Rockets Rumors

Harden, Paul Relationship Described As “Unsalvageable”

4:54pm: Responding to today’s report, Morey said Paul and his reps haven’t asked for a trade, adding that the point guard will be on the Rockets next season, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). According to Morey, Paul and Harden don’t have issues with one another and he has spoken to both players often this offseason about free agency plans, Feigen adds.

While Morey’s dismissal was expected, reports of a rift between the Rockets’ two stars are becoming increasingly frequent — we’ll have to wait and see if the team is actually willing to bring both players back in the fall.

3:46pm: The relationship between Rockets guards James Harden and Chris Paul has been described by sources as “unsalvageable,” according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, who reports that the two stars no longer want to play alongside one another.

Sources tell Goodwill that Paul asked Rockets management for a trade, while Harden issued a “him or me” ultimatum after the team was eliminated from the playoffs this spring by Golden State.

The two players didn’t speak to one another for nearly two months during the season, according to Goodwill, who adds that Harden has rebuffed CP3’s repeated attempts to communicate so far this offseason.

“There’s no respect at all, on either side,” a source tells Goodwill. “They need to get away from one another. Chris doesn’t respect James’ standing in the league, and James doesn’t respect the work Chris has put in to this point.”

Goodwill’s story comes on the heels of a similar report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, who suggested that the disconnect between Harden and Paul stemmed from their different preferred playing styles and personalities. Harden thrives in an isolation-heavy attack, while Paul prefers a style predicated on more ball movement.

Sources tell Goodwill that Paul would curse at head coach Mike D’Antoni, complaining about the offense bogging down when Harden replaced Paul in the second unit. MacMahon passed along similar anecdotes in his story, reporting that Paul would cherish the opportunity to play in that second unit without Harden and “barked” at D’Antoni to keep Harden on the bench as the NBA’s leading scorer lobbied to check back in.

MacMahon and Goodwill each provided details on the personality clash between the two All-Stars as well, with Goodwill indicating that Paul’s “grating personality” has irritated Harden. The former MVP snapped back at CP3 after the Rockets’ elimination last month, telling Paul that he didn’t always know best and talked too much, according to MacMahon.

“Chris has a personality where he just doesn’t let anything go,” a team source told MacMahon. “He just keeps pestering and pestering and pestering and pestering. Sometimes James has had enough — and not just him. That’s what makes [Paul] a winner and also what keeps him from being a big-time winner. He’s got to temper that.”

MacMahon’s and Goodwill’s reports add more context to why the Rockets have apparently been exploring the trade market for Paul and other key players this spring. However, Paul has one of the league’s least team-friendly contracts, which will make him difficult to trade — that deal will pay the veteran point guard $38.5MM in 2019/20, and $124MM in total over the next three years.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has “grumbled” about the team’s investment in Paul and expressed regret to staffers about that signing, according to MacMahon, who adds that Fertitta has even griped about the deal in front of rival executives. Goodwill’s report lines up with MacMahon’s — sources tell Yahoo that Fertitta has complained about CP3’s contract since it was signed.

For what it’s worth, Rockets GM Daryl Morey has downplayed the tension within the organization and recently denied that Paul had asked to be traded. However, the situation in Houston looks increasingly untenable. We’ll see how the Rockets’ front office and players respond to the latest reports, but at this point it looks like a roster shake-up may be on the horizon.

Iko: Sources Downplay Harden/CP3 Discord

  • Kelly Iko of the Athletic examines and downplays the rumors of discord between Rockets stars James Harden and Chris Paul. “If it’s the middle of September and issues aren’t resolved, then that would be different, but it’s not,” a team source told Iko. “Chris and James want to win a championship.”

Latest From Charania: Davis, Beal, Irving, Conley, Suns

The Knicks discussed a trade package for Anthony Davis that included Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith, Thursday’s No. 3 overall pick and other draft compensation, but they never fully offered forward Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. The Pelicans weren’t particularly high on either Knox or Robinson anyway but the Knicks were reluctant to jeopardize their future flexibility because they weren’t convinced Davis would re-sign with them.

Contrary to other reports, the Celtics were open to discussing Jayson Tatum and the future first-rounder owed by the Grizzlies in a trade package for Davis but didn’t want to part with both of those assets, Charania continues. Boston’s unwillingness to give up multiple major assets tipped the scale in the Lakers’ favor. The Nets also made a bid, Charania adds, but the Pelicans weren’t enamored with their available assets, especially since the Nets couldn’t include restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell.

Here are more highlights from Charania:

  • The Rockets were willing to get involved in three-team scenarios in Davis trade talks with Clint Capela being dangled.
  • The Pelicans are monitoring the Wizards’ interest in trading All-Star guard Bradley Beal.
  • The Celtics and impending free agent Kyrie Irving will meet soon, possibly before the draft, to discuss his future with the organization.
  • The Grizzlies have ramped up trade talks involving point guard Mike Conley. The Jazz are the leading contenders for Conley’s services.
  • The Suns have discussed moving the No. 6 pick, as well as forwards T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, in separate trade packages.

Rockets Plan To Keep Spending, Add Another Top Player

The Rockets are planning to keep their starting five intact and will attempt to “add a third star or a top mid-level player to our core,” GM Daryl Morey said in an ESPN Radio interview on Monday.

Reports surfaced late last month after the Rockets were eliminated by the Warriors during the conference semifinals that Morey had made available everyone on his roster with the possible exception of James Harden. Morey declared on the Golic & Wingo show that he plans to keep the core group of Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon intact while adding another impact player to the mix.

Morey says he’s been given the green light from owner Tilman Fertitta to upgrade the roster, despite major luxury tax issues. The salaries next season for the above five players alone add up to approximately $115MM.

He also believes that with significant injuries to Warriors’ stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson and despite the pending trade of Anthony Davis to the Lakers, the Rockets should be considered the Western Conference’s premier team.

“We feel like we should be the favorite in the West, and we’re going to do moves to show people that we should be the favorite in the West, and that’s going to create a little tension when we do that,” Morey said. “But at the end of the day, we’re going to have at least our starting five back, which again most teams are scrambling to keep it together and we’re going to spend mid-level, we’re going to spend into the tax. We’re going to be one of the most expensive rosters, like we were last year and this year, and we’re going to be right there.”

Morey also addressed a few other issues:

  • He downplayed any disconnect between his superstar guards. An in-depth story from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon detailed the turmoil within the organization, including the tension between their two best players due to the differences in their preferred playing styles and personalities. “Two competitive superstars at that level, there’s going to be times when they are extremely competitive, extremely focused on how do we get to that next level, and when we don’t there’s going to be frustration,” Morey said.
  • He expressed optimism that the organization will reach a contract extension agreement with coach Mike D’Antoni, who is entering the final year of his deal. D’Antoni’s agent indicated a week ago that there was a lack of progress. “He’s going to be our coach next year. We’re hoping to work things out for the future right now; if we don’t, we’re going to work it out after next season,” Morey said.
  • He insisted that Paul had not asked for a trade, though his contract would be tough to move anyway. Paul has three years and approximately $124MM remaining on his deal, which includes a player option in the final season.

Rockets Claim Deyonta Davis Off Waivers

The Rockets have claimed center Deyonta Davis off waivers, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). Davis was released by the Hawks on Monday and would have been an unrestricted free agent if he went unclaimed today.

The 31st overall pick in the 2016 draft, Davis spent his first two NBA seasons with the Grizzlies, appearing in 98 games for the team. After being traded and waived during the 2018 offseason, the 22-year-old caught on with the Warriors’ G League team for most of last season. A solid NBAGL showing earned him a late-season call-up from the Hawks.

Davis averaged 4.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in nine games (13.1 MPG) with Atlanta down the stretch, signing a contract with the club that included a non-guaranteed minimum salary for 2019/20. That $1,645,357 salary will become partially guaranteed for $250K if he remains under contract through July 31, according to Basketball Insiders.

It’s not clear what the Rockets have in mind for Davis. We’ve seen GM Daryl Morey accumulate minimum-salary players for trade purposes in past seasons, but under the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement, Davis won’t count for salary-matching purposes as long as his deal remains non-guaranteed. Players claimed off waivers also don’t become trade-eligible for 30 days.

The Rockets don’t need to make a corresponding roster move to take on Davis, since teams are permitted to carry up to 20 players in the offseason.

Draft Updates: Green Room, Culver, Samanic, More

The NBA continues to invite potential first-round picks to the Green Room for next Thursday’s draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who tweets that Nassir Little (UNC), Romeo Langford (Indiana), and Tyler Herro (Kentucky) were the next invitees after the initial nine-player group.

According to Givony (Twitter links), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), PJ Washington (Kentucky) also received Green Room invites, as did international prospect Sekou Doumbouya. That brings us to 16 prospects who are expected to be in the Green Room on draft night, with four others still expected to be invited, per Givony.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Within his latest mock draft, Jeremy Woo of SI.com cites league sources who say that both the Suns and Hawks are high on Texas Tech swingman Jarrett Culver. However, it’s possible that neither team will have a shot at him without trading up — Woo has Culver coming off the board at No. 5 to the Cavaliers in his mock.
  • Croatian forward Luka Samanic has a busy workout schedule, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link), who adds the Warriors and Spurs to the list of teams Samanic has auditioned for. He also has workouts lined up with the Hawks and Bucks.
  • UCF guard Aubrey Dawkins has worked out for the Celtics, Pelicans, Knicks, and Raptors, and still has the Mavericks, Rockets, and Hornets on his workout schedule, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.
  • Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter links) provides a pair of updates on pre-draft workouts for prospects, reporting that Chris Silva (South Carolina) is working out for the Heat and Spurs, while Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s) worked out for the Cavaliers and Mavericks and has the Sixers and Rockets on tap.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Zion, Valanciunas

Ja Morant met with the Grizzlies over the weekend, as Shams Charania of The Athletic passes along (Twitter link). Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian confirms that the meeting took place and hears that the point guard remains the favorite to be selected with the No. 2 overall pick.

Morant recently underwent surgery on his right knee in a procedure that was deemed preventative. The health of Morant doesn’t appear to be an issue for Memphis, though it’s not certain if the team has seen the 19-year-old’s medical records.

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Zion Williamson met with the Pelicans earlier this week, Charania tweets. The Duke star is still expected to go No. 1 overall.
  • Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas has a decision to make on his $17.6MM player option and David Cobb of The Commerical Appeal contends that it may be beneficial for both sides if Valanciunas elects to play out the year under that deal. The 27-year-old may not make that kind of annual salary with a new deal and the Grizzlies would have an opportunity to see if he can be a long-term fit with the club.
  • Austin Rivers recently went on ESPN and spoke about the “frustrating” Rockets offense, as Ameer Tyree of Sporting News relays. Rivers said playing alongside James Harden‘s ball dominant game was difficult at times. “I think it works. We just have to mix it up. I think we have to a better job of mixing it up just a little bit,” the guard said.

Kyler’s Latest: Celtics, Capela, Kyrie, Sixers, More

After reporting earlier this week that the Celtics had “engaged pretty seriously” on Rockets center Clint Capela, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders has provided a few more details today. Sources tell Kyler that Boston has “expressed considerable interest” in Capela. However, he may be more of a Plan B or C for the Celtics, particularly if they’re still serious about pursuing Anthony Davis.

As Kyler details, league sources are skeptical that the Celtics will keep and use all three of their first-round picks (Nos. 14, 20, and 22). Meanwhile, Houston has been trying to get first-round prospects in for workouts despite not currently holding any draft picks — Kyler writes that the Rockets have been suggesting to agents that they have the ability to acquire a pick in the top 20.

It’s possible that the Celtics could trade one of their first-rounders to another team, and the Rockets are likely exploring deals with clubs outside of Boston. Still, it’s worth watching to see if those two teams end up getting something done on or before draft night.

Here’s more from Kyler:

  • Although Kyler, like others, has heard that the Celtics are operating as if Kyrie Irving probably won’t return, he writes that the club is prepared to offer Irving a maximum-salary deal to see if he’ll turn it down.
  • There’s a sense that Philadelphia will make full maximum-salary offers to Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, per Kyler. The Sixers are making sure that their players and other teams know they’re serious about keeping their core intact, according to Kyler, who adds that there’s a belief that Butler and Harris would re-sign if the team does put those offers on the table.
  • Kyler says that the Cavaliers, Suns, Hawks, Timberwolves, Magic, Hornets, Heat, and Celtics are all viewed as candidates to trade top-20 picks in the draft, either for veteran players or to move up or down in the draft.

Team USA Announces 20-Player Camp Roster For World Cup

USA Basketball has officially announced the group of 20 players that will participate in training camp this summer in advance of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The camp will take place from August 5-9, and will be used to select the 12-man roster for this year’s World Cup in China.

The 20-man training camp roster is as follows:

  1. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  2. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  3. Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
  4. Andre Drummond (Pistons)
  5. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  6. James Harden (Rockets)
  7. Tobias Harris (Sixers / FA)
  8. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  9. Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  10. Brook Lopez (Bucks / FA)
  11. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  12. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  13. CJ McCollum (Trail Blazers)
  14. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  15. Paul Millsap (Nuggets)
  16. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  17. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  18. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  19. P.J. Tucker (Rockets)
  20. Kemba Walker (Hornets / FA)

“I am excited about getting to training camp in August and working with all of the players that have been selected to attend the USA National Team training camp in Las Vegas,” Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement. “We’ve got an excellent cross-section of veteran USA Basketball and NBA players, as well as some exciting younger players who possess amazing versatility.

“I’m appreciative of commitment that our National Team players continue to make, and the eagerness of the new players to become involved,” Popovich continued. “Selecting a 12-man team will be extremely difficult.”

It will be an eventful summer for many of the players on the 20-man Team USA training camp roster. Besides Harris, Lopez, and Walker, who are all headed for unrestricted free agency and could be on new teams by August, players like Barnes, Middleton, and Millsap could reach the open market if their player or team options are declined. Others – including Davis, Gordon, Kuzma, Tatum, and Tucker – have been mentioned in trade rumors.

Kuzma and Mitchell are the only players on the roster who haven’t played internationally for Team USA in the past. Five player on the roster (Barnes, Davis, Harden, Love, and Lowry) have won gold medals for USA Basketball at the 2012 or 2016 Olympics, while two others (Drummond and Gordon) have taken home gold at previous World Cups.

Previous reports indicated that Zion Williamson, John Collins, and Marvin Bagley are expected to be among the players named to a 10-man select team that will scrimmage with Team USA’s 20-man roster at the training camp in August.

Celtics Eyeing Clint Capela?

Veteran center Clint Capela appears to be a prime trade candidate for the Rockets this offseason, with one report indicating that Houston was gauging the market to assess Capela’s value, while another suggested that the team was “actively” exploring potential deals involving Capela, Eric Gordon, and/or P.J. Tucker.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who identified the Celtics last month as one possible trade partner for the Rockets, tweets that – from what he has heard – Boston has “engaged pretty seriously” on Capela. Kyler cautions that things are fluid at this point in the offseason, pointing out that the Celtics may simply be doing their due diligence on possible scenarios.

Still, it’s interesting to consider how the Celtics’ potential interest in Capela might line up with the rest of their offseason plans. Al Horford and Aron Baynes have uncertain futures, as both veteran big men will have to make decisions soon on player options for the 2019/20 season — either player could, in theory, be traded if he opts in. Boston has also been linked off and on with Anthony Davis, the offseason’s biggest trade chip.

In addition to their unsettled frontcourt, the Celtics also have plenty of uncertainty at the point guard position, where both Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier will be free agents. Irving seems increasingly unlikely to return to the C’s, with Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News becoming the latest reporter to cite a source who says there’s “nobody in Boston who thinks he’s staying.”

As for Rozier, Kyler says the Celtics have had “some level” of talks with the restricted-free-agent-to-be about a new contract.