The Rockets plan to meet with representatives for Marcus Thornton today to figure out the next step for the veteran shooting guard who was to have gone to Detroit in last week’s vetoed trade, a source tells Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com, who raises the specter of the Rockets placing him on waivers (Twitter link). Thornton’s agent, Tony Dutt, confirmed to Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston that he’ll meet with the team to discuss their options (Twitter link). Thornton is on a one-year contract for the minimum salary. The Rockets would like to keep Thornton, as well as fellow buyout candidate Ty Lawson, but the team will do what’s necessary to upgrade the roster, Watkins adds (on Twitter).
Houston has a full 15-man roster and only about $524K to spend beneath the hard cap it triggered with the offseason signings of K.J. McDaniels and Montrezl Harrell. Buyouts for Lawson, Thornton or both would give the Rockets no more than about $900K to spend on any one free agent, leaving the team at a financial disadvantage compared to some of the other suitors for Joe Johnson. Still, he’s far from the only player available, and if the Rockets open a roster spot, they could give out a minimum salary contract even if neither Lawson nor Thornton gives back any salary.
If the Rockets are going to cut the 28-year-old Thornton, he’d no doubt prefer that they do so before the end of Tuesday, the final day he can hit waivers and retain playoff eligibility. It’s unclear if Thornton wants the Rockets to release him one way or another. He expressed frustration in December about the inconsistency of his playing time, and his minutes have continued to fluctuate. Thornton hasn’t played since the Rockets put him into the failed trade, but he scored 18 points in 23 minutes on February 2nd and put up 15 points in a 25-minute appearance against the Warriors a week later. He’s averaging 10.0 points in 18.8 minutes per contest.