Austin Rivers

Rockets Reportedly Willing To Pay Luxury Tax

After making a series of transactions to get below the tax threshold this season, the Rockets are willing to accept the tax next year to upgrade their roster, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

GM Daryl Morey has already received permission from ownership to make moves that will push the team into tax territory, a source tells Feigen. Morey will try to tweak the roster to better compete with the Warriors, who have eliminated the Rockets from the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.

Houston has all five of its starters under contract for next year at a total cost of about $114MM, which is already over the salary cap. Morey will have to rebuild a reserve unit that features unrestricted free agents Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert and restricted free agent Danuel House.

Barring a bold trade to shake up the roster, Morey’s main weapon will be a mid-level exception that could be worth $9MM but is more likely to be limited to $5.7MM. That money might be needed to re-sign one or more of the team’s free agents, or Morey could also try to find a bargain on the free agent market.

No matter how he proceeds, Morey has a huge challenge ahead of him. The Rockets need to find a dependable small forward to allow Eric Gordon to spend more time in the backcourt, Feigen notes. They also need one more reliable shooter and a power forward who can hit 3-pointers and rebound so they don’t get beaten on the boards so badly when using small lineups.

Rockets Notes: Paul, Free Agents, Capela, Rosas

There are a lot of concerns in Houston after another season ended with a playoff loss to the Warriors, but the decline of Chris Paul may be the most serious issue, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. Paul missed at least 20 games for the third straight season, playing in 58, and his production declined in several important areas.

The nine-time All-Star posted career lows in scoring (15.6 PPG), shooting (41.9% from the field), free throw frequency (3.5 per game) and PER (19.7). He had difficulty finding his shot in the playoffs, making just one of his first 10 3-point attempts and shooting 27% from long distance.

Now 34, Paul just completed the first season of a four-year extension he signed last summer. He will make $38.5MM next season, $41.3MM in 2020/21 and has a $44.2MM option for 2021/22. Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela will consume 85% of the Rockets‘ cap space next season, Deveney notes, and are all under contract through the summer of 2022.

There’s more tonight from Houston:

  • Midseason acquisitions Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert may all be headed elsewhere this summer, Deveney adds. All three will be unrestricted free agents, and the Rockets won’t have much to offer beyond their mid-level exception. Deveney sees Gerald Green, who played for the veteran’s minimum this year, as likely to return.
  • Capela’s contract could be a major issue if he can’t overcome the confidence problem that seems to plague him against the Warriors, states Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Capela is owed up to approximately $72.2MM over the next four years, and although he played well during the season, he has become a matchup problem against Golden State. “He’ll learn from this, he’ll only get better,” coach Mike D’Antoni said after the Game 6 loss. “He’s only 25, he’ll get stronger. The expectations are high for him. I think he was a little below his normal stats. Could’ve been better, but I’ll go down with guys like that.”
  • The Rockets are making some front office changes after losing executive VP Gersson Rosas to the Timberwolves, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Assistant GM Jimmy Paulis has taken Rosas’ duties of coordinating the team’s scouts, and GM Daryl Morey is looking to hire someone to fill the vacancy.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Kawhi, Rivers, Suns

Of the teams on Anthony Davis‘ reported wish list, the Bucks and Knicks likely don’t have the necessary assets to make a viable offer for the All-Star big man at this time. That leaves the Clippers as the biggest threat to the Lakers among those four preferred destinations. And while the Clips reportedly haven’t made an offer, Johan Buva of The Athletic argues that going all-in for Davis should be the franchise’s new Plan A.

[RELATED: Latest Anthony Davis Trade Rumors]

As Buva outlines, the Clippers have a plethora of assets that could interest the Pelicans, including young prospects with upside (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell), productive veterans (Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley), and all but one of their own future first-round picks. The team has had its eye on the 2019 free agent market as it considers how to take advantage of its cap flexibility, but acquiring Davis would perhaps be a more worthwhile gamble than rolling the dice in free agency, Buva writes.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • One of the Clippers‘ offseason free agent targets, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, didn’t notice that Clips owner Steve Ballmer was sitting courtside for the club’s game in Toronto on Sunday, writes Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. The Clippers have sent representatives to Raptors games throughout the season as they prepare to make a summer pitch to Leonard. “I’m not thinking about it right now. I’m just focused on the season,” Leonard said. “I didn’t know [Ballmer] was at the game until you guys told me. I’m focused and when that time comes we’ll have to talk and sit down with everyone and have meetings.”
  • Last week’s Kristaps Porzingis trade could have a ripple effect on teams like the Lakers and Clippers, as Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times explains. In addition to making the Knicks a more significant offseason threat for the same top free agents those L.A. teams will be chasing, the deal also turns a veteran like DeAndre Jordan into a buyout candidate. If Jordan is bought out, a reunion with the Clips would be a “definite possibility,” says Woike.
  • When he was traded from Washington to Phoenix earlier this season, Austin Rivers had a very brief stay with the Suns before being bought out. As Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic relays, Rivers explained this week that he and the lottery-bound Suns were on the same page when they acquired him. “They understood where I was at,” Rivers said. “I’m not old. I’m only 26, but where I’ve been. I’ve been on playoff teams the past five years. That’s kind of the route I wanted and I felt like was best for me, especially in a contract year. I want to be in the playoffs. I want to compete for something.”
  • Bob Young of The Athletic recently took a look at the Suns‘ trade-deadline plans and their approach to finding a long-term answer at point guard.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:

DeAndre Jordan, Mavericks, 30, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $24.1MM deal in 2018
Jordan has pretty much done his usual thing in his first season with Dallas, ranking second in the league in rebounding and anchoring the defense. One troubling development is his penchant for turnovers — he’s averaging a career-worst 2.4 per game. The one other surprising development is a plus — the career 45.9% free throw shooter has drained 70.3% of his attempts. The always durable Jordan has also answered the bell every game. Early concerns about about “selfish” play have somewhat dissipated. Dallas may not re-sign him but someone will give him another big contract this summer.

Austin Rivers, Rockets, 26, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.15MM deal in 2018
The above salary number doesn’t reflect what Rivers is actually making this season, as the Suns bought out his contract after he was traded from the Wizards. He had a $12.6MM salary in the final year of a four-season contract and only gave back $650K. The decision to hook on with the Rockets after he cleared waivers has been good for both parties. With Chris Paul sidelined, Rivers has averaged 12.3 PPG and 3.1 APG in 38.5 MPG in his first eight outings with a championship contender. Still in his prime, Rivers should be able to land a multi-year deal this summer.

Ivan Rabb, Grizzlies, 21, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $2.3MM deal in 2017
An early second-rounder in 2017, Rabb has been a force in a handful of G League games, averaging 23.4 PPG and 10.2 RPG. That hasn’t translated into NBA playing time. He hasn’t played meaningful minutes in 14 games with the Grizzlies. Interior defensive issues and the lack of 3-point shot are the main reason why the athletic big man hasn’t carved out a role. Unless they’re convinced he can improve those areas, the Grizzlies will likely cut ties with him after the season.

Darius Miller, Pelicans, 28, SF (Down) — Signed to a two-year, $4.3MM deal in 2017
Miller receives lots of playing time but his offensive contributions boil down to an occasional 3-point attempt. To be fair, Miller is the No. 5 option when he’s on the floor and he’s an above-average long-range shooter (38.7 percent). His defensive metrics are subpar, which partially explains his paltry 8.42 PER, so the 3-and-D tag doesn’t necessarily fit. Miller’s 3-point shooting could be enough to land him a veteran’s minimum deal or something slightly higher next summer but there’s no big payday ahead.

Quincy Pondexter, Spurs, 30, SF (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $2.16MM deal in 2018
Pondexter remained on the roster past January 10th, fully guaranteeing his salary for this season. Pondexter, whose career has been sidetracked by knee injuries, has been praised as a positive locker room influence but he hasn’t contributed much on the court. He’s appeared in 31 games but averaged just 5.9 MPG with a majority of his playing time coming in blowouts. Pondexter will likely struggle to find another veteran’s minimum deal in the summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Gordon, MCW Trade

The Rockets and Austin Rivers seemed like an unlikely match, given his up-and-down history with former Clippers teammate Chris Paul. However, Rivers is thriving so far in Houston, with coach Mike D’Antoni calling him a “godsend” (Twitter link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston) and Rivers telling Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he’s “the happiest I’ve been in my career.” The veteran guard also clarified that he “never had a problem” with CP3, and took the blame for the perception that there was a rift between the two ex-Clippers.

“Everything that happened was so silly and so stupid,” Rivers said. “A lot of it was on my part in terms of I let a lot of things that were said in the media about me and Chris affect me and his relationship. I accepted it like as if Chris was saying that s—, when he wasn’t doing [anything]. It ended up kind of messing us up at the time, because there was all this stuff about how we were interacting that wasn’t true.

“Me and Chris haven’t even had to say [anything] about it because we both moved on. I was just with [him] at an event at his house. It’s just crazy how in today’s age everything does revolve around social media. Social media is so powerful.”

Rivers’ conversation with Spears is worth reading in full, as the 26-year-old also discussed how being Doc Rivers‘ son affects the perception of him, why it’s a good thing that he and Doc are in separate organizations, and why he decided to sign with Houston.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Speaking today to reporters, Mike D’Antoni said that Eric Gordon might be able to return in about a week, while Chris Paul will likely miss another two or three weeks, according to Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Rockets have been playing well without Gordon and Paul, but would surely welcome the opportunity to get their roster back to full strength.
  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders provides some specific details on the Rockets’ Michael Carter-Williams trade, reporting (via Twitter) that Houston received the Grizzlies’ top-55 protected 2020 second-round pick in the deal and sent $1,065,966 to the Bulls. Chicago will receive that money in five installments of approximately $73K apiece, followed by a final payment of $700K next July.
  • Pincus also recently shared the unusual salary guarantee details on Gary Clark‘s contract (all Twitter links). As Pincus explains, the following things must be true for Clark’s 2019/20 salary to become guaranteed before next January 10:
    • He appears in at least 37 games for the Rockets during the 2018/19 regular season.
    • The Rockets miss the playoffs OR Clark appears in at least two postseason games OR Clark is cut by April 10, 2019.

Rockets Notes: Rivers, Paul, Knight, Mbah A Moute

Austin Rivers is downplaying talk of a feud with Chris Paul during their five years as Clippers teammates, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Rivers, who officially signed with the Rockets yesterday, points out that he never would have been welcome in Houston if Paul hadn’t agreed to the move.

“I have no problems with Chris, as you guys will see,” Rivers said. “Obviously, if I had a problem with Chris I wouldn’t be here. Chris has a huge input on this team as he should. He’s a Hall of Fame point guard. If that was that serious, I wouldn’t be here. That will show you that’s not real.”

Paul’s latest hamstring injury, suffered last Thursday, opened the door for Rivers to become a Rocket. Houston needs backcourt help with Paul out of action for at least two weeks, and Rivers was looking for playing time on a contending team after agreeing to a buyout with the Suns, who acquired him from the Wizards earlier this month.

“This is a team I always admired and wanted to play for with (coach Mike) D’Antoni and the way they play, getting up and down,” Rivers added. “It’s a very fitting place.”

There’s more today from Houston:

  • Even though he just joined the team and hasn’t played in more than a week, Rivers won’t be on a minutes restriction as he makes his debut with the Rockets today, tweets Houston play-by-play man Craig Ackerman.
  • The addition of Rivers will cut into Brandon Knight‘s playing time, but that was the plan all along, Feigen writes in a question-and-answer column. Knight missed a year and a half with an ACL tear and only had a couple of practices before taking the court. The Rockets intended to bring him along slowly and didn’t want to increase his minutes because of Paul’s injury.
  • Rockets management had concerns about the condition of Luc Mbah a Moute‘s shoulder, which limited what they were willing to offer him in free agency, Feigen adds in the same piece. Mbah a Moute, who got $4.3MM to rejoin the Clippers, has only played four games this season, but it has been a knee issue rather than the shoulder that has limited him.

Rockets Sign Austin Rivers

DECEMBER 24, 11:09am: The Rockets have officially signed Rivers to a rest-of-season deal, announcing the news in a press release. 

DECEMBER 23, 1:34pm: Rivers will get back the $650K he gave to Phoenix in his buyout agreement, plus nearly $500K more from the Rockets, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Houston’s cap hit will fall between $914K and $931K, depending on when his signing becomes official. The Rockets don’t play again until Tuesday.

DECEMBER 23, 12:53pm: Former Wizards guard Austin Rivers has reached an agreement to join the Rockets, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

His contract will be fully guaranteed for the rest of the season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Houston has an open roster spot, so no corresponding move will be necessary. The Rockets have part of their mid-level exception remaining, but there’s no word on whether Rivers will receive more than a veteran’s minimum contract. His new salary will cut into the $12MM still owed to him by the Suns, who waived him earlier this week.

Houston has a need for guard help with Chris Paul sidelined for at least the next two weeks with a strained hamstring. The move reunites the former Clippers teammates, who had an uneasy relationship when they were together in L.A. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Paul had no objections to signing Rivers, understanding that the team needs immediate backcourt help (Twitter link).

The agreement with the Rockets caps an eventful nine days for Rivers, who was involved in a canceled three-team trade, then was dealt to the Suns the next day. He reached a buyout agreement with Phoenix and has been looking for an opportunity with a contending team that could offer him consistent playing time. Houston qualified when Paul got injured Thursday night.

Rivers was having a productive first year in Washington after being acquired from the Clippers in an offseason trade. Used mainly in a reserve role, he posted a 7.2/2.4/2.0 line through 29 games.

Austin Rivers Seeks Playoff Contender, Regular Minutes

Veteran guard Austin Rivers officially became a free agent on Thursday after being released by the Suns earlier this week, and is now eligible to sign with any team except the Wizards.

While Rivers has heard from multiple teams interested in adding him, he plans to take his time choosing his new club, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, who tweets that Rivers would like to join a playoff contender willing to give him regular minutes.

The Grizzlies are one team that could fit that bill, and it briefly appeared that Rivers had lined up a deal with Memphis on Tuesday. However, that report was shot down, with Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian indicating that the Grizzlies discussed the idea of signing the 26-year-old, but opted not to move forward and finalize a deal.

After enjoying a career year in Los Angeles last season for the Clippers, with 15.1 PPG, 4.0 APG, and a .378 3PT% in 61 games (33.7 MPG), Rivers has struggled so far in 2018/19. In 29 games (23.6 MPG) with the Wizards, the former Duke Blue Devil posted 7.2 PPG and 2.0 APG with a .392/.311/.543 shooting line.

This season’s struggles may limit Rivers’ appeal to some extent, but based on Smith’s report, it sounds as if he has at least a few potential suitors. Shams Charania of The Athletic also said earlier this week that four or five teams had interest in Rivers, though he has since deleted that tweet.

Suns Notes: Rivers, Oubre, Doncic, McDonough

Although initial reports suggested the Suns would likely release Austin Rivers without a buyout, the veteran guard ended up giving back $650K to the team when he was waived this week, per Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). Rivers had been on a $12.65MM expiring deal, so he’ll still make $12MM in 2018/19 as a result of that contract, with Phoenix paying the majority of that money.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad details (via Twitter), Rivers should still come out ahead as long as it doesn’t take him long to finalize a new deal. If Rivers signs shortly after clearing waivers on Thursday, a minimum salary contract for the rest of the season would pay him about $1.2MM. He could tack on that figure to the $12MM he’s already earning on his previous deal, exceeding $13MM for the season.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Following last week’s failed three-team trade drama and an eventual move to Phoenix, Kelly Oubre spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News about his new NBA home, suggesting that he’s “excited” about the change. Sources tell Deveney that Oubre drew interest from multiple teams, including his hometown Pelicans, before the Suns acquired him.
  • Deveney also reports that Oubre would “certainly be willing” to remain in Phoenix beyond this season, despite the club’s spot at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Of course, since he’s a restricted free agent in 2019, it might be tricky for him to change teams even if he wanted to.
  • Within a profile on Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon cites a source who says that Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov “loved” Doncic, but had minimal input in Phoenix No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
  • After being fired by the Suns in October, former general manager Ryan McDonough plans to stay involved in the NBA in some capacity, but it still figuring out his next steps, he tells Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. In the meantime, he’s staying busy in an informal capacity for some NBA clubs. “A number of teams — probably a majority of the other 29 clubs — reached out, and a lot of them expressed interest in having me come visit or just kind of come observe what they do and exchange ideas and all that kind of stuff,” McDonough said. “So that’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I was in Oakland on Monday night for the Grizzlies-Warriors game and was around the Golden State group for a few days, and in the weeks before that I’ve been to Denver and Utah and San Antonio, as well.”

Suns’ James Jones Talks Rivers, Ariza, Oubre, PGs

League executives were puzzled by the Suns‘ decision to waive both Tyson Chandler and Austin Rivers so early in the season, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. As Windhorst observes, even though the Suns may be tanking and weren’t interested in taking on multiyear money, parting ways with Chandler and Rivers – who were both on expiring contracts – closes the door on possible trade opportunities at the deadline.

In a discussion with Gina Mizell of The Athletic, interim co-general manager James Jones indirectly addressed those criticisms, explaining that Phoenix wants to do right by players. “We should be a place where every party, everyone involved, feels invested and feels connected,” Jones said. In the case of Rivers, Jones said that the team and Rivers’ camp mutually agreed that it “would be best if he found an opportunity that fit him better.”

Jones also weighed in on a handful of other subjects during conversations with Mizell and Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, so we’ll round up some of his most noteworthy comments here:

On whether it was true that team owner Robert Sarver wouldn’t allow Trevor Ariza to be sent to the Lakers:

“No. Throughout all of this, Robert has been adamant that his focus is on what helps the Suns grow and be the best. That was inaccurate. Actually, if something could have worked out, Robert would have been a huge proponent, just because of that investment and understanding that Trevor and his family are (based) on the West Coast. If we can do right for both parties, it should make sense. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t do something that benefits both parties.”

On what he expects Kelly Oubre to bring to the Suns:

“Exactly what he’s demonstrated in the past. He’s young, but he’s experienced. He’s played in a lot of games. He’s played in the playoffs. He’s had tremendous success against some of the best players in the Eastern Conference, some of the best players in the NBA as a whole. His athleticism, his activity, just his competitiveness is something that, as we look at building the identity of this team, those are the foundational characteristics of all the players that we target. Do they play hard? Do they compete? Are they selfless? Do they sacrifice to win? He embodies that, and that’s why we’re excited to have him.”

On what happened with last Friday’s failed three-team trade involving the Wizards and Grizzlies:

“I’ll leave it as just a miscommunication. Going forward, we’re excited to have Kelly. Through everything, we have Kelly. We have a guy we know fits with us and we’re excited about.”

On the Suns’ ongoing search for an answer at point guard:

“For us, as free agency hit (during the 2018 offseason), you talk about that tier of starting caliber point guards, they chose other destinations that were a better fit and better suited to compete right now. As far as trades, I always say it takes two to tango. That’s not something you can control.

“For us at that position, we need someone who will compete defensively, can be impactful and can play well off our other perimeters… [De’Anthony Melton]’s been doing that and we’ll keep pushing him to get better.”