 1986. Other highly talented players like DerMarr Johnson and Beasley never optimized their potential for varying reasons.

But Durant became an NBA MVP behind a uniquely PG upbringing.

According to his business partner, Rich Kleiman (another “Basketball County” executive producer), Durant likes to tell a story. Durant would play all day in his local rec center. When the court was cleared to host bingo for senior citizens at night, Durant hid behind a curtain. After bingo, Durant emerged to shoot even more.

Durant wasn’t alone in his dedication. Many PG County kids grow up dreaming of playing at DeMatha or another area private-school power. That instills focus and determination from a young age. Well-organized teams and leagues offer opportunities for passionate players to advance.

“Basketball is, in our area, a way for us to separate ourselves,” Oladipo said. “People from our area, we’re very confident. We believe in ourselves.

“We believe in the game of basketball.”

Mock NBA expansion draft: Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs

Mock NBA expansion draft
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Leave a comment

The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Pacific Division, Northwest Division and Southeast Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southwest:

Dallas Mavericks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: Seven of Dallas’ protections were easy calls. They’re all players locked up long-term. That left deciding between Tim Hardaway Jr, who has been a starter for the Mavericks but has a player option, and several other useful players.

Ultimately, the Mavs can’t afford to lose Hardaway, who has rediscovered his solid offensive play from his Hawks years. That leaves Justin Jackson and three big men in Dwight Powell (coming off a torn Achilles’) and Boban Marjanovic and Willie-Cauley-Stein (both backups for Dallas). The most likely to be selected player is probably Jackson, but that’s a risk Dallas has to take.

Houston Rockets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: No decision points for the Rockets. Houston is protecting the entirety of their eight-man rotation.

Chris Clemons could make for an interesting expansion pick because his scoring ability at guard. Isaiah Hartenstein has shown some flashes in the G-League as well.

Memphis Grizzlies

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Just how hard the Grizzlies’ protection decision were is a testament to how well their rebuild has gone. Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton were all locks. Justise Winslow was just acquired at the trade deadline as the centerpiece of a deal. Tyus Jones is the ideal backup point guard behind Morant, so he stays as well. That left Jonas Valanciunas vs Kyle Anderson for the final protected spot. Valanciunas’ presence allows Jackson to play power forward, so the big man gets the final spot.

Memphis is gambling that Anderson’s slow-mo style of play and $9.5 million salary isn’t what an expansion team is looking for. Jontay Porter is another risk, but he’s got a lengthy injury history of his own. The Grizzlies will hope one of the other three is selected and might be willing to offer a small incentive to make it happen.

New Orleans Pelicans

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: New Orleans’ protections are cut and dry. Every player protected, minus Brandon Ingram, is signed for at least one more season. This includes several players on rookie scale contracts. Ingram will most assuredly be re-signed this summer, so that decision was easy as well.

The only gamble among the unprotected players is Nicolo Melli. He’s become a rotation player for the Pelicans, but he’s not as valuable as the younger players. The other three players are mostly out of the New Orleans’ rotation and not anyone the team will worry about if they are selected.

San Antonio Spurs

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Spurs are banking on keeping DeMar DeRozan this summer. He either opts in or re-signs in San Antonio. LaMarcus Aldridge is an easy decision as well. Dejounte Murray will start his extension this coming season. Everyone else is on their rookie scale contract, minus Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a restricted free agent that the Spurs hope to retain this offseason.

San Antonio is gambling that the big salaries of Rudy Gay and Patty Mills will keep them from being selected. That exposes Trey Lyles, who has a relatively small guarantee, and young big man Chimezie Metu. The Spurs would like to keep both, but not at the expense of losing a rookie scale player.

Sixers reportedly interested in trade for Pistons’ Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Philadelphia is aggressive heading into the trade deadline, looking anywhere and everywhere for shooting and playmakers to spark their middle-of-the-pack offense. The Sixers have been linked to numerous players: Robert Covington, Malik Beasley, Davis Bertans, E’Twaun Moore, and Andre Iguodala.

Now add Detroit’s Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway, and free agent Jeff Green to the mix. From by Keith Pompey of the Philadephia Inquirer:

Add those names to the list of wing players the Sixers have expressed interest in acquiring in a trade and/or free agent signees, according to multiple league sources. One source confirmed that Green worked for the Sixers in Miami while the team was there to face the Heat a couple of weeks ago…

League sources believe any Sixers’ trade deal will almost certainly include the team parting ways with second-year guard Zhaire Smith.

It’s going to take more than Smith, an athletic two guard with some promise but who has been pedestrian for Delaware in the G-League this season — to get a deal done. He is a throw-in with a package for one of those players.

Kennard and Galloway would bring the kind of shooting the Sixers need.

Galloway is a very good catch-and-shoot guy from three – 5.1 a game this season, shooting 40.7 percent on them. Kennard is shooting 39.9 percent from three on 6.5 attempts a game this season. Both fit with the Sixers’ inside-out style of play and both would come off the bench and, along with Furkan Korkmaz, give Philly some floor spacing. Kennard would cost more to get in a trade.

Green is a fallback option. Utah released Green — to get more run for Georges Niang — but he averaged 7.8 points a game while shooting 32.7% on threes for them.

Detroit, with Blake Griffin likely out for the season, is open for business at the trade deadline. Andre Drummond is available and has multiple teams interested in acquiring his skills. Other players, including Derrick Rose, could draw interest.

Philadelphia has the 15th-ranked offense in the NBA. Joel Embiid is a beast around the basket, and Ben Simmons has taken just 17 shots outside the paint all season long (and two of those where end-of-quarter heaves from beyond halfcourt). That’s led to a clogged paint and some spacing issues. Philly heads into the trade deadline needing shooters and maybe a more traditional point guard to run the show at times. Whether they have the players and picks to make a trade happen is another question, but GM Elton Brand is being aggressive.