SATURDAY, 11:20am: Lawson has indicated that his preference is to finish the season in Houston, which makes a buyout arrangement unlikely at this point, Feigen tweets.
FRIDAY, 12:32pm: Agent Happy Walters, who represents Lawson, confirmed to Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston that the sides have indeed talked about a buyout. “Yes, we have discussed a few things and we are exploring, but definitely not for sure,” Walters said. The agent made similar comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, telling him that a discussion about a mutually beneficial arrangement has taken place (Twitter link).
11:45am: The Rockets and Ty Lawson are exploring the idea of a buyout, league sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. Wojnarowski doesn’t specifically say whether the sides have begun talks, but presumably that’s the case. Lawson has a salary of more than $12.404MM this season, the final guaranteed year on his contract. He’d give up some of that to reach free agency, and Houston could use the savings to pursue other players coming free on the buyout market, since the Rockets currently have only $524K to spend beneath their hard cap, as Wojnarowski points out. The sides realistically have until the end of Tuesday to reach a deal, since that’s the last day players can hit waivers and still play for other teams in the postseason.
Houston can’t spend beyond that hard cap, which it triggered when it signed Montrezl Harrell to a deal that, combined with the team’s pact with K.J. McDaniels, meant the team had used more than the $3.376MM taxpayer’s limit on the mid-level exception. The Rockets are reportedly among the teams with interest in Joe Johnson, but some other suitors have significantly more to spend. A Lawson buyout would help the Rockets to a degree, though the most they could spend on any one free agent if they were to free up more room beneath the hard cap would be $914,430, since that’s all they have left on their mid-level. That number, which would decline with each passing day, would pale in comparison to the $2MM or so that other contenders for Johnson could give him.
The Rockets and Jazz reportedly engaged in talks before the deadline about a would-be swap involving Lawson and Trey Burke. Wojnarowski referred to the discussion as merely casual, though Marc Stein of ESPN.com heard the teams were serious about the idea. Wojnarowski wrote then that it seemed doubtful at the time that the Rockets would end up waiving Lawson, but Stein heard the Rockets would give strong consideration to cutting him, and the ESPN scribe today portrays the buyout talks as an inevitable consequence of the failed trade discussion (Twitter link). The Knicks were also among the teams that apparently spoke with the Rockets about trading for Lawson.