Rockets Engage Teams About Dwight Howard

3:08pm: The Raptors showed no interest when the Rockets reached out to them about Howard, league sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link).

2:41pm: Neither Howard nor Fegan has asked the Rockets for a trade, Fegan said in a statement to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link). The agent also said that he isn’t privy to what the Rockets are doing, which would seem to counter the idea that they were working together.

1:25pm: The Rockets have engaged teams in trade talk about Dwight Howard and are working with agent Dan Fegan to find a new home for the former All-Star center who intends to opt out of his contract this summer, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. Uncertainty surrounding whether either side wants to continue their partnership has prompted Houston to take action, Wojnarowski writes, noting that Howard is still expected to seek a max deal starting at a projected $29.3MM salary for next season once he turns down his roughly $23.282MM option.

Howard becomes the most significant name on the trade market, though the 30-year-old’s game isn’t what it used to be. He makes more than $22.359MM this season, a difficult salary to match for, and a 15% trade kicker worth about $600K further complicates the matter, as The Vertical’s Bobby Marks notes (on Twitter). Houston would have to pay him that amount in the event of a trade, but it would count as part of Howard’s incoming salary for whichever team would acquire him.

Howard, James Harden and GM Daryl Morey had an extended chat after Houston’s loss to Portland Wednesday, one that dropped the Rockets to ninth in the Western Conference, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN said in an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show (audio link), and as RealGM transcribes. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff was also involved, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, who notes that Howard made comments about the rest of the season with the Rockets (Twitter link), a hint that he doesn’t expect to be traded. Howard and Harden have no personal qualms, The Vertical’s Chris Mannix tweets, countering earlier reports, which Howard and the Rockets vehemently denied, that Howard was dissatisfied playing a secondary role to Harden.

The Celtics reportedly had a brief exchange with the Rockets about Howard within the past few weeks, but Houston’s asking price has been high, as Mannix reported earlier this month. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald wrote then that the Rockets had made efforts to trade Howard, even if the Celtics talk didn’t go anywhere.

What should the Rockets seek in return for Howard? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Western Notes: Kings, Clippers, Rockets, Warriors

The Kings will try to make defensive improvements at the trade deadline, GM Vlade Divac said on “The Grant Napear Show” on CBS Sports 1140 in Sacramento, tweets James Ham of CSN California. The Rockets would prefer to add a shooter via trade, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link). The Clippers are expected to assess their need for a backup point guard with Austin Rivers injured, according to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter). The Warriors, meanwhile, aren’t looking to fix what isn’t broken, as GM Bob Myers said in a radio appearance on 95.7 The Game, as Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group relays (Twitter link).

“It’d have to be something unbelievable to really mess with the chem & the personnel on the team,” Myers said.

See more from the Western Conference:

  • Divac acknowledged that he was thinking about making a coaching change and had full authority to do so, but simply decided against it, as he said in an appearance on “The Grant Napear Show” on CBSports 1140 in Sacramento, notes Sean Cunningham of KXTV-TV in Sacramento (Twitter link). However, the resistance that Kings minority-share owners put up against eating the rest of George Karl‘s salary also played into the decision to keep the coach, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com said today in an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show (audio link), and as RealGM transcribes. That jibes with an earlier suggestion from Sam Amick of USA Today. Vivek Ranadive owns a controlling share of the team, but it doesn’t constitute a majority of the franchise, Windhorst points out.
  • Communication with management didn’t go smoothly for former Kings coach Tyrone Corbin last season, as he said this week on SiriusXM NBA Radio’s “NBA Today” show (Twitter link; audio link). “It was a mess. The organization was kind of playing it both ways,” Corbin said.
  • Bryce Dejean-Jones and the Pelicans have only slightly different figures in mind, Scott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate hears, advancing his earlier report that the rookie shooting guard is in talks with the Pels and other teams (Twitter links). The shooting guard is seeking a two- or three-year deal following the expiration of his second 10-day contract with New Orleans on Wednesday, Kushner adds. The Pelicans are ineligible to sign him to any more 10-day deals.
  • The Rockets offered Josh Smith more money in free agency last summer than the minimum-salary deal he signed with the Clippers, Rockets GM Daryl Morey said on the “Chad, Joe & Lo” show on 95.7 The Game in the Bay Area (audio link; transcription via HoopsHype). Smith wound up with the Rockets anyway via trade.

Raptors Highly Interested In Ryan Anderson

The Raptors have high interest in Ryan Anderson as the trade deadline approaches, reports Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Toronto joins a handful of teams apparently eyeing the soon-to-be free agent for a trade, as well as the Pistons, who’ve reportedly been looking at him but only as a potential offseason signee. The Raptors are seeking power forwards, with Thaddeus Young, Kenneth Faried and Markieff Morris among the names on their radar, according to multiple reports. Toronto has engaged in exploratory discussions about those three as well as P.J. Tucker, another object of their interest, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, though it’s not entirely clear whether those are internal or external talks.

Anderson is making $8.5MM this season, and the Raptors, who are over the cap and without a trade exception, would have to match for that salary to trade for him, a complicated task given the construction of Toronto’s roster, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca has pointed out. Toronto has an extra pick in each of the next two drafts to offer, and GM Masai Ujiri has signaled an intent to eventually trade at least one of those, but any deal would have to involve more than just draft assets going to New Orleans.

Conflicting reports have emerged about the likelihood of an Anderson trade this season, though more of them indicate that he’s not the likeliest trade candidate on the New Orleans roster than the other way around. New Orleans reportedly made Anderson available earlier this season, but the team wasn’t anxious to trade him, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported, adding Wednesday that the Wizards have asked about him. The Rockets “kicked the tires” on Anderson earlier this season, Kyler also reported. New Orleans apparently had talks with the Suns that involved Anderson, while differing reports paint an unclear picture of whether the Pelicans turned down an offer from the Kings of Rudy Gay for Anderson.

The subject of the Raptors and power forwards was the topic for our Community Shootaround on Wednesday.

Cavs Interested In McLemore, Ariza, Joe Johnson

The Cavaliers are one of multiple Eastern Conference teams with strong interest in Ben McLemore, league sources tell Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland would quickly snap up Joe Johnson if he works a buyout with the Nets, Haynes also hears from league sources, though it doesn’t look like he’s one of the Cavs’ trade targets. Trevor Ariza is also on Cleveland’s radar, Haynes adds, as are Kyle Korver and Jared Dudley, as previous reports indicated, but it’s highly unlikely Cleveland ends up with one of those three, according to Haynes, who paints McLemore as the more obtainable target.

The Kings have so far resisted offers for the shooting guard, Haynes writes, but it’s widely known around the league that agents are pushing to get their players out of Sacramento amid organizational turmoil there, Haynes also reports. Trade candidate Rudy Gay wouldn’t mind a deal that ships him out of town, but the Kings haven’t found any offers for him that pass muster, Haynes hears.

Cleveland isn’t connected to Gay, but it’s a matter of when, not if, the Cavs will make a move of some sort, according to Haynes. The Cavs have been seeking a three-and-D wing player and have been linked to multiple names, including Omer Asik, who’s a center, and Tyreke Evans, who has an injury that threatens to wipe out the rest of his season. They’ve reportedly explored trading Timofey Mozgov, having met with rejection on that front from the Kings and also engaging in talks with the Pelicans that didn’t bear fruit.

Johnson said recently that he wouldn’t dismiss the idea of a buyout from his contract with the Nets, which expires at season’s end, and the Heat, like the Cavs, reportedly want to make a run at him if he shakes free from Brooklyn. One source close to Johnson told Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders that Johnson is “miserable” with the Nets and would welcome a change. His nearly $24.895MM would make a trade difficult, so a buyout appears a more feasible route.

Latest On Markieff Morris

Markieff Morris, Archie Goodwin and interim coach Earl Watson all brushed off an incident during a timeout in Phoenix’s loss Wednesday to the Warriors when Morris shoved Goodwin and teammates had to separate them, as Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic details. It’s not the first confrontation involving Morris to take place on the Suns bench this season, and while the towel he tossed in former coach Jeff Hornacek‘s direction in the midst of a December game resulted in a two-game suspension for the power forward, other teams don’t find it concerning, reports Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports.

“We have to control our emotions,” Watson said, according to Coro. “Other than that, those two are really close. The team is not split. Those two are the closest on the team. They have a bond, a unique relationship. As we’ve seen, unique relationships can lead to something else throughout the league.”

Executives acknowledge that emotions run high and boil over at times during the heat of competition and most say the extra scrutiny surrounding Morris this year magnified the negative public perception of the towel toss, according to Marks. Nevertheless, if such outbursts become common, they could still hurt his trade value, Marks concedes. See more on one of the season’s most significant trade candidates:

  • Teams with interest in trading for Morris have wondered if the breakdown in communication between the Suns, Morris and his brother Marcus Morris this summer is a harbinger of similar problems they’d have if they traded for Markieff, as Marks details in the same piece. Those teams have looked into the relationship between Marcus and the Pistons and found no issues, Marks adds.
  • Markieff Morris said after Wednesday’s game that he didn’t regret having shoved Goodwin, notes Paula Boivin of The Arizona Republic. The way that Morris and the rest of the team have responded to the incident is baffling, Boivin contends, believing that Morris’ behavior puts the team in a tough position.
  • Morris praised Watson for sticking with him, as Boivin relays in the same column, and the coach has been complimentary of Morris since taking over for Hornacek, as his comments before Wednesday game illustrate. “Everybody thought Markieff would be the toughest challenge,” Watson said, according to Coro (Twitter link). “He’s been the easiest challenge.”

Pelicans, Others In Talks With Bryce Dejean-Jones

The Pelicans are in talks with Bryce Dejean-Jones about a deal that would bring him back to the team for the rest of the season, and the rookie shooting guard is having conversations with other teams, too, reports Scott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate (Twitter link). The second 10-day deal that Dejean-Jones signed with the Pelicans expired overnight, and while other NBA teams can sign him to 10-day contracts this year, New Orleans can no longer do so.

The 23-year-old started in eight of his 11 appearances for the banged-up Pelicans, who are missing Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans because of injuries. Gordon is due back shortly as he recovers from the broken right ring finger he suffered last month, but conflicting reports exist about whether Evans will miss the balance of the season. Quincy Pondexter’s left knee forced him out for the season in January.

Dejean-Jones is averaging 6.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game, having made 10 of 26 3-point attempts. His connection with the Pelicans dates to the summer league this past July, shortly after he went undrafted out of Iowa State. New Orleans signed him in August to a deal for training camp that included a $50K partial guarantee, but he didn’t make the opening night roster. He appeared in nine games for the D-League affiliate of the Jazz before the Pelicans signed him in January to the first of his 10-day pacts.

The Pelicans already have 14 players under contract through at least the end of the season, so re-signing Dejean-Jones would leave the team without a flexible roster spot. New Orleans has one more game before the All-Star break, tonight at Oklahoma City, and its next game isn’t until February 19th, one day after the trade deadline.

Lakers, Suns, Rockets, Kings Eye Luke Walton

The Lakers, Suns, Rockets and Kings are likely to express interest in Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton for their head coaching jobs in the offseason, sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the Lakers and Suns would target him (Twitter link). They join the Knicks, who reportedly view Walton as a top candidate, even though New York appears a long shot for him, and the Nets, who apparently have the 35-year-old on their radar, at least, as they seek to fill their GM vacancy first.

Remaining with the Warriors for next season is not out of the realm of possibility for Walton, barring the emergence of an enticing offer, a source close to the coach suggested to Berman. That jibes with Walton’s recent remark that he’s in no rush to make a change and would “love to be back again next season” with Golden State. Walton is apparently set on remaining with the team at least through this season, which is liable to stretch well into June for the 48-4 Warriors.

Walton had talks with the Knicks about becoming an assistant coach in 2014, but the team wasn’t ready to make an offer when Warriors coach Steve Kerr pursued him for his staff at Golden State, as Berman details. Walton joined the Warriors that summer for his first job on an NBA bench and only his second season as a coach on any level following a 10-year NBA playing career. He ascended to interim head coach before this season when Kerr took a leave of absence to recover from two back surgeries, and Walton led the team to a sterling 39-4 record before Kerr returned last month.

The Suns, Rockets and Knicks all have interim head coaches, while Byron Scott and George Karl remain in their formal capacities as head coaches of the Lakers and Kings, respectively. However, Scott isn’t assured of lasting past the season and the Kings nearly fired Karl this week.

Which job makes the most sense for Walton? Leave a comment to tell us.

Blazers, Suns, Celtics Eye Shabazz Muhammad

The Blazers, Suns and Celtics and other teams are “kicking the tires” on Shabazz Muhammad, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). The Clippers remain fond of the 23-year-old swingman, Wolfson adds, having first identified the team’s interest in December, though it’s unclear if the Nets and Lakers, two more teams that apparently eyed him earlier this season, still do.

Minnesota was unwilling to trade Muhammad as of December, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports reported then, but whether the team has wavered from that stance isn’t known. The 14th overall pick from 2013 has suffered a regression this year, with his minutes down slightly and more significant declines in shooting percentage, shot attempts per game, scoring average and rebounding. He’s seen fewer minutes per game this season than fellow wing players Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Tayshaun Prince and trade candidate Kevin Martin.

Muhammad is making nearly $2.056MM in the third year of his rookie scale contract, with almost $3.047MM coming next season, the last on the deal. He’s eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer, but given his dearth of playing time, he seems unlikely to receive one.

The Suns would appear to provide the best opportunity for him to see more minutes if he’s traded to Phoenix, especially if P.J. Tucker is no longer there after next week’s trade deadline. The Clippers have been starting Luc Mbah a Moute at small forward, so perhaps an opportunity would exist there. The Celtics and Blazers seem relatively set on the wings.

 

Timberwolves Speak With Tom Thibodeau

Some “cursory contact” has taken place between the Timberwolves and former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, sources tell Brian Windhorst, who made his report in an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show (video link). Wolves owner Glen Taylor told interim Wolves coach Sam Mitchell that he would have this season to work with and that he would evaluate him after that, as Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press said to Hoops Rumors in a recent edition of The Beat, so the team faces a decision about its coaching future this spring. Thibodeau has apparently long wanted the Knicks coaching job, and while that appears unlikely, he’s reportedly of interest to the Lakers and Nets and is linked to just about every coaching vacancy that arises.

Nearly half the Wolves roster has expressed concern about Mitchell’s job performance, Krawczynski reported late last month, though he picked up the endorsement of team leader Kevin Garnett. The Timberwolves won their 17th game of the season Wednesday with an upset of the Raptors, surpassing the 16 they won all of last season, but they still have the league’s fifth-worst record. That sets up Minnesota for another high first-round pick, making the job all the more attractive, as Windhorst discusses.

It doesn’t appear as though talks have become serious at all, though Thibodeau is anxious to return to coaching, Sam Smith of Bulls.com wrote recently, adding that he believes the former Coach of the Year would want personnel control. GM Milt Newton, like Mitchell, has no assurances beyond this season. The 58-year-old Thibodeau went 255-139 in the regular season and 23-28 in the playoffs with Chicago, which fired him this past spring.

Which team would be the best fit for Thibs? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Elliot Williams Signs With Greek Team

THURSDAY, 7:58am: Williams is making a little more than $200K, a source tells international journalist David Pick (Twitter link).

11:15pm: Williams’ salary is closer to $300K in total value rather than the $1MM previously relayed, Johnson tweets.

WEDNESDAY, 11:14am: Williams will get $1MM for three months, Johnson hears (Twitter link).

TUESDAY, 7:53am: The signing is official, the team announced (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).

MONDAY, 7:00pm: Elliot Williams, who played five games with the Grizzlies last month, has signed with Panathinaikos of Greece, tweets Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor. The offer was “too good to pass up,” according to Adam Johnson of D-League Digest (Twitter link). Williams was the D-League’s leading scorer, averaging 28.4 points per game with the Santa Cruz Warriors, and his absence means a replacement will have to be found for the league’s All-Star Game, Johnson adds (on Twitter).

The 6’5″ combo guard scored eight points in 45 minutes of playing time in his brief stay with the Grizzlies. Williams signed a 10-day contract with Memphis on January 8th, but he was let go when that deal expired. Once starting point guard Mike Conley returned from injury, the Grizzlies decided to sign Ryan Hollins to a 10-day deal instead.

The 26-year-old Williams has bounced around the NBA, mostly on 10-day contracts, since the Blazers drafted him in 22nd in 2010. He has also played for the Sixers, Jazz and Pelicans.

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