Brandon Knight

Lawrence’s Latest: Rockets, Butler, Stotts, Suns

The Timberwolves didn’t show much interest in the Rocketstrade offer for Jimmy Butler that featured four first-round picks along with Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News confirms. According to Lawrence, Tom Thibodeau views Knight and Chriss as “dead weight” and would prefer a deal that includes Eric Gordon and/or P.J. Tucker.

Meanwhile, Lawrence is also the latest reporter to identify the Sixers as a potential dark horse in the Butler sweepstakes. Lawrence suggests Philadelphia had hoped to trade the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder in a deal for Kawhi Leonard and could offer that pick to the Timberwolves in a Butler package.

Here’s more from Lawrence:

  • According to Lawrence, league executives think that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will bring in someone with strong ties to the franchise to run the front office next year. Lawrence identifies Chauncey Billups as one possible candidate.
  • Although Terry Stotts appears safe as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach for now, there are rival GMs and scouts that view his position as “tenuous,” says Lawrence. Stotts, whose contract runs through 2019/20, sought an extension in the offseason but was turned down by owner Paul Allen, according to Lawrence. Allen has since passed away and his sister Jody has always been more involved with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks than the NBA club, resulting in speculation about a Blazers sale, Lawrence notes. That could create further uncertainty for Stotts.
  • One Western Conference president on the Suns, according to Lawrence: “The minority owners are furious that [owner Robert] Sarver decided on his own to fire [GM Ryan] McDonough.”
  • Lawrence echoes an earlier report, writing that the Wizards are showing no inclination to break up their team or to fire head coach Scott Brooks. However, one Eastern Conference executive cautions that could change. “Brooks’ seat could get hotter if they don’t win and management thinks the team is better than it really is,” the exec tells Lawrence.

Jimmy Butler To Sit Out Wednesday As He Continues Push For Trade

1:24pm: There’s a belief within the Timberwolves that Butler could target specific games to sit out, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. However, he’s unlikely to miss high-profile matchups like Friday’s game against the Warriors, according to Wojnarowski, who adds that Butler is expected to play in Golden State.

According to both Wojnarowski and Krawczynski, Butler’s camp remains frustrated with the Wolves’ inaction on his trade request and wants owner Glen Taylor to speed up the process. There’s a “collective belief” among Butler’s suitors that Thibodeau isn’t looking to seriously negotiate a trade yet, sources tell Woj.

Addressing the Rockets’ offer specifically, Krawczynski notes that Minnesota isn’t interested in taking on Knight’s contract. The Rockets have made “no progress” on a Butler deal with the Wolves, tweets Sam Amick of The Athletic.

12:34pm: The situation remains fluid, according to Krawczynski, who tweets that Butler could very well return to the Timberwolves’ lineup for Friday’s game. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that there’s an expectation Butler will fly to Golden State with the team for Friday’s game, adding that it was the Wolves that suggested the 29-year-old rest on Wednesday. Teams talking to Minnesota about Butler say the asking price remains high, per Woj.

11:57am: Jimmy Butler won’t play for the Timberwolves on Wednesday night against Utah, the team confirmed today. While the club cited “general soreness and precautionary rest” as the reasons for Butler’s absence, the four-time All-Star made the decision himself, informing head coach Tom Thibodeau of his plan this morning, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Charania and Krawczynski report (via Twitter) that Butler’s decision to sit tonight represents the “next step” in his continued efforts to push the Timberwolves to trade him. According to The Athletic’s duo, Butler’s absence could turn into an extended one.

If Butler is healthy enough to play and is opting to sit out against the Wolves’ wishes, the team would have grounds to dock his salary for each game he misses. It’s not clear if that’s where this is headed though — when Thibodeau initially announced the news on Butler, there was no indication that the club wasn’t on board with having him sit out Wednesday’s game.

This is just the latest development in a saga that has had its fair share of dramatic twists and turns since word of Butler’s trade request broke a week before training camps got underway. The All-NBA wing looks like a lock to be traded before February’s trade deadline, but he’s clearly hoping to force Minnesota to make a move well before then.

The Heat and Rockets have been the teams most frequently identified as suitors for Butler, though Marc Stein of The New York Times wrote on Tuesday about “steady rumbles” around the NBA that the Sixers will eventually make a push too. Miami appeared close to landing Butler at one point during the preseason with a package centered around Josh Richardson and a first-round pick, but couldn’t finalize a deal.

As for Houston, the Rockets reportedly offered Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight, and four first-round picks for Butler. Since it has been two months since Chriss and Knight were acquired from Phoenix, those two players can now have their salaries aggregated together in a trade for salary-matching purposes, meaning that – as of today – such a deal would be allowed. However, the Wolves reportedly showed little interest in Houston’s offer, preferring a package that includes Eric Gordon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wolves Showing No Inclination To Accept Rockets’ Butler Offer

The Timberwolves are showing “no inclination” to move on the Rockets‘ latest trade offer for Jimmy Butler, reports Shams Charania in a video for Stadium.

Charania confirms that Houston’s offer features four first-round picks, along with a pair of injured players — Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss. As I noted earlier today when I broke down the details of a potential Rockets offer, Knight and Chriss will become eligible to be traded in a package next Wednesday.

Even when they eventually get healthy, Knight and Chriss aren’t the sort of players who will come close to approximating Butler’s impact for the Timberwolves, so – as Charania suggests – there’s little incentive for Minnesota to jump on that offer right away. According to Charania, teams around the NBA expect the Wolves to continue to survey the market, perhaps waiting for clubs like the Heat or even the Sixers to get involved again.

The appeal of that Rockets offer to the Wolves may ultimately come down to who is making the final decision and what their top priorities are. We know that president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden have been seeking a package that features some combination of veteran talent, young prospects, and cap relief, so a pick-heavy offer may not do the trick.

The Spurs’ trade of Kawhi Leonard over the summer could be a good reference point for what the Wolves want for Butler. San Antonio sought an impact player who could help the club right away and ultimately accepted Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan-centric offer instead of, say, a Celtics offer loaded with draft picks. Of course, everyone with the Spurs seemed to be on the same page in that scenario — it’s not clear if that’s the case in Minnesota, where owner Glen Taylor may have different priorities than Thibodeau and Layden.

It’s also worth noting that, as the Spurs did with Leonard, the Wolves may prefer to send Butler to the Eastern Conference. Marc Stein of The New York Times has reported multiple times that Minnesota isn’t eager to help the Rockets create another Western Conference super-team.

Injury Updates: Cousins, Howard, Knight, Murray

Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins is making good progress from his torn left Achilles tendon and will be “integrated into controlled aspects of team practices” in the near future, according to a team release. He is not ready to participate in scrimmages at this point but he will continue off-court strength and conditioning, the release adds. While the news is encouraging, it’s apparent that Cousins won’t see the court any time soon. Golden State will take it slow with its surprise free agent prize to make sure he’s healthy for the postseason. Golden State hasn’t set a timetable for his return. Cousins signed a one-year, $5.3MM pact with the aim of winning a ring before returning to the free agent market.

We have more injury-related news from around the league:

  • Dwight Howard didn’t travel with the Wizards for the start of their five-game road trip, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post tweets. Howard returned to practice last week after suffering a buttocks injury during training camp but has yet to make his Washington debut. It’s possible Howard could rejoin the team during the trip but the fact that he didn’t travel to Portland for the game on Monday night suggests his return is not imminent.
  • Rockets point guard Brandon Knight isn’t close to returning, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Acquired from the Suns in late August, Knight sat out last season after surgery on his left ACL. He then developed an infection after another minor procedure during the offseason that dramatically set back his rehab, according to Feigen. There’s no timetable for Knight’s return. “I feel it’s going well,” Knight said. “Every day I’m working hard to feel like my normal self, to get back to playing, game mode. It’s tough to put a timetable on things. Just going day-by-day and attack each day as best I can and win the day. That’s kind of how I look at it.”
  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray underwent knee surgery on Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Murray suffered a torn right ACL during a preseason game and is expected to miss the season.

Rockets Notes: Carmelo, Knight, Luxury Tax

Carmelo Anthony‘s scoring numbers have been on the decline for the last five seasons, but he was never moved to a bench role in either New York or Oklahoma City — the 10-time All-Star has appeared in 1,054 career regular season games and has started them all.

That may change during the upcoming season, but Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t tip his hand on Media Day, telling reporters – including Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (Twitter link) – that he’s still waiting to see how the pieces fit before decide whether Anthony will start or come off the bench.

Asked about the possibility of coming off the bench, Anthony said no one has had that conversation with him yet. Pushed further on the matter, the veteran forward suggested he’d be open to the idea: “Whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship, that’s what’s going to be done” (Twitter links).

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • New Rockets guard Brandon Knight has an infection “that needs to clear up,” per general manager Daryl Morey (Twitter link via MacMahon). Knight, who recently underwent knee surgery, will be sidelined through the preseason, Morey added.
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta called the luxury tax a “horrible hindrance” and suggested that the franchise may look to avoid the repeater tax down the line (Twitter link via MacMahon). However, he also noted that he’s in Houston to win championships, and an extra $5-10MM won’t stop him from doing so (Twitter link via Kelly Iko of The Athletic). Those tax penalties would only be an issue if the Rockets are still paying them and stop winning, Feritta said.
  • Earlier today, we passed along the latest on the Rockets and draft-and-stash prospect Alessandro Gentile, who doesn’t yet have an agreement in place with the club.

Rockets’ Brandon Knight Sidelined By Knee Surgery

Newly acquired Rockets guard Brandon Knight recently had “clean up” surgery on his left knee and will miss an unspecified amount of time, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Houston acquired Knight from Phoenix in a four-player trade at the end of August. Knight missed all of last season with a torn ACL and played just 54 and 52 games the prior two years. He wasn’t projected to have a significant role with the Rockets as Chris Paul, James Harden and Eric Gordon fill most of the minutes in the backcourt, so the team can wait for Knight to recover.

Knight will make $14.6MM this season and another $15.6MM in 2019/20.

 

Rockets Notes: Anderson, Knight, Gentile, Rosas

Trading power forward Ryan Anderson to the Suns did more for the Rockets than just shed salary, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle explains. Anderson didn’t have a clearly defined role with the addition of Carmelo Anthony, while acquisitions Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss could contribute, albeit in a limited fashion. As an added bonus, the Rockets only had to toss in second-rounder De’Anthony Melton instead of packaging a future first-rounder to move Anderson’s contract, Feigen continues. Though Houston tends to play mostly a three-guard rotation, Knight could emerge as the backup point guard if he beats out Michael Carter-Williams. Chriss could become part of the mix as a backup big man if he beats out second-rounders Zhou Qi and Isaiah Hartenstein, Feigen adds. The teams reached an agreement on the trade Thursday.

In other news regarding the Rockets:
  • Knight had a minor cleanup on his knee approximately six weeks ago and may not be ready for start of training camp, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 tweets. Knight, who missed last season with a torn ACL, expects to be ready for the start of the season, Gambadoro adds. Knight is excited about the chance to play for a championship contender, Gambadoro relays in another tweet.
  • Swingman Alessandro Gentile will not join other team members during a team bonding week in the Bahamas during the first week of September because he’s still recovering from right hand surgery, according to a Sportando report. Gentile expects to be fully cleared to practice by the end of the month, the report adds. Gentile, a 2014 second-round pick who has played in Europe since 2009, recently revealed he will join the team in training camp in an uphill battle to gain a roster spot.
  • The Rockets have granted the Sixers permission to interview executive vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas for their GM opening. Get all the details here.

Rockets Trade Anderson, Melton To Suns For Knight, Chriss

AUGUST 31: The trade is official, the Rockets and Suns announced in separate statements.

AUGUST 30: The Rockets and Suns have agreed to a trade, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Phoenix will acquire Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton from Houston in exchange for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.

Anderson has been on the trade block in Houston for over a year, with his expensive long-term contract having stood in the way of a deal until now. While the Rockets will finally shed the two years and $41.69MM remaining on Anderson’s deal, they’ll take back another pricey multiyear contract — Knight is owed $30.28MM over the next two seasons.

Chriss will earn $3.21MM in 2018/19 and has a team option worth just over $4MM for 2019/20. The Rockets will have to make a decision on that option by October 31 of this year. As for Melton, he has yet to sign his first NBA contract, so Houston is technically trading his draft rights to Phoenix. The Suns will have the opportunity to lock him up once the trade is official.

While the in-the-tax Rockets will save some money as a result of the swap, the on-court implications are even more interesting than the financial ones. Anderson’s impressive three-point range allowed Houston to stretch the floor on offense, but his defensive shortcoming made him unplayable in certain matchups — he didn’t see much action in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors last season, for instance.

In place of Anderson and Melton, the Rockets will be receiving two players with intriguing upside. Knight missed the entire 2017/18 season with an ACL tear, but isn’t far removed from averaging 19.6 PPG and 5.1 APG in 52 games for the Suns in 2015/16. Assuming he’s back to full health, Knight could provide Houston with scoring and play-making off the bench behind Chris Paul and James Harden.

Chriss, meanwhile, has yet to develop into the sort of difference-making big man the Suns hoped for when they drafted him eighth overall in 2016. However, he’s still just 21 years old and has shown flashes of potential during his first two NBA seasons. It’s not clear how he’ll fit into the Rockets’ plans.

The Suns, apparently not ready to bet on Chriss taking significant steps forward, will replace him in the frontcourt with Anderson, a veteran stretch four capable of playing alongside No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. Phoenix will also add Melton, a 2018 second-round pick who had an impressive Summer League showing for the Rockets, filling the box score with 16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.0 SPG in five games in Las Vegas.

The deal will leave the Suns lacking in experience and depth at point guard. Second-rounders Melton and Elie Okobo could see minutes immediately, with Shaquille Harrison and Isaiah Canaan also in the mix.

It will be interesting to see whether Phoenix has another move up its sleeve to fortify that point guard position or if the club simply plans to lean more heavily on Devin Booker as its primary play-maker. In his full report on the trade, Wojnarowski notes that the Suns may envision a larger role for Harrison.

The Rockets will create a modest traded player exception worth about $2.58MM in the deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets/Suns Trade Notes: Grades, Knight, Melton

The Rockets and Suns agreed to an unusual trade late on Thursday night, with Houston poised to send Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton to Phoenix in exchange for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss. Both teams are essentially acquiring a potentially useful veteran on an expensive multiyear contract, plus a young prospect with some upside. That kind of straight two-for-two swap without any draft picks or other assets included is pretty rare, particularly between a title contender and a lottery team.

In an Insider-only piece at ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton tries to make sense of the deal for both clubs, and has an easier time doing so for the Rockets, assigning them a grade of B+ for shedding Anderson’s contract and acquiring a pair of intriguing players. Pelton isn’t as bullish on the trade for the Suns, who get a C- grade from the ESPN scribe.

While the Suns may view the deal as an opportunity to acquire a starting power forward and a promising young prospect in exchange for two players who weren’t in their plans, they probably could’ve driven a harder bargain with the in-the-tax Rockets, says Pelton.

Here’s more on the Rockets/Suns trade:

  • If the Rockets were to finalize the trade and waive Knight today, the team could greatly reduce its projected tax bill for 2018/19. However, ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link) hears that Houston has no plans to waive-and-stretch Knight.
  • Lowe’s other observations on the deal: The Suns paid a high cost to acquire Melton, but people around the NBA are “super-high” on him (Twitter link). The Rockets, who haven’t used their first-round pick for a few years, did well to avoid including their 2019 first-rounder in an Anderson deal, says Lowe (Twitter link). That pick could now be available for another trade at the deadline if necessary.
  • As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter), it will be interesting to see what kind of contract Melton signs with the Suns, who are now over the cap. Without cap room, they’re limited to a two-year offer. While Phoenix could potentially open up cap space by buying out Darrell Arthur, he’s unlikely to give up much salary without lining up another landing spot, per Marks. Waiving and stretching Arthur today would also work, but adding an annual $2.5MM charge to their cap for two additional years may not be worth gaining the ability to give Melton an extra year or two.
  • In the view of Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link), the Suns made the trade with Igor Kokoskov‘s up-tempo, three-pointer-heavy offense in mind. Kokoskov’s system calls for a stretch four like Anderson, and Melton’s play-making ability figures to be a good fit too.

Pacific Notes: McLemore, Davis, Curry, Durant, Knight

Shooting guard Ben McLemore and power forward Deyonta Davis probably won’t stick around with the Kings, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area speculates. That duo was acquired, along with a future second-rounder, from the Grizzlies on Tuesday for veteran guard Garrett Temple. Adding a draft pick and clearing a little more cap space attracted Sacramento to the deal, Ham continues. McLemore joins a crowded backcourt and he could be waived or his $5.4MM contract could be bought out. Davis has a team-friendly $1.5MM salary but also doesn’t have an obvious role with the current roster.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Temple trade gives the Kings more than $20MM of cap room, making it a smarter move for them than the Grizzlies, in the eyes of Kevin Pelton of ESPN. Sacramento can use that additional wiggle room take on bad contracts or chase a restricted free agent, Pelton continues. The 2021 pick it acquired could very well wind up being at or near the top of the second round if Memphis goes into rebuild mode, Pelton adds.
  • Warriors guard Stephen Curry has decided to skip next week’s USA Basketball mini-camp, Chris Haynes of ESPN reports. Curry wants to spend more time with his family. Golden State forward Kevin Durant will take part in the mini-camp, David Aldridge of NBA.com tweets.
  • The Suns will head into the season with Brandon Knight as the starting point guard unless they make a trade, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic declares in his latest mailbag. If Phoenix strikes a deal, the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley would be an obvious target because of Los Angeles’ backcourt logjam, Bordow adds.
  • The Clippers will promote their G League coach, Casey Hill, to Doc Rivers’ staff with coaching associate Brian Adams replacing Hill at Agua Caliente, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). Natalie Nakase will be promoted to Clippers player development staff, Wojnarowski adds.