Chris Paul

Daryl Morey Talks Lottery Reform, Tanking, Rockets

The NBA’s Board of Governors is prepared to vote for draft lottery reform later this month, and one person strongly in favor of the adjustment is Rockets president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. Appearing on Howard Beck’s Full 48 podcast at Bleacher Report, Morey argued in favor of the proposal, which he described as just a “minor fix,” but a “positive directional step.”

Morey also briefly addressed the Rockets’ offseason, but the brunt of the conversation involves the draft lottery and the issue of tanking, with Beck frequently playing devil’s advocate to Morey. The podcast is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from the head of the basketball operations department in Houston:

On tanking as an NBA-wide problem:

“Teams have to go through cycles … What you want to have though is that when a team is in its rebuilding cycle, which every team goes through – we went through it after Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady – you don’t want them to sit around the table and be dreaming of ways [to get worse]. … ‘It’s not good enough to only win 25 games, to actually get the best odds, we have to win 15 games.’

“It’s just bad for the league that a team in a rebuilding cycle has to think about ‘Maybe I won’t sign a free agent because, oh my goodness, that might win us a few extra games.’ … When you’re down in that rebuilding trough, you shouldn’t have to dream up more ways to be even s–ttier so that you can get the odds at a top player.”

On whether the lottery reform proposal may give borderline playoff teams more incentive to miss the postseason due to better odds at the No. 1 pick:

“I think they’ll all choose the playoffs. We have teams in the NBA who haven’t made the playoffs in, like, 15 years right now. So making the playoffs is going to look really good to most of them.

“I actually think the problem of going from bad to extremely bad, and the fact that teams will have to take themselves out of free agency – which created a whole bunch of problems with the players’ union – I think that’s a much bigger issue than if you might see a team go ‘Hey, we’re going to win 40 games, maybe we’ll win 39 games [instead, to miss the playoffs.]’ You’re saying, ‘I’m going to give up $10MM+ in revenue from the playoffs and the down-stream [impact on] ratings and season tickets.'”

On the Rockets’ addition of Chris Paul:

“It’s very hard to improve a mid-50s-win team. There’s not many levers to pull there. The ones you can pull are generally you’ve got to get a top player, because if it’s not adding a top player, you’re usually bringing in a good player with some flaws and you’re replacing a good player with some flaws. So obviously adding Chris Paul was not a difficult decision.”

On the Rockets’ ability to contend for a title heading into 2017/18:

“I’d say we feel much better. We went from feeling not so good – which I think 29 teams in the league should feel like considering the Warriors obviously are the class of the league – to feeling spunky. We’re feeling like if we can pull this together, get our habits right on offense and defense, execute, that we can give one of the best teams of all time a very, very good series.

Jerry West Talks Dubs, CP3, Dekker, Ballmer, Lakers

Longtime basketball executive Jerry West surprised many NBA observers earlier this offseason when he decided to leave the Warriors for the Clippers. Speaking to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, West acknowledged that he was sad to leave Golden State and had been very happy working for the Warriors, chalking up his decision to timing.

Although he’s a consultant for the Clippers now, West still views the Warriors as the overwhelming favorite to win another championship in 2018, telling Kawakami that “everyone’s playing for second place right now.”

In addition to sharing his lingering fondness for his old team, West also touched on several other noteworthy topics during his discussion with Kawakami. Here are a few highlights:

On whether he knew Chris Paul would leave when he left the Warriors for the Clippers:

“I felt he was. Yes. I didn’t think he was going to stay there. You just get a sense that some players are going to move, you do. You just get a sense… there was all the talk. I know that Steve [Ballmer] met with him. I think Lawrence [Frank] and Doc [Rivers] both met with him. I did not meet with him or talk with him. I just had the sense when I first started talking to them, I asked them, ‘You may not be able to keep either one of these players, him or Blake Griffin.’ I said, ‘How’s that going to work?’ I think they felt there was a chance for sure that he was going to leave.”

On the Clippers moving on without Paul:

“I know some of the people down there [in Houston] and obviously Mike D’Antoni, he’s a friend of mine, he has a place at the Green Brier, and he’s very high on the players we got. He mentioned to me, he said that he thinks they’ll get to play there more and particularly if Sam Dekker can be healthy, he’s a very good prospect. He’s had two seasons of injuries, but he seems very healthy.

“It also gives Doc a chance as a coach to be able to coach differently, more ball movement. Chris was a ball-dominant point guard. [Not having Paul] encourages more movement. When a coach has to do things a little bit differently, that might be challenging but also might be fun for him. Even though we’ll miss Chris, it’s part of the NBA.”

On Clippers owner Steve Ballmer:

“[In] a lot of ways he reminds me of the kind of owners that you want, somebody who’s really committed to trying to build a team. He’s smart, he lets people do their job, he doesn’t think he’s someone who wants to run the team. He’s given Lawrence and Doc a lot of leeway there and they’re going to hire two new people there in the front office. It’s just… I see some changes from the prior regime there that I think are going to be really positive.

On whether he thought he might return to the Lakers rather than joining the Clippers:

“Absolutely not. I had no contact with the Lakers. Honestly, I would’ve never gone back there even if they would’ve contacted me. Never had any conversations, never had a desire there. I knew that would’ve never happened.”

Be sure to check out Kawakami’s full interview with West for more interesting observations from The Logo.

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.
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