JULY 1ST, 4:20pm: Llull has decided against joining the Rockets and will stay with Real Madrid, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter link).
JUNE 22ND, 9:20am: The Rockets are willing to pay the equivalent of nearly $24MM over three years to draft-and-stash point guard Sergio Llull, according to Jose Luis Martinez of Marca.com (translation via HoopsHype). Martinez cites a figure of 21 million euros, equivalent to almost $23.875MM at the current exchange rate. Such a deal would require the Rockets to open cap space, and it couldn’t become official until after the July Moratorium, since the signing of a former second-round pick like Llull, the 34th pick in the 2009 draft, can’t take place between the end of the regular season and July. The 27-year-old is nonetheless close to a decision on playing for Houston, according to Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops.net, after having picked the brain of current Rockets point guard and former teammate Pablo Prigioni during a meeting last month, as Javier Maestro of Encestando.es writes (translation via HoopsHype).
Still, the fact that Rockets GM Daryl Morey quickly denied a report from March that the Rockets were willing to give Llull $17MM over three years lends some skepticism to the latest report. Llull recently brushed off renewed talk about a Houston deal, citing his contentment with Spain’s Real Madrid and his contract with the team that runs all the way until 2019, as Mark Porcaro shows in the Hoops Rumors Draft Rights Held Players Database. His buyout costs 5 million euros, Martinez writes, or the equivalent of $5.681MM, and with the NBA’s Excluded International Player Payment capped at $625K for next season, Llull would have to foot much of that bill himself. Rockets coach Kevin McHale nonetheless said recently that Houston would love to sign him. Varlas reported earlier this month, after McHale’s comments, that the Rockets were willing to pay the point guard $15-18MM over three years.
The Rockets have about $54.6MM in guaranteed salary tied up for next season, and they’ve expressed interest in re-signing many of their free agents. So, it’ll be a tight squeeze to fit such a lucrative deal for Llull under the projected $67.1MM cap unless Houston makes salary-clearing trades. Llull, a mainstay of the powerful Spanish national team, averaged 11.2 points, 4.4 assists and 1.0 turnovers in 26.2 minutes per game for Real Madrid this season.