FEBRUARY 4: Contradicting his original report, Young tweets that he’s been told that Fertitta has given Morey the go-ahead to make deadline deals without financial restrictions. The Rockets’ owner isn’t satisfied with the team’s place in the standings so far and wants to upgrade the roster, Young adds.
While that may be true, Houston is close enough to the tax line that it still wouldn’t be a surprise if the club ducks below it in the coming days.
FEBRUARY 3: The Rockets are looking to shave enough salary off their payroll to avoid the luxury tax, Jabari Young of CNBC.com reports.
The Rockets have been actively engaged in trade talks, most notably dangling center Clint Capela, who is in the early stages of a five-year, $90MM contract. Moving Nene, who has a non-guaranteed $10MM salary for next season, would also contribute greatly toward that goal. The Rockets have approximately $139.9MM in contractual obligations and owner Tilman Fertitta wants to get below the $132MM tax line.
Some league executives believes Rockets GM Daryl Morey is being pressured by Fertitta to decrease salary while simultaneously trying to keep the franchise in championship contention, according to Young.
Fertitta has denied in the past that he’s motivated by luxury tax concerns but the team’s moves the past two years have the look of a franchise trying to dodge the tax, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports notes. The way Houston’s 2018 offseason played out, and the curious moves it make prior to last year’s trade deadline, had the appearance of a team with tax concerns, Feldman continues.
Players like Gerald Green, Thabo Sefolosha and Tyson Chandler making the veteran’s minimum could be traded and replaced by players making partial-season minimums, Feldman notes. By tossing in assets to move contracts, the Rockets will hinder their chances of upgrading the team, Feldman adds.