Chris Paul

James Harden Talks Chris Paul, Rockets, Summer 17

Chris Paulwho had the ability to become a free agent this offseason, informed the Clippers in June that he would not be returning to the club. Instead, he intended to go to the Rockets, which prompted Los Angeles to trade him to Houston prior to him activating his Early Termination Option.

James Harden played a key role in bringing Paul to Houston. The 2016/17 MVP runner up discussed the acquisition with Sam Amick of USA Today, telling the scribe that he spoke with Paul about forming a dynamic backcourt.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously [Paul] was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.”

Harden continued, telling Amick that he feels the move puts the team in a position to match up with Golden State, the conference’s 3-time reigning champ.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build-up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance,” the 27-year-old added.

Harden understands that playing alongside someone as great as Paul is a huge opportunity. Paul can become a free agent at the end of next season, so there’s no telling whether the 2017/18 campaign will be the only one where the two share a backcourt. Harden, who has made several changes to his offseason routine, including the addition of yoga and pilates, isn’t going to take the opportunity for granted.

“Every summer, it’s about getting better and putting yourself in a position to last an entire season,” Harden said.“I know how exciting this season is [going to be, and] I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity [events], a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in.”

Former GM Praises Irving, Expects Trade

Former Cavaliers GM David Griffin praised All-Star guard Kyrie Irving for the way he approached his trade request during an interview on ESPN’s The Jump show.

Griffin said Irving’s decision to make the request to owner Dan Gilbert in a private meeting took “courage” and was preferable to feigning that he was happy in Cleveland.

“The absolute worst thing this guy could have done was pretend to be all-in and sink the ship from within,” Griffin said on the show. “Most guys don’t have the courage to do what he did.”  

Griffin believes Irving will be traded and that it would be better for both sides if that happens.

“I see this as him looking for a fit for himself, to take the next step in his career,” he said. “I think this is a guy who wants to know how good he can be. LeBron (James) casts a very large shadow over an organization.”

Griffin’s comments could be construed as a veiled shot at the organization, since the court of public opinion has taken Irving to task for requesting a trade from the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions. Griffin and Gilbert parted ways right before the June draft when the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension.

Irving’s request was made before Griffin was let go and the former GM was exploring trade options in his final days with the franchise, according to Sam Amico of Amico Hoops. A trade scenario involving the Clippers and Chris Paul was discussed, according to Amico, but those talks proved fruitless and Paul was eventually dealt to the Rockets.

Irving isn’t close to being dealt, sources told Amico.

Pacific Notes: Jackson, Clippers, Paul

No stranger to the spotlight, Josh Jackson thrived with all eyes watching how he would fare in his first summer league. In his first five games in Las Vegas, the No. 4 overall pick flourished for the Suns, Andrew Vailliencourt of The Republic writes.

Suns summer league coach Marion Garnett sees Jackson’s desire to lead the team and recognizes that it will likely be a factor when he joins the rest of his team in Phoenix.

He has it in him,” Garnett said. “It’s kind of what he’s wired with, to be the lead dog. I don’t know how that dynamic is going to play out with our regular [Suns] group, but he does have it in him.”

In five games with the Suns’ summer league squad, Jackson posted 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors have had a successful offseason, at least in the eyes of head coach Steve Kerr. Anthony Slater of the Mercury News recently caught up with the bench boss. “Happy for Steph that he got paid,” Kerr said. “Happy for Andre that he was rewarded for what he’s done here and I think he’s got gas left in the tank. KD facilitated a lot of that.
  • The Clippers‘ move to add Danilo Gallinari could be indicative of the strategy Doc Rivers plans to take in 2017/18. “Losing Chris Paul is tough because he is a great player,” Rivers told Marc Spears of The Undefeated. “But we have a lot of great players on our team that play so many different ways. That is why ‘Gallo’ is so important to us, because our thought was that if you’re not going to run a point guard-dominated offense, then you’ve got to run a movement offense with versatility.
  • After an injury plagued few seasons, Doc Rivers believes the Clippers‘ success was too dependent on the health of Chris Paul, Mark Medina of the Orange County Register writes.

Southwest Notes: Mavericks, Pelicans, Rockets

The Mavericks have liked what they’ve seen from Chinese swingman Ding Yanyuhang in limited Summer League minutes, but may not be able to keep him stateside with a low-paying two-way contract, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. As Sefko details, if the Mavs want to keep Ding around, it will likely require an NBA contract offer, even if the 23-year-old may not be NBA-ready quite yet.

Within his story on Ding, Sefko also suggests that Nicolas Brussino‘s time with the Mavericks may be coming to an end. Brussino’s salary guarantee deadline for 2017/18 is next Thursday, and the Argentinian swingman seems unlikely to remain in Dallas beyond that date, per Sefko.

Here’s more from around the Southwest division:

  • The Pelicans remain in the market for an impact guard and an outside shooter, but would likely need to shed salary to add both, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. As Kushner notes, it will be complicated for New Orleans to accomplish all three goals.
  • In an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Chris Paul explained why he felt it was time to move on from the Clippers, and what drew him to the Rockets.
  • Isaiah Taylor, who has a non-guaranteed minimum salary for 2017/18, will likely spend the majority of the season with the Rockets rather than the team’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, per head coach Mike D’Antoni (Twitter link via Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle). Of course, that assumes Houston doesn’t use Taylor’s non-guaranteed contract to help accommodate a trade.

Western Notes: Rivers, Hill, Holiday, Thunder

Austin Rivers refuted reports that Chris Paul wanted to leave the Clippers in part because of a strained relationship between them, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Rivers spoke to Paul by phone shortly after the rumor surfaced and Paul assured him that there was nothing to it, Amick continues. “Chris was just like, ‘This is a joke,'” Rivers told Amick. “So I asked him, I’m like, ‘You don’t need to come out and say nothing publicly, I don’t need you to do that. It’s just going to make it even more, now they’re going to drag it out two more days. I’ll take it. I don’t care.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • The Kings’ promise that they were not in tank mode next season helped to sway point guard George Hill to sign with them, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. Hill signed a three-year, $57MM contract to join Sacramento. “A couple of teams I was in talks to really weren’t focused on winning,” Hill said. “A couple teams wanted to win. Sacramento called and said we have a lot of young guys but we’re not here to tank, we want to win and we want to do it the right way and if we take our lumps and bruises, we’ll take our lumps and bruises but we’re trying to win.”
  • DeMarcus Cousins is entering his walk year and Jrue Holiday is already lobbying him to re-sign with the Pelicans, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Holiday stayed with New Orleans by signing a five-year, $126MM deal as an unrestricted free agent. Cousins is no longer eligible for the designated player extension because the Kings dealt him. He can still sign an extension but can make more in free agency, Guillory notes.
  • Center Dakari Johnson is a candidate for one of the Thunder’s final two roster spots, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Johnson, the team’s second-round pick in 2015, has spent the last two seasons with the Oklahoma City Blue. A spot will be available if forward Nick Collison declines to re-sign or if the team waives guard Semaj Christon, Dawson adds.

Southwest Notes: Noel, Gentry, Paul

The Mavs won’t be travelling far when the free agency period officially opens tomorrow night at midnight, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. Instead, he says, the franchise will zero in on its two own free agents: Nerlens Noel and Dirk Nowitzki.

While a Nowitzki deal is a foregone conclusion, the interesting part will be whether the Mavs can come to terms with Noel before the the restricted free agent lands a lofty offer sheet from a team willing to pay top dollar.

Currently, Sefko notes, the cap-hit the Mavs take for Noel is $11MM, a mark that figures to be considerably lower than what the 23-year-old would be able to land on the open market.

The decision to focus on Nowitzki after declining his team option this week and bringing Noel back is representative of the change in direction the Mavs have undergone this season.

Having landed Harrison Barnes in free agency last year and traded for Noel at the trade deadline in February, the Mavs have promptly patched together an intriguing young core.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • After two lackluster seasons at the helm of the Pelicans, Alvin Gentry is well aware of the fact that the NBA is a “results industry.” The head coach spoke with Scott Kushner of The Advocate, noting that he doesn’t feel that there’s any extra pressure this season.
  • There’s no denying that for Chris Paul to thrive with the Rockets, he, Mike D’Antoni and James Harden will all have to end up on the same page. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report writes about how they’ll need to adapt to make that happen.
  • There was some truth to the speculation that linked Chris Paul to the Spurs but two things sullied the opportunity. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated notes that the uncertainty of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s status, coupled with the notion of having to replace Tony Parker at point guard, dissuaded Paul from exploring things further.

 

Los Angeles Notes: Rivers, Jordan, Lopez, Simon

Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers is denying a report that an ongoing feud between his son, Austin, and Chris Paul led to Paul’s trade to Houston today, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. In a series of tweets, Doc Rivers thanked Paul for his years of service and called his departure a “big loss” for the team. He also said there have been rumors floating around that Paul was clashing with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as well as Austin Rivers.

“We’ve heard all the stories about Blake and DJ and Austin,” Doc Rivers said (Twitter link). “I can’t comment just on Austin because it’s just not right. We’ve heard he left because of all three today (Twitter link). There is a lot of speculation on why he left. The one thing I know is he didn’t leave because of any of those three guys (Twitter link). He left because he felt like he would have a better chance to win somewhere else.” (Twitter link)

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers may re-examine the idea of trading Jordan now that Paul is gone, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Jordan and Griffin are something of an awkward pairing with both preferring to play near the basket, and Lowe suggests that the problem will worsen without an elite point guard on the floor. L.A.’s front office took several calls about Jordan last week and may decide to move him if the organization is headed toward a rebuilding project. Jordan has a player option worth a little more than $24MM for 2018/19.
  • The Lakers‘ trade for Brook Lopez last week was about more than just cap relief, relays Mark Medina of The Orange County Register. Lopez, who grew up in North Hollywood, was acquired from the Nets along with the 27th pick in the draft in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and the three years and $48MM left on Timofey Mozgov‘s contract. “A lot of those emotions turned into general excitement with this opportunity to come back home and chance to lead the franchise back to success,” Lopez said today as he met the L.A. media. “I want to be out there teaching the young guys and being a guy that [coach] Luke [Walton] can rely on and do whatever he asks.”
  • Despite talk that the Lakers will save their big free agency moves for next summer, new GM Rob Pelinka told Medina that he wants to contend right away (Twitter link). “We don’t see next year at all as a rebuilding year,” Pelinka said. “We see next year as a Lakers year.”
  • Miles Simon has been added to the Lakers‘ coaching staff, the team announced on its website. The Most Outstanding Player of the 1997 NCAA Tournament, Simon has recent coaching experience with USA Basketball, capturing gold medals at several junior levels.

Latest On The Chris Paul Trade

Chris Paul‘s departure from the Clippers today severed a relationship that began to fall apart when the team acquired Austin Rivers in 2015, according to a Facebook post from Michael Eaves of ESPN. Several Clippers believed Rivers brought an entitled attitude to the team because he is the son of coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers. Veterans didn’t think Austin Rivers tried hard enough to fit in, which created dissension in the locker room. Paul, in particular, thought that Austin Rivers got preferential treatment from his father.

The situation reportedly reached a breaking point prior to the trade deadline when the Knicks offered Carmelo Anthony and Sasha Vujacic to L.A. in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers. Doc Rivers blocked the deal, which led Paul to believe that coaching his son was more important than winning, with an unidentified league executive saying, “Chris despises Doc.”

There’s more fallout from today’s blockbuster trade:

  • The decision to opt in for the final year of his contract gives Paul more flexibility if he wants to team up with LeBron James next summer, Eaves notes in the same post. He mentions the Rockets, Lakers and possibly the Clippers, if Doc Rivers is gone, as potential destinations for that to happen. In the meantime, Paul can see how well his game meshes with James Harden‘s and gets a financial windfall because Texas doesn’t have a state income tax.
  • Austin Rivers denied on Twitter that he had anything to do with Paul’s desire to leave. “These false rumors are comedy…so fictional it’s actually amusing! People will say or do anything to get attention,” he posted. He concluded the message with “A lot of clowns out there,” using two clown emoji symbols.
  • The Clippers were concerned about the later years of Paul’s next contract, tweets David Aldridge of TNT. A five-year deal in excess of $200MM would have paid Paul nearly $45MM at age 37, and L.A. wasn’t willing to make that commitment.
  • Newly hired Clippers consultant Jerry West didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting with Paul, according to Chris Broussard of Fox Sports 1 (Twitter link).
  • The Rockets would have preferred to clear cap space by trading Ryan Anderson, but there wasn’t much of a market available, reports Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Two teams that were interested asked for two first-round picks in exchange for taking the three years and $60MM left on Anderson’s contract.
  • Trading for Paul before July 1st will allow the Rockets to enter free agency over the salary cap, Lowe adds, giving them access to a full midlevel exception worth more than $8MM and a biannual exception topping $3MM.
  • The Rockets will continue to pursue other stars, but probably can’t offer Trevor Ariza in any deal, according to Lowe. Paul remains close with his former teammate in New Orleans, and the chance to reunite played a decision in Paul’s decision to pick Houston. The Clippers, Lowe relays, had made several attempts to obtain Ariza.
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey credits Harden for making today’s trade happen. In a video posted by Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston, Morey says the Rockets now have the two best playmakers in the league.

Clippers Trade Chris Paul To Rockets

Reversing his decision to head to the free agent market, Chris Paul has opted into the final year of his contract as part of a trade. The Clippers have sent Paul to the Rockets in exchange for a massive trade package, Houston confirmed today in a press release. The Clippers will receive the following pieces in the deal:Chris Paul vertical

“Since winning back-to-back championships, the pursuit of a third title has remained the ultimate goal for our franchise,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement. “We feel that combining two of the league’s greatest players in James Harden and Chris Paul, operating in Coach [Mike] D’Antoni’s system, gives us a championship caliber team that will compete at the highest level for years to come.”

The move is a bombshell, particularly since Paul had been expected to reach free agency this weekend — a report last week indicated that he had made the decision to opt out of his contract. However, CP3 had yet to formally file the paperwork to exercise that early termination option. Instead, he’ll waive the ETO, which will allow him to play out the final year of his deal and become eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2018, unless he signs an extension with Houston before next July. Paul is currently set to earn $24,268,959 in 2017/18.

According to Wojnarowski, the Clippers and Rockets reached an agreement after Paul informed L.A. that he intended to sign with Houston in free agency. From the Clippers’ perspective, the trade with Houston is a way to recoup some value for the star point guard and avoid losing him for nothing. Meanwhile, the Rockets will no longer have to worry about trying to dump a salary or two in order to create enough room for a maximum salary slot for Paul.

The Rockets, who were reported on Tuesday to be a “serious” threat in the Paul sweepstakes, have now secured their man before the free agent period even gets underway. The club’s star-studded backcourt will create an intriguing dynamic, since Harden is coming off an MVP-caliber season in which he served as Houston’s primary ball-handler. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Paul and Harden were “determined” to play together, so the duo is presumably unconcerned about how the ball-handling duties will be shared going forward.

It will be interesting to see if Rockets president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has anything else up his sleeve for the team in July. According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, the club is still on the lookout for a third star to complement Paul and Harden. Houston was reportedly involved in Paul George trade talks, though the club surrendered some valuable assets in today’s move, so it’s not clear whether Morey still has enough pieces to interest the Pacers.

With Paul now headed to Houston, the Spurs – who were rumored to be a contender for Paul – will have to look elsewhere if they intend to sign a marquee free agent point guard. Teams around the NBA hoping to re-sign their own star point guards, such as the Pelicans (Jrue Holiday) and Raptors (Kyle Lowry), may also be breathing a little easier, since the Rockets were viewed as a team capable of shaking up the point guard market.

As for the Clippers, it’s not clear yet if today’s deal will be the first domino to fall in a full-fledged rebuilding process for the club, or merely a retooling of the roster. In Beverley and Williams, the Clips will acquire a pair of effective and affordable veteran guards who figure to step into key roles right away. Dekker is more of a wild card, but the 23-year-old big man flashed some upside in a rotational role for the Rockets last season, as did Harrell.

Paul’s departure also figures to be a factor in Blake Griffin‘s impending free agency. Unlike Paul, Griffin has formally exercised his ETO with the Clippers, so he’s on track to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday. Given the reported tension between Paul and Griffin over the years, it’s possible that the trade of CP3 makes Griffin more likely to re-sign — Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net (Twitter link) spoke to several league executives who speculated as much.

[RELATED: Clippers confident about re-signing Blake Griffin]

Because the combined salaries of Beverley, Dekker, and Williams – the package reported initially for the Clippers – weren’t enough for the Rockets to land Paul, Houston spent most of the day acquiring players with non-guaranteed salaries from other teams to include in the deal. Liggins and Hilliard will be flipped to the Clippers, but Tim Quarterman, Shawn Long, and Ryan Kelly, who were all traded to Houston earlier today, won’t be part of this transactions — Houston instead included Harrell and Wiltjer.

I explained the math from the Rockets’ perspective earlier today. By structuring the deal as they did, the Rockets will remain over the cap and will have the mid-level exception ($8.4MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.3MM) available to pursue free agents when the new league year begins.

The Clippers waived retiring forward Paul Pierce in order to adhere to the NBA’s offseason roster limit of 20 players.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter links) broke news of the trade. Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle and Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times were among those who reported key details along the way.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets A Serious Threat For Chris Paul?

The Rockets have emerged as an “increasingly serious” threat in the Chris Paul sweepstakes, league sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein is the second ESPN reporter this week to make such a claim — Chris Haynes said on Monday that he has heard Houston has a “serious chance” to land Paul.

According to Stein, MVP finalist James Harden has been advocating for the Rockets to go after Paul, having made his interest in playing alongside the veteran point guard clear to both the team and to CP3 himself.

As Stein notes, the Rockets would have to make some cost-cutting moves in order to clear the cap space necessary to make a real run at Paul. Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley, and Lou Williams are among the players believed to be on the trade block, with ESPN’s report suggesting that Houston is focused on finding a taker for Anderson’s salary, which will be worth nearly $20MM in 2017/18.

Despite the classification of the Rockets as a “serious” suitor for Paul, I’m skeptical of the fit. Houston excelled this past season playing a fast-paced style with Harden running the point. Paul has generally played at a much slower pace, and incorporating him into the offense would mean taking the ball out of Harden’s hands. Additionally, I think the Rockets would probably have to attach at least one valuable asset – such as a future first-round pick – to Anderson’s contract in order to gain any traction in trade talks.

Still, according to Stein, the Clippers continue to worry that Paul could bolt in free agency, and view Houston and San Antonio as legitimate threats. We heard earlier today that CP3’s camp sat down with the Clippers on Tuesday to discuss the point guard’s future. The two sides plan to meet again a few days from now.

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