Chris Paul

Poll: Rockets’ Playoff Chances

In what has seemingly been a weekly topic among NBA fans and analysts, the Rockets‘ slow start has only gotten worse, as they have now lost three straight games for the third time this season and sit at 11-14, good for 14th in the Western Conference.

What many brushed off as a simple slump due to injuries and cold shooting has continued throughout the season, despite the team boasting the healthiest rotation in recent games as Chris Paul, Gerald Green and Nene have all returned from injuries.

While the Rockets’ offense has struggled from time to time (they rank ninth in the league), it is the defense that has continued to fail them, as they have fallen all the way down to 25th on that end of the floor. Additionally, the team’s lack of quality depth has been exposed as a result of their top players not leading the way as expected.

Chris Paul is in the midst of the worst season of his career while Eric Gordon has been nowhere near the levels from previous seasons. Meanwhile, James Harden and Clint Capela are putting up eye-opening offensive numbers but aren’t playing the level of defense they were at last season. Combine all of those factors together and you get the perfect recipe for this disastrous season for the Rockets.

Barring a trade, there is no solution on the way, especially considering the amount of problems that need solving. Sure, the season is just over one-quarter of the way through, but the Rockets’ recent play doesn’t inspire confidence in their abilities moving forward.

At the moment, the Rockets are just 2 1/2 games out of the eighth seed. That begs the question, do you think the Rockets will make the playoffs? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Rockets Notes: Carmelo, MCW, Paul, Bzdelik

While there has been no resolution yet to the Carmelo Anthony situation in Houston, the uncertainty surrounding the 10-time All-Star hasn’t been a distraction for the rest of the Rockets, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“In this league, man, you’ve seen it all, especially the vets,” forward P.J. Tucker said. “You see all kinds of crazy situations. There’s different things going on. You’re a professional. You go out. You play the other team. The situation is unfortunate, but in this league, you got to say, ‘Who’s up next,’ get ready to play and go out and play your (butt) off.”

As Tim MacMahon of relays, league sources still believe that Anthony has played his last game with the Rockets.

As we wait to see what happens with Carmelo, let’s round up a few more items on the Rockets…

  • Within his look at the Rockets’ offseason changes, MacMahon observes that Michael Carter-Williams has been just as disappointing as Anthony, with Houston having been outscored by 45 points during his 97 minutes on the court. James Ennis has been better, but a hamstring issue has prevented him from developing chemistry with his new teammates. “I don’t think they’re all on the same page,” a Western Conference scout told MacMahon last week. “I think that’ll come. I think they’ll get it. It’s still a long season, still remains to be seen. They’ll figure it out and be fine.”
  • When the Rockets re-signed Chris Paul to a four-year deal this summer, they knew that the fourth year, worth $44.21MM, probably wouldn’t provide good value, writes MacMahon. However, they do expect more from Paul this season, with the veteran point guard off to a slow start. “That’s a lot to do with it,” Paul told ESPN. “I look at myself first in this situation. I know I’ve got to play better, and that’ll help us play better.”
  • One scout who spoke to MacMahon believes Paul looks “a step slow,” but CP3 points out that he’s having no problem creating shots — just making them. MacMahon also suggests that some people believe the Rockets are dealing with a “hangover” from last season in the early going this year. “We didn’t win,” Paul said. “So we can’t have a hangover.”
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta personally recruited defensive specialist Jeff Bzdelik to get him to rejoin the team, offering a significant raise and making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid assistants, according to MacMahon. Bzdelik won’t be back with the organization on a full-time basis until after Thanksgiving, MacMahon adds.

Rondo Calls CP3 “Horrible Teammate,” Denies Spitting

Three days after participating in an on-court altercation between the Lakers and Rockets, and two days after being suspended for his involvement in that fight, Rajon Rondo told ESPN on Tuesday that he didn’t intentionally spit on Chris Paul, and offered some harsh criticism of the Houston point guard.

“I had a mouthpiece in my mouth and I exasperated because I was about to tell him to ‘Get the [expletive] out of here,'” Rondo said. “Look at my body language [in the video]. My hands on my hips. I turn away for a second. Look at Eric [Gordon] and Melo [Carmelo Anthony] in the video. If they saw me spit, they would have turned their face up or something. They had no reaction.”

Rondo, who was displeased that he received a longer suspension than Paul, bemoaned the fact that both the NBA and the media – in his view – sided with CP3’s account of what happened on Saturday. League sources tell ESPN that Rondo claimed he was provoked into throwing a punch at Paul after the Rockets guard poked a finger into his face and left a scratch under his eye.

Arguing that Paul’s actions to “provoke the situation” were overlooked, Rondo suggested that the media-created images of the two point guards contributed to that portrayal of the incident.

“Everyone wants to believe Chris Paul is a good guy. They don’t know he’s a horrible teammate,” Rondo said. “They don’t know how he treats people. Look at what he did last year when he was in L.A.; trying to get to the Clippers locker room. They don’t want to believe he’s capable of taunting and igniting an incident.”

While Rondo has never played on the same team as Paul, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard claims that CP3 isn’t a perfect teammate. During the final years of the Lob City era in Los Angeles, there were rumors that Paul rubbed teammates like Blake Griffin the wrong way and often didn’t see eye-to-eye with head coach Doc Rivers.

The Rockets and Lakers will meet again on December 13 in Houston.

Pacific Rumors: Ingram, Crawford, Shumpert, Rivers

Lakers forward Brandon Ingram felt he got off easy after receiving a four-game suspension for instigating a fight between his team and the Rockets on Saturday night, he told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin and other media members. Ingram received the longest suspension doled out by the league but he thought it could be worse. Teammate Rajon Rondo and Houston’s Chris Paul also received suspensions. “Well, it was better than we expected,” Ingram said. “I’m happy it’s only four but I know I got to control my emotions a little better.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford took only two shots in his Suns debut Saturday and that was by design, he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Crawford joined Phoenix on a one-year contract just before the season opener. “Missing training camp, missing preseason, you don’t want to come in and be ultra-aggressive,” he said. “You have a new team, you have a new coach and learning a new system so you don’t want to come and try to step on anybody’s toes. I’m sure the scoring part will come, but for me, I’m just trying to make the right play.”
  • Iman Shumpert feels a sense of satisfaction being back in uniform this season, according to Noel Harris of the Sacramento Bee. He was dealt to Sacramento by the Cavaliers at February’s trade deadline but didn’t suit up due to plantar fasciitis. He was bothered by a calf injury in training camp but was able to return for a preseason game. He then scored a team-best 26 points in the Kings’ first regular-season win over the Thunder. “Being able to play that preseason game, that was a different type of happiness for me after sitting out a year,” Shumpert said. “I joke around about it a lot, but I’m serious as a heart attack when I say it: I don’t wish that on anybody, not being able to play.” Shumpert needs to continue to produce, as he’ll enter the free agent market after making $11MM this season.
  • Doc Rivers doesn’t think he’d still be coaching the Clippers if the former star trio of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had remained with the team, as he told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times“I needed the change. I wouldn’t have done this with the same group. I wouldn’t be here probably,” Rivers said. “We just needed change. We needed it and we just had to do it. We had to come to the conclusion we weren’t going to win.”

Suspensions Handed Out To Ingram, Rondo, Paul

As expected, the three players at the forefront of the scuffle that broke out in last night’s game between the Rockets and Lakers have received suspensions. Adrian Wojnarowski has reported (via Twitter) that Brandon Ingram will be suspended for four games, Rajon Rondo three games and that Chris Paul will sit for two games.

As a result of these suspensions, Ingram and Rondo will miss the Lakers’ upcoming games against the Spurs, Suns and Nuggets (with Ingram missing another contest against the Spurs later in the week). Meanwhile, Paul will sit out games against the Clippers and Jazz before returning to action.

Financially speaking, Bobby Marks of ESPN has reported (Twitter link) that Ingram will lose $158,816 for his four game suspension, Rondo will lose $186,207 for his three missed games and Paul will miss out on $491,782 for the two games he will be suspended for. The financial penalties are based on total salary divided by 145 for each game of the suspension.

Marks also notes that the Rockets will receive a $245,891 credit (half of Paul’s lost salary) that will be applied to their luxury tax at the end of the season.

These suspensions were inevitable, as all three players played key roles in the back-and-forth late in the fourth quarter of last night’s game.

Lakers, Rockets Brace For Suspensions

An exchange of punches late in Saturday’s game could result in significant suspensions for the LakersBrandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo and the RocketsChris Paul, write Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Rondo and Paul landed punches on each other in the fracas, but Ingram could face the harshest punishment. He sparked the incident by pushing James Harden, then ran from halfcourt to throw a wild punch in the direction of both Paul and P.J. Tucker.

In the aftermath of the fight, the two teams couldn’t agree on what led Paul and Rondo to come to blows, other than a long-simmering feud between the veteran point guards. Paul claims Rondo spit in his face, while the Lakers contend nothing on the video backs up that assertion.

“You don’t do that to nobody — in sports, on the street,” Houston’s Carmelo Anthony said of the alleged spitting. “That’s blatant disrespect. You don’t do that. That’s unacceptable. … You don’t even see that in the streets, man.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton denied the accusation and blamed a flagrant 1 foul on the Rockets’ James Ennis a few minutes earlier for setting the tone for the incident.

“The clothesline three minutes prior, I saw that, and I have zero idea how that’s a flagrant 1,” Walton said. “The rule is — he clotheslined our guy, picked him up off his feet and slammed him on his back.”

NBA executive vice president Kiki VanDeWeghe, who handles discipline for the league, attended the game and has already begun an investigation. Rondo’s suspension three years ago for a homophobic slur toward a referee will likely be taken into account in determining his punishment, according to ESPN.

With the Rockets scheduled to play the Clippers tonight, an announcement is expected soon. Any accompanying fines will carry a per-game cost of $245,891 for Paul, $62,069 for Rondo and $39,704 for Ingram, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Lengthy suspensions for Rondo and Ingram would give Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma a chance to return to the Lakers’ starting lineup. Ball has been operating under a minutes restriction since offseason surgery on his left knee, but told reporters he wouldn’t have any limitations.

Chris Paul Talks Carmelo Anthony Joining Rockets

In what has been an eventful offseason for Carmelo Anthony, the former Knicks star ended up signing a one-year with the Rockets. After a disappointing year with the Thunder, Anthony joins a Rockets team that came within one game of reaching the NBA Finals.

For Rockets point guard and Anthony’s close friend, Chris Paul, the signing is a good thing. Paul spoke to reporters – including Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston – about the signing and expressed optimism for both sides.

“Melo, I’m excited about it,” Paul said. “That’s my brother. I’m not only happy for our team, but I’m happy for him. When you know a guy that well you’re able to push each other and motivate each other and that we both have a common goal, wanting to win a championship.”

In his first and only season with Oklahoma City, Anthony averaged 16.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG with a shooting line of .404/.357/.767. He never developed the chemistry that he and the Thunder hoped with Russell Westbrook and Paul George — and later complained of his role with OKC.

While Anthony’s role in Houston is unclear — with a bench role a possibility — his new teammates have spoken highly of the 10-time All-Star. Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden has given his approval for Anthony joining Houston to chase an NBA title.

Chris Paul Wasn’t Worried About Losing Clint Capela

Even though it took nearly a month for the Rockets to re-sign Clint Capela, teammate Chris Paul said he was never concerned about losing the team’s starting center, relays Ashish Mathur of AmicoHoops.

Paul made the remarks in a recent interview on NBA TV, saying that although there was speculation Capela might sign elsewhere, he knew that conditions favored a return to Houston.

“It was good and well, but I mean I guess for the fans in the basketball world they probably don’t understand, we knew he wasn’t going nowhere,” Paul said. “You know what I mean? Like if you think about it, he was a restricted free agent. Clint wasn’t going nowhere.”

The Rockets could have matched any offer that Capela received, but none ever materialized. There was a feeling around the league that Houston was a lock to match anything short of a max contract, and two potential bidders filled their needs at center when the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton and the Mavericks signed DeAndre Jordan.

Capela could have opted to accept the Rockets’ qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but the parties were able to agree to a five-year, $90MM contract on July 27.

Capela is coming off his best statistical season, averaging 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds in 74 games. Not only is he the anchor of the Rockets’ interior defense, he provides a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Paul and league MVP James Harden.

Contract Details: CP3, MCW, Nurkic, Anderson

The Rockets‘ four-year max deal for Chris Paul includes a player option in year four, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). While that added detail on CP3’s new agreement with Houston is interesting, the possibility of an opt-out probably won’t be a factor in 2021 when a decision is due. Paul will be 36 years old when he has to decide on that $44MM+ option, so he seems unlikely to turn it down.

Pincus has several more specific details on recently-signed contracts, so let’s round them up…

  • Michael Carter-Williams‘ one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets isn’t fully guaranteed. The deal, worth $1,757,429 in total, has a $1.2MM partial guarantee for now (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers‘ agreement with Jusuf Nurkic can be worth up to $54MM, but has a base value of $48MM, with $6MM in unlikely incentives. The fourth and final year is also currently only partially guaranteed for $4MM (Twitter link).
  • Kyle Anderson‘s new four-year contract with the Grizzlies features a 15% trade kicker (Twitter link).
  • Bruce Brown (Pistons) and Keita Bates-Diop (Timberwolves) got three-year, minimum-salary deals with two guaranteed seasons from their respective teams (Twitter link).
  • Of the two-way contracts signed so far this offseason, Billy Preston‘s deal with the Cavaliers is the only one confirmed to be for two years rather than just one (Twitter link).

Chris Paul Signs Four-Year Max Deal With Rockets

JULY 8: The new contract with Paul is official, the Rockets announced on Twitter.

JUNE 30: The Rockets will lock up Chris Paul to a long-term deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the All-Star point guard has agreed to a four-year, maximum-salary contract with Houston.

As our breakdown of max salaries for 2018/19 shows, a four-year max for Paul should be worth $159,730,592.

Paul turned in a stellar season in his first year in Houston, dispelling any concerns about his ability to mesh with James Harden. Paul averaged 18.6 points and 7.9 assists and helped the Rockets post the NBA’s best record at 65-17. However, he suffered a hamstring injury late in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals and missed the last two games as Houston fell to the Warriors.

The big payday for Paul comes a year after he bypassed free agency and opted in to the final year of his $24.6MM contract to help facilitate a trade from the Clippers to the Rockets. At the time, there was a belief that CP3 and the Rockets had a general understanding that the team would take care of him when he eventually reached unrestricted free agency.

That turned out to be the case, though the 33-year-old was eligible for a full max contract over five seasons, so Houston got a bit of a break with a four-year deal.

With Paul locked up, the Rockets will now shift their focus to retaining key contributors like Clint Capela and Luc Mbah a Moute. If Houston re-signs Capela to a lucrative new deal, team salary figures to exceed the luxury tax threshold for 2018/19.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.