Lopez, Brooks, Reaves among potential targets for ‘aggressive’ Rockets


It’s no secret: The Houston Rockets are done with the early stages of rebuilding and want to start winning games and be part of the postseason again starting next season. Also not a secret, their top target in free agency is James Harden.

However, that is not the only name on the list in Houston, reports Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Outside of Harden, other high-ranking targets for Houston include Brook Lopez, Dillon Brooks and restricted free agents Cam Johnson and Austin Reaves, league sources said. They also said acquiring a veteran point guard is Houston’s primary objective, meaning even if a move for Harden didn’t materialize, names like Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Donte DiVincenzo and even former Rockets player Chris Paul could be considered should they become available.

Lopez almost certainly is back in Milwaukee, the Bucks are stuck having to go way over the cap to keep one of the best defensive centers in the game — if they want to chase rings they need him (but it will hit hard when tax bills come due). The Lakers have made it clear to anyone who will listen that they will match any offer for Reaves after he was their third-best player this postseason. Cam Johnson also helped his stock in the playoffs — 18.5 points a game shooting 42.9% from 3 — and the Nets are expected to match an offer for him (four years, $80-90 million).

Dillon Brooks is available, is young, and would bring defensive intensity to the Rockets if management thinks he would be a fit, both in terms of personality and role. DiVincenzo is expected to opt out of the $4.7 million he is owed and the Bucks (about to pay Lopez on top of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday) may not be willing to match a strong offer. Chris Paul’s future in Phoenix is murky, but the Suns would want veteran, trusted role players back in a trade.

The other big trade chip the Rockets have is the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft. Amen Thompson — a very athletic, high ceiling but raw and in need of development wing — is expected to go in that slot. He could fit in Houston, but if another team falls in love with Thompson the Rockets could trade the pick, maybe packaged with a player, to get the kind of win-now veteran they seek.

Whatever happens, it will be a hot and wild summer in Houston.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Jrue Holiday headline NBA All-Defensive Teams


There is a bit of a changing of the guard with the NBA All-Defensive team — half of the 10 players named to the first and second teams are making their inaugural appearance on the team.

Meanwhile, some well-known faces — including the Defensive Player of the Year for each of the last five seasons — are not on the list.

Here are the official NBA All-Defensive Teams, which were announced Tuesday (players’ voting point totals included).

G. Jrue Holiday (Bucks), 192
G. Alex Caruso (Bulls), 125
C. Brook Lopez (Bucks), 181
F. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies), 195
F. Evan Mobley (Cavaliers), 132

G. Derrick White (Celtics), 99
G. Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies), 54
C. Bam Adebayo (Heat), 53
F. Draymond Green (Warriors), 89
F. O.G. Anunoby (Raptors), 81

Others receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) 60, Jaden McDaniels (Timberwolves), 40, Marcus Smart (Celtics) 35, Mikal Bridges (Nets) 33, Nic Clayton (Nets) 25, Jimmy Butler (Heat) 23, Joel Embiid (76ers) 15, Herbert Jones (Pelicans) 15, Anthony Davis (Lakers) 9, Lu Dort (Thunder) 9, Jaylen Brown (Celtics) 4, Matisse Thybulle (Trail Blazers) 4, Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves) 4, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder) 3, Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers) 3, Dejounte Murray (Hawks) 3, Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers) 2, Paul George (Clippers) 2, De'Anthony Melton (76ers) 1, Delon Wright (Wizards) 1, Patrick Beverley (Bulls) 1, Desmond Bane (Grizzlies) 1, Scottie Barnes (Raptors) 1, Kevin Durant (Suns) 1, Aaron Gordon (Nuggets) 1, P.J. Tucker (76ers) 1, Walker Kessler (Jazz) 1.

Here are a few thoughts on the results:

• Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, finished fifth in guard voting and did not make the team. If you’re looking for the biggest surprise, that would be it.

• Neither did another DPOY in Antetokounmpo, who finished fifth in forward voting. He had more points than the second team center (Adebayo) or a guard (Brooks), but because the NBA sticks with positions for this award the Greek Freak misses the cut by one.

• Forward was the most challenging position for this award, Jaden McDaniels also deserved a spot on the team, but there could be just four forwards.

• It’s unusual that this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Jaren Jackson Jr., was not a unanimous First Team choice (three voters had him on the second team, and if there were 100 voters one left him off entirely, although it’s possible only 99 media members voted for this award).

• Making the team means a little extra cash for Holiday and White.

• The five players making their first All-Defensive Team are Mobley, Caruso, White, Anunoby and Brooks.

• The player with the most appearances in this group? Draymond Green, who made his eighth All-Defensive team (four times first team).

Australia coach optimistic Ben Simmons will join team for World Cup

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Elsa/Getty Images

Is the next place we see Ben Simmons on a basketball court in the Philippines during the World Cup this September?

Australia coach Brian Goorjian hopes so. He has Simmons in the selection pool the Boomer can take with them to the World Cup and said this to SEN Radio in Sydney, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“I think his mindset is getting healthy, getting in shape and getting ready to play in this [World Cup],” Goorjian said. “There were unfortunate circumstances [why he didn’t play at the Olympics], but I feel like he is going to make himself available.”

Here is how Simmons responded, via Perth Now.

“I’m currently rehabilitating my back injury and putting my full effort and focus towards that,” Simmons said.

“I love what coach Goorjian is building with the Boomers and I look forward to being a part of the program in the future.”

Simmons has yet to suit up for his native Australia in an Olympics or World Cup.

Simmons was in and out of the Nets lineup this past season with knee and back issues (his season ended because of a nerve impingement in his back). He played in 42 games, averaging 6.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, but his unwillingness to shoot outside the paint — 94.5% of his shots came in the paint this season — had coach Jacque Vaughn using him in a limited role, often as a backup center.

Simmons will be back with the Nets in the fall. While Nets fans — and probably the front office — would like to trade him, that is next to impossible because Simmons has two fully guaranteed years and $78 million remaining on his contract. In theory Brooklyn could trade him, but they would have to add so many sweeteners it wouldn’t be worth it.

But before Simmons returns to the court in Brooklyn, will we see him in the Philippines?

NBA playoffs first round results, schedule, times and where to watch


The first round of the NBA playoffs can feel like it lasts forever — eight series running all at once, scheduled with multiple days between games as the league works to get what it believes will be the highest-rated games in prime slots for its broadcast partners. It can lead to an uneven start.

But once the drama of the playoffs kicks in — as it did this year on the opening weekend and has continued throughout — nobody is bothered. Well, except for the coaches, who are bothered by everything.

Here is the first-round NBA playoff schedule as we know it. This will be updated as the dates are finalized and the results pour in. All times are Eastern (* = if necessary).


#1 Denver vs. #8 Minnesota

1) Sun 4/16: Nuggets won 109-80 (Denver 1-0)
2) Wed 4/19: Nuggets won 122-113 (Denver 2-0)
3) Fri 4/21: Nuggets won 120-111 (Denver 3-0)
4) Sun 4/23: Timberwolves won 114-108 in OT (Denver 3-1)
5) Tue 4/25: Nuggets won 112-109 (Denver advances 4-1)

#2 Memphis vs. #7 L.A. Lakers

1) Sun 4/16: Lakers won 128-112 (Los Angeles 1-0)
2) Wed 4/19: Grizzlies won 103-93 (series tied 1-1)
3) Sat 4/22: Lakers won 111-101 (Los Angeles 2-1)
4) Mon 4/24: Lakers won 117-111 in OT (Los Angeles 3-1)
5) Wed 4/26: Grizzlies won 116-99 (Los Angeles 3-2)
6) Fri 4/28: Lakers won 125-85 (Los Angeles advances 4-2)

#3 Sacramento vs. #6 Golden State

1) Sat 4/15: Kings won 126-123 (Sacramento 1-0)
2) Mon 4/17: Kings won 114-106 (Sacramento 2-0)
3) Thu 4/20: Warriors won 114-97 (Sacramento 2-1)
4) Sun 4/23: Warriors won 126-125 (Series tied 2-2)
5) Wed 4/26: Warriors won 123-116 (Golden State 3-2)
6) Fri 4/28: Kings won 118-99 (Series tied 3-3)
7) Sun 4/30 at Sacramento, 3:30 (ABC)

#4 Phoenix vs. #5 LA Clippers

1) Sun 4/16: Clippers won 115-110 (Los Angeles 1-0)
2) Tue 4/18: Suns won 123-109 (series tied 1-1)
3) Thu 4/20: Suns won 129-124 (Phoenix 2-1)
4) Sat 4/22: Suns won 112-100 (Phoenix 3-1)
5) Tue 4/25: Suns won 136-130 (Phoenix advances 4-1)


#1 Milwaukee vs. #8 Miami

1) Sun 4/16: Heat won 130-117 (Miami 1-0)
2) Wed 4/19 Bucks won 138-122 (series tied 1-1)
3) Sat 4/22: Heat won 121-99 (Miami 2-1)
4) Mon 4/24: Heat won 119-114 (Miami 3-1)
5) Wed 4/26: Heat won 128-126 in OT (Miami advances 4-1)

#2 Boston vs. #7 Atlanta

1) Sat 4/15: Celtics won 112-99 (Boston 1-0)
2) Tue 4/18: Celtics won 119-106 (Boston 2-0)
3) Fri 4/21: Hawks won 130-122 (Boston 2-1)
4) Sun 4/23: Celtics won 129-121 (Boston 3-1)
5) Tue 4/25: Hawks won 119-117 (Boston 3-2)
6) Thu 4/27: Celtics won 128-120 (Boston advances 4-2)

#3 Philadelphia vs. #6 Brooklyn

1) Sat 4/15: 76ers won 121-101 (Philadelphia 1-0)
2) Mon 4/17: 76ers won 96-84 (Philadelphia 2-0)
3) Thu 4/20: 76ers won 102-97 (Philadelphia 3-0)
4) Sat 4/22: 76ers won 96-88 (Philadelphia advances 4-0)

#4 Cleveland vs. #5 New York

1) Sat 4/15: Knicks won 101-97 (New York 1-0)
2) Tue 4/18: Cavaliers won 107-90 (series tied 1-1)
3) Fri 4/21: Knicks won 99-79 (New York 2-1)
4) Sun 4/23: Knicks won 102-93 (New York 3-1)
5) Wed 4/26: Knicks won 106-95 (New York advances 4-1)

Playoffs Notebook: Are the Suns contenders and other thoughts from around the NBA

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Four
Harry How/Getty Images

While watching a second weekend of NBA playoffs — both in person and on television — I filled my notebook with thoughts from all eight series. Starting with the fact I still feel good about my pick of Boston in the East, but picking the Suns in the West… not so much.

• The first round has been a reminder that the playoffs often are less about how good your stars are and more about how glaring and exploitable your biggest weakness is. The Cavaliers, the Hawks, and the Timberwolves have gotten in trouble because of the places to attack in their rosters, the lack of depth their coaches can trust more than their stars.

• Along those lines, having watched the Suns in person for the last two games I’m having buyer’s remorse picking them to come out of the West (even if it was a “best of the bad options” pick). Devin Booker has been brilliant and Kevin Durant has been himself, and with that duo they can win any one game. But Chris Paul has looked old for stretches and Deandre Ayton is, well, Deandre Ayton. Monty Williams is still trying to figure out what rotations work and, despite some solid counting stats from Torrey Craig, nothing has worked consistently. The Suns are still dangerous, but their struggles against a shorthanded Clippers squad that often outworks them and plays with more cohesion speaks to inconsistency and a lack of depth. The Suns simply do not look like a Finals team.

• For the Cavaliers, there are holes but it’s also a little about the star — Donovan Mitchell was supposed to be the best player in this series but it has been Jalen Brunson and it’s not even close. Mitchell isn’t even the best player on his own team (Darius Garland was better on Sunday). Mitchell is averaging 22 points a game (down from 28.3) but his below-average 52 true shooting percentage (down from 61.4 in the regular season) is the real issue. Mitchell has played a slow game, pounding the ball while overlooking the defense, initiating the offense too slowly and relying too much on isolation and step-back 3s. He’s not attacking, he’s not breaking down defenses.

• The Cavaliers’ offense in general has been a mess, with their unimpressive 103.3 offensive rating on Sunday being the best of their three losses (they had a 115.5 offensive rating for the regular season, for comparison). Give the Knicks’ defense credit for some of that, but while J.B. Bickerstaff has talked about ball movement and second-side actions his shot creators dominate the ball and the offense is stagnant.

• On top of all that, the real advantage the Cavaliers were supposed to have was in the front court with Evan Mobley (third in Defensive Player of the Year voting with a growing offensive game) and former All-Star Jarrett Allen. But for most of this series, Mitchell Robinson has dominated them.

• Here’s what worries me about the Bucks (other than they are down 2-1 heading into Monday night, with Giannis Antetokounmpo expected to return): The Heat have a 124.3 offensive rating in this series. Just for comparison, the Kings led the NBA this season with a 119.4 offensive rating. The Bucks’ defense has looked lost and not championship ready.

• Denver looks like the front runners in the West for two reasons. The first is simple, they are healthy.

The second is they have figured out how to win the minutes Nikola Jokić is on the bench (their biggest issue for years). The Nuggets were +8 Sunday in those minutes and are +27 for the series. The Aaron Gordon at the five minutes has been solid. If Denver can sustain that next round — likely against Phoenix — they will be the team to beat in the West.

• Warriors fans will tell you they could be up 3-1 in this series if Andrew Wiggins had hit an open 3-pointer near the end of Game 1. Kings fans would say they could be going home up 3-1 if Harrison Barnes had hit a 3-pointer late on Sunday. Both are right, that’s just how close this series is.

• The Warriors know two things: 1) They have to win a game on the road this series; 2) They want no part of the randomness of a Game 7, especially in a place where the rabid fans pump up the Kings. Game 5 is their Game 7, expect the best these Warriors can give on Wednesday.

Will their best be enough? Before Sunday I would have said yes, but now I’m less convinced.

• Whatever happens the rest of this series, nobody sane is looking back at their “the Kings are the easiest path through the West” comments with any pride. This team is legit (and Lakers fans better be careful what they wish for).

• I understand the NBA wants four games a day on the weekend for television, but those early starts lead to some horrific shooting and decision making both days. We saw it clearly with the 76ers and Suns in the first halves on Saturday, and with the Knicks and Cavs on Sunday.

• Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins on their disaster of a first quarter Saturday night, where they looked rattled by the moment: “Hopefully our guys are learning from this. I mean, there’s no excuses. When you come in here on the road, we know we were walking into. We’ve just got to play better. That’s what it came down to. I thought we executed our coverages. well defensively, but when you’re missing shots, and we had turnovers, and they’re just thriving and transition, and you’re missing at that rate — I think we shot 12% or something like that in the first quarter — that puts you out behind the eight ball.”

• Back to the first point of this entire post, the playoffs are about weaknesses, and Dillon Brooks shooting 3-of-13 on Saturday is a major weakness for the Grizzlies. Memphis needs him to stay on the court for his defense but if he’s shooting like that — and the Lakers dared him to take all the shots he wanted — he’s a liability. Jenkins will have to rethink things if the Lakers can sag off Brooks on offense like that.

• The once again shorthanded Clippers are going to be bounced from the playoffs in the first round on Tuesday (Norman Powell and company have fought valiantly the last two games, but without their stars they can only do so much). What does that mean for them this summer? Expect the Clippers essentially to run this roster back. Talking to several sources around the league, that is the expectation right now, they have both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George under contract for next season and they showed enough flashes to tease (Leonard looked like a top-10 player for the two games he could go this postseason). Leonard and George are extension eligible this offseason, which poses some interesting questions.

• Brooklyn is out of the playoffs and expect some serious roster changes there. They love Mikal Bridges and the word is they will match offers for Cameron Johnson, but that could mean Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O'Neale are available. It’s something to watch this off-season.