Clint Capela

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!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote

Texas Notes: Butler, Capela, Walker, Doncic

The Rockets haven’t given up hope on trading for Jimmy Butler, but they’re planning for the season with their current roster, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Houston has been among the most persistent suitors for Butler, but hasn’t come close to meeting the Timberwolves’ asking price, which reportedly remains very high.

The Rockets’ front office is skeptical that Minnesota is serious about dealing away Butler, Amick adds. There is a belief that Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau still hopes Butler can be convinced to stay despite his public trade request and the ongoing tension in the locker room. This comes on the heels of a similar report out of Los Angeles that the Clippers have tried to make a deal and objections from Miami about Minnesota’s asking price.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • His teammates are now calling him “Swiss Bank,” but Rockets center Clint Capela insists he won’t be changed by the five-year, $80MM contract he signed this summer, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. A restricted free agent, Capela was hoping to receive a maximum or near-max offer sheet. Although that never came and negotiations dragged on for nearly a month, he wound up with a sizable deal to stay in Houston. “The money is not weighing him down, I can tell you that,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s been great. I think he looks about how he looked halfway through the year.”
  • The torn meniscus that is expected to keep Spurs rookie Lonnie Walker out for six to eight weeks is the second one of his career, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. He suffered the same injury last July before his freshman season at Miami and was ready for the opening game in November. Walker will have knee surgery Monday and a more exact timetable will be set for his return.
  • Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic has drawn rave reviews during the preseason, but he needs to cut down on turnovers, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic has given the ball up eight times in 60 minutes of action, with four of those coming on traveling calls. “The behind the back [passes] and all that is good when it goes well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He threw one of them to somebody over in the second row one time. We’ve got to correct that. He’s adapting to the different ways they call traveling in the NBA. In Europe, they had a different interpretation of it.”

Western Notes: Deng, Hill, Mavs, Capela

The Lakers and Luol Deng agreed to a buyout earlier this week, which will allow Los Angeles the ability to offer a top free agent a max contract next offseason. Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that the final figure on what Deng agreed to give up in the agreement came out to $7.3MM, slightly less than what was previously reported.

The Lakers are projected to have approximately $38MM in cap space next offseason, enough to be a major player in the market. While we wait to see if the team makes any other moves, let’s check out some notes from their rivals in the Western Conference:

  • The Suns are not interested in George Hill, Ashish Mathur of Amico Hoops reports. Phoenix traded away Brandon Knight over the weekend and has made inquiries on a few veteran options.
  • The Mavericks lost Doug McDermott in free agency, but Ryan Broekhoff, who signed a multiyear, minimum-salary deal with Dallas, may be a suitable replacement for the former first-round pick, Eddie Sefko of Sports Day writes. The Mavericks need all the shooters they can get, Sefko adds, so Broekhoff may find himself getting some playing time as the season goes along.
  • The Rockets and Clint Capela took some time to arrive at their five-year, $80MM+ deal but many of the team’s prominent members never doubted that the big man would return, as they tell Kelly Iko of The Athletic.  “Oh, we’re not worried about stuff like that,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said of Capela possible slipping away. When James Harden was asked if he was concerned about Capela leaving, he replied “Nah.”

Southwest Notes: Capela, Anderson, Harden, Mejri

Clint Capela‘s five-year contract with the Rockets includes $1.5MM in yearly incentives that he’s likely to reach and another $500K in yearly incentives he’s unlikely to attain, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports.

As previously noted, Capela’s $90MM is technically guaranteed for $80MM with $10MM in incentives. He’ll receive $1MM annually if he plays 2,000 minutes or if the Rockets make the Western Conference Finals. He also has a $500K annual incentive for reaching 2,000 minutes played and a defensive rebound percent greater than 30 percent. Pincus considers those incentives well within reach. As a point of reference, Capela logged 2,034 minutes in 74 regular-season games last season with a defensive rebounding percentage of 30.8.

He also has a $500K annual incentive for taking at least 150 free throws and making 65% or more, which Pincus considers unlikely. Capela shot a career-high 56% from the line last season.

If he reaches the likely incentives, the cap hits on Capela’s contract will be $15.3MM, $16.4MM, $17.5MM, $18.6MM and $19.7MM (Twitter links).

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • The Grizzlies lost some scoring punch with the departure of Tyreke Evans but they’ll gain two-way versatility and playmaking efficiency from Kyle Anderson, according to Grizzlies website reporter Michael Wallace. Anderson will start at small forward but he can help Memphis at as many as four positions, Wallace continues. Anderson ranked sixth among qualifying NBA players in defensive rating last season, Wallace adds. Anderson was acquired in free agency when the Spurs declined to match a four-year, $37.2MM offer sheet.
  • Rockets star and league MVP James Harden is under investigation by Scottdale, Ariz. police over a nightclub incident, BrieAnna J Frank of the Arizona Republic reports. According to a TMZ report that Frank relayed, a woman was recording a scuffle involving someone in Harden’s entourage. Harden then alleged grabbed the woman’s phone and threw it onto a roof so she couldn’t sell the video footage.
  • Salah Mejri is once again looking at defensive-oriented reserve role with the Mavericks, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. The 32-year-old Mejri will back up DeAndre Jordan, though Dirk Nowitzki will also cut into Mejri’s minutes when he gets shifted to center. Mejri signed a one-year veteran’s minimum contract earlier this month.

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.

Stein’s Latest: Sixers, Warriors, Rockets, Nets

The Sixers’ much-anticipated offseason fell far short of expectations, Marc Stein of the New York Times opines in his latest newsletter (Sign-up link).

Philadelphia didn’t come close to signing either LeBron James or Paul George in the free agent market and couldn’t swing a deal with the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, Stein continues. With Leonard landing in Toronto, the Sixers no longer have a clear path to the conference finals. They’re also still looking for a GM and the most consequential moves they made were re-signing J.J. Redick and dealing for Wilson Chandler, Stein adds.

We have more of Stein’s insights:

  • The Warriors were the biggest winners in the offseason. They not only stunned the NBA world by signing DeMarcus Cousins but they also made some underrated moves, such as locking up coach Steve Kerr to a long-term contract and signing serviceable forward Jonas Jerebko.
  • The Rockets’ offseason has been unfairly criticized. Re-signing Clint Capela to a team-friendly contract was a major coup and they should extract more production out of Carmelo Anthony than any other team in the league could.
  • The Nets will be active on the free agent market next summer but they won’t spend money simply because they’ll have a lot of cap space. Kyrie Irving will be a target if he declines his player option and becomes a free agent.

Western Notes: Capela, Durant, Leonard, Williams

Clint Capela‘s new five-year contract with the Rockets on Friday, initially reported to be worth $90MM, is technically guaranteed for $80MM with $10MM in incentives, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Those annual incentives include $1MM for reaching the Western Conference finals, $500K for finishing with a 30% defensive rebounding rate, and $500K for shooting at least 65% from the free throw line, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kevin Durant‘s decision to take a one-plus-one contract with the Warriors kept his options open beyond the upcoming season, as he explained to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Durant will make $30MM the first year with a $31.5MM player option for the 2019/20 season. “The [one-plus-one] was the perfect thing for me to do, to keep things open for me — financially and what I want to do,” he told Charania. “It’s just one of those things.”
  • The Celtics offered at least two of the first-round picks they own from other teams for Kawhi Leonard, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Those picks, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes, include the higher of the Kings’ and 76ers’ pick next summer, unless it’s the top overall pick; the Grizzlies’ first-rounder, which is top-eight protected next summer and top-six protected in 2020; and the Clippers’ pick, which is lottery-protected the next two summers and then converts to a second-rounder. The Spurs instead decided to take another All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, in a package for Leonard. The way the Spurs organization treated Leonard may have had more to do with his departure than any issues with his teammates, Feldman notes in a separate piece, relaying reporting from Lowe and ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.
  • C.J. Williams is a perfect waiver claim candidate, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Williams, who was waived by the Clippers on Friday, is on a $1.4MM non-guaranteed contract with $125K in protection if he’s not waived by opening night, Marks continues. His $1.6MM salary in 2019/20 has a $200K guarantee if he’s not waived by the first game, Marks adds.
  • The Nuggets’ second unit will likely be led by Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles and Torrey Craig, Chris Dempsey of the team’s website predicts. Dempsey dispenses his views on recent developments involving the club in his latest mailbag.

Harden: Carmelo Would Fit In With Rockets

James Harden isn’t worried about Carmelo Anthony fitting in with the Rockets, Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports reports. Anthony, who was traded by the Thunder to the Hawks in a salary dump, is expected to join Houston once he clears waivers. Anthony stated this week that he never really fit in with Oklahoma City’s roster but Harden believes he’ll do just fine in the Rockets’ high-powered attack. “Everybody in the world knows what Carmelo brings, how gifted and talented he is, and he still has a lot more to go,” Harden said.  “If he comes to Rockets, we’ll bring the best out of him, and I’m sure he’ll bring the best out of us as well. We all know how easy Melo scores the basketball. … Things aren’t always going to be perfect but as long as you have that communication, good things will happen.”

Harden offered more insights on a variety of topics:

  • He feels the Most Valuable Player award gives him validation after starting out with OKC as a sixth man. “I don’t know anybody else who did it. But that’s just a testament to how many guys out there that are coming off the bench, and not getting as much playing time, that you could still be that guy. It feels great, all the work that I put in, to be able to hold that trophy up.”
  • He’s motivated by the Rockets’ heart-wrenching series loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals after being up 3-2: “It’s on my mind every day. It’s Game 6, Game 7, that’s what drives me every day.” 
  • Despite Golden State adding DeMarcus Cousins, he’s confident the Rockets can knock the Warriors off their perch. “If you don’t get better in this league, you get passed up pretty quick. We’re not done. But what we have right now is for sure good enough.”
  • He gives a big thumbs up to the Rockets and center Clint Capela agreeing on a $90MM extension, Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated tweets. “Obviously we love the game of basketball but to be able to provide for your family for generations, that’s what we do it for. I’ve seen him work his butt off these last few years. He listens, learns, competes. I’m happy for him.”

Clint Capela Signs Five-Year Deal With Rockets

4:48pm: The signing is official, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports tweets.

3:14pm: The Rockets and free agent center Clint Capela have reached an agreement on a five-year, $90MM contract, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Having entered the offseason among 2018’s top free agents, Capela was one of the last impact players still unsigned, as well as one of the final restricted free agents still on the market.

The terms of Capela’s new deal look similar to Houston’s reported offer from earlier this month. During the second week of free agency, we heard that the Rockets had offered their starting center a five-year, $85MM deal that could be worth up to $90MM in incentives.

It’s the second mega-deal that the Rockets have agreed to in July. In the early hours of free agency, the team struck a four-year, maximum-salary deal to re-sign point guard Chris Paul. Since then, Houston has seen Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute sign with new teams, but has added James Ennis and lined up an agreement with Carmelo Anthony.

While Capela’s new contract will fall short of the $100MM he was reportedly seeking, it looks like a very fair deal, considering no team had the cap space left to make a comparable offer. Capela’s first massive NBA payday comes in at a rate of $18MM per year, allowing the Rockets to lock up a young, improving center for the long term without having to worry about him accepting his qualifying offer and bolting as an unrestricted free agent in a year.

Prior to officially signing Anthony and Capela, the Rockets have nearly $118MM in guaranteed salaries on their books. Capela’s big raise will push that total well beyond the $123.733MM luxury tax line, setting up Houston to be a taxpaying team for the 2018/19 season, barring major cost-cutting moves.

Capela, 24, has made substantial strides in each of his four NBA seasons, evolving from a little-used rookie in 2014/15 into one of the league’s most productive centers this past season. In 2017/18, he averaged a double-double (13.9 PPG and 10.8 RPG) while contributing 1.9 BPG and a league-leading .652 FG%. Although Capela’s offensive game is somewhat limited, he’s an effective screen setter and finisher at the rim, and provides the Rockets with strong rim protection at the other end of the court.

According to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders (via Twitter), Capela’s five-year contract will include no team or player options.

With Capela off the board, Rodney Hood (Cavaliers) and Patrick McCaw (Warriors) are the only two NBA restricted free agents who remain on the market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Capela, Rondo, Chalmers, Temple

Rockets CEO Tad Brown sounded an optimistic note regarding negotiations with restricted free agent Clint Capela, Marc Berman of KRIV tweets. While much of the talk surrounding the Rockets in recent days has been focused on the possibility of signing Carmelo Anthony, Capela is a more important piece. He’s the only player on our list of the top 10 free agents this summer who hasn’t signed a contract. Brown believes that will change quickly.

“We love Clint. Clint is a big part of our team…We are very hopeful we’re going to get something done very soon,” Brown told Berman. “I know (Rockets GM) Daryl (Morey) and (Clint’s) representatives are working on that every day.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rajon Rondo‘s leadership will likely be missed more by the Pelicans than his on-court contributions, according to Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate. The Pelicans believe they can replace Rondo, who signed with the Lakers, at the point with a combination of Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Ian Clark and Frank Jackson. But Rondo’s innate ability to understand nuances of the game and translate them to teammates, his professionalism in film study and his role in team bonding experiences will be hard to replace, Kushner adds.
  • Former Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers is confident he’ll find an NBA job even though he remains unsigned, Gary Bedore of the Kansas City Star reports. Chalmers, 32, appeared in 66 games last season with Memphis, averaging 7.7 PPG and 3.0 APG in 21.5 MPG. “It’s just a matter of time,” he told Bedore. “They [NBA teams] are getting all the young guys, all the big free agents out of the way now. I’m just waiting my turn.”
  • Garrett Temple could step into a starting role with the Grizzlies, Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Temple, who was acquired in a trade with the Kings, can provide above-average defense at the shooting guard spot. Offensively, he will be a factor in catch-and-shoot situations, Edmiston notes. His unselfishness will also facilitate the offensive flow, Edmiston adds.
  • The Mavericks have hired former WNBA head coach Jenny Boucek as assistant to the basketball staff/special projects, Tim McMahon of ESPN tweets. She spent last season as a player development coach with the Kings.