MONDAY, 8:06am: George Sferopoulos, the agent for Papanikolaou, posted a photo on Twitter of what appears to be Papanikolaou signing his Rockets contract (hat tip to Sportando). The team has yet to make an official announcement.
FRIDAY, 7:01pm: The Rockets will pay FC Barcelona the maximum Excluded International Player Payment Amount of $600K to bring Papanikolaou to the states this season, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (via Twitter). As was reported last month, the total of the buyout is $1.5MM, meaning that Pananikolaou will be responsible for the difference of about $900K.
5:05pm: The first season is worth $4.8MM, tweets Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, and the second year is a team option. That figure is likely rounded up from $4,797,664, which is what the Rockets had left on their mid-level. The second season’s salary will be $4.6MM, Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link).
4:54pm: The Rockets and draft-and-stash prospect Kostas Papanikolaou have struck a deal that will bring the Greek small forward to Houston this season, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. It appears to be more than a minimum-salary deal, since Stein adds that the Rockets are using part of their mid-level exception (Twitter links). It’ll be a two-year arrangement, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (on Twitter).
Papanikolaou and the Rockets had reportedly stopped talking last month after the 24-year-old turned down an apparent two-year, $4MM offer. It seems the two sides circled back to the idea, however, and the 48th pick of the 2012 draft will suit up for Houston this coming season. Papanikolaou was initially selected by the Knicks in 2012 before his draft rights were traded to the Blazers a few weeks later. Last summer, his rights went to Houston as a part of the deal for Thomas Robinson.
The 6-foot-7 forward played in Spain last year for FC Barcelona, where he averaged 6.8 points on just over 47 percent shooting in 24.2 minutes per game. But it was the prior campaign in which he made a name for himself, shooting over 46 percent from three and 53 percent from the field for Greece’s Olympiacos en route to being named the Euroleague Rising Star for the 2012/13 season.
The signing of Papanikolaou is the latest manuever in what has to be considered a disappointing offseason in Houston for GM Daryl Morey. After striking out on Chris Bosh, the Rockets lost Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin from a team that won 54 games. They managed to offset some of that bad fortune by adding Trevor Ariza, Jeff Adrien, Joey Dorsey and Ishmael Smith, though that foursome would be hard-pressed to duplicate the contributions of the group that departed. Depending on how NBA-ready he looks in preseason, Papanikolaou could be in the mix at both forward positions.