Houston Rockets

Draft Notes: Allen, Irvin, Magic

Frontcourt may not be the Bulls‘ biggest need, but if someone as talented as Jarrett Allen is available at No. 16, the team shouldn’t hesitate to go in that direction, Mark Strotman of Comcast Sportsnet contends. Strotman believes Allen could be the team’s next Joakim Noah. Chicago drafted Noah in 2007 even though Ben Wallace was under contract and it worked out long-term for the franchise.

Allen may not surpass current starting center Robin Lopez this season, but by the time his rookie contract is up, Allen could be one of the best big men in the league. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express has the Texas product as the 17th best prospect in his class.

Here’s more on the upcoming draft:

  • The Lakers recently met with Michigan’s Zak Irvin and the team was impressed with his workout, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). Irvin will also work out for the Bucks later this week.
  • Pittsburg’s Jamel Artis will work out for the Lakers and Rockets later this week, Scotto reports in a separate tweet. Artis isn’t ranked in Givony’s top 100 prospects.
  • The Magic have several players scheduled to work out for the team on Tuesday, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel passes along. Cal’s Ivan Rabb, Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, Villanova’s Josh Hart and Houston’s Damyean Dotson will all participate in Orlando’s workouts.

Draft Notes: Fall, Jones, Haas

Tacko Fall had a workout with the Magic today. He will work out for the Jazz and he may schedule one with the Rockets as well, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel (Twitter links). The University of Central Florida center has previously worked out for the Celtics.

Fall is testing the draft waters but has until May 24 to make a final decision. The 7’6″ big man is the 92nd best prospect in the upcoming draft, according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.

Here’s more on upcoming draft:

  • Andrew Jones is leaning toward staying at Texas for another season, sources tell Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Givony has Jones as his 54th best prospect.
  • Isaac Haas will return to Purdue for his senior season, the university announced on its website“After going through the NBA evaluations and workouts with multiple teams, I have had many long discussions with my family and the Purdue coaching staff. We came to the decision that it’s best that I come back to Purdue and help bring Purdue to a better place than last year for my senior year,” Haas said.
  • BYU’s Eric Mika will sign an agent and remain in the draft, according to the school’s Twitter feed. Givony has Mika as 79th best prospect in the field.

No Paul George, Gordon Hayward On All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-NBA teams for the 2016/17 season, and neither Paul George nor Gordon Hayward is among the 15 players honored. That’s big news for both players and their teams, since they’ll be ineligible for the Designated Veteran Extension, reducing the amount of money the Pacers and Jazz – respectively – could offer their star forwards in contract extensions this offseason.

Here are this year’s All-NBA teams:

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Based on this year’s All-NBA voting results, Wall is now eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension this summer, while Leonard is eligible to sign one next summer. Harden, Westbrook, and Curry are also eligible to sign DVEs this summer, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical notes (via Twitter).

Those Designated Veteran Extensions – which are dependent on a player making an All-NBA team in the year before he signs an extension, or in two of the previous three years – apply to players finishing up their rookie scale extensions. They allow a player re-signing with his own team to earn up to 35% of the salary cap, rather than just 30%. So, if we assume a $101MM salary cap for 2017/18, a player like Curry could sign a new Warriors contract with a starting salary of $35.35MM, instead of $30.3MM.

The Pacers and Jazz will still be able to offer George and Hayward larger and longer contracts than any other team, but the advantage won’t be as significant as it would have been if those players had earned All-NBA spots. Teams can offer their own Bird-rights free agents up to five years (instead of four) and 8% raises (instead of 5%).

Hayward figures to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, while George is expected to reach free agency in 2018. George could still become eligible for the DVE in ’18 if the Pacers hang onto him through next season and he earns All-NBA honors a year from now. However, there’s no guarantee that Indiana will be willing to take that risk.

As for the rest of the All-NBA votes, there weren’t any major surprises, particularly on the first two teams. Perhaps the biggest surprise, in a year which was dominated by four clear-cut MVP candidates, is that Harden was the only player who received 100 out of 100 possible First Team votes. Westbrook and James received 99 apiece, while Leonard received 96.

Note: Hoops Rumors readers voted last month on All-NBA teams, and our squads looked awfully close to the official ones, with a couple notable exceptions. You can check out the results of our voting right here.

Hoops Links Vol. 5: Shirley Temple Lies, Milkshake Theft, More

Welcome to the fifth installment of Hoops Links, where we round up our favorite content from around the NBA blogosphere and shine a light on it here. Every week we set out to feature entertaining, original content powered by the blogging community.

See your own piece plugged? Well done! Now share the love by spreading the word about Hoops Links – we’re talking favs, retweets, postcards to mom and everything in between. Help us build a bigger stage for your best work!

If you want to hit us up with a link in the future, make sure to drop me a line on Twitter (@AustinKent) or even just email HoopsRumorsTips@Sports.ws. Remember, we want to be intrigued and captivated. It also helps if the content is relatively fresh (considering we publish on Thursdays).

Without further ado…

With a roster full of young players and a negligible chance of winning a meaningful amount of ball games, the Suns made the decision with months remaining in the season to tank unabashedly. After Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, in which Phoenix dropped from a projected No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed, Adam Maynes of Valley of the Suns wrote a spirited column suggesting that the organization got what it deserved.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Angry Earl Watsons
Author: Adam Maynes – @Adam4America
Link: Phoenix Suns tank fail

Joel Embiid verticalWe’re all happy to buy into the quirky Joel Embiid narrative whenever the goofy big man does something like sip a Shirley Temple on live television. But what if we’re living a lie? Kyle Neubeck of Liberty Ballers revealed that the pink beverage at Embiid’s side during the Draft Lottery was little more than a prop.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Red Pills
Author: Kyle Neubeck – @KyleNeubeck
Link: Joel Embiid’s Shirley Temple prop

Are the Bulls less likely to deal Jimmy Butler to the Celtics now that Boston has landed the No. 1 pick in the draft? Vijay Vemu of Blog A Bull suggests as much, writing that Danny Ainge took a risk holding onto the pick at the deadline rather than going the safe route and dealing for an established star.

Rating: 7 out of 10 Fortunate Gambles
Author: Vijay Vemu – @VJVemu
Link: Jimmy Butler to Celtics less likely

The Hawks could have done more to involve Dwight Howard in their offense, Da’Vonte Hughes of Soaring Down South writes, suggesting that the big man had reason to be upset with how he was utilized during his first season Atlanta.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Neglected Supermen
Author: Da’Vonte Hughes – @CookieByNature
Link: Dwight Howard non-option for Hawks

Did you forget that Joel Anthony was still in the NBA? You aren’t alone. Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie noticed the big man’s name trending on Twitter and discovered that people all around the world were shocked to see the veteran big man suit up in the Spurs‘ blowout loss Wednesday.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Two-Time NBA Champions
Author: Dan Devine – @YourManDevine
Link: Joel Anthony trends on Twitter

There are similarities between Jimmy Butler and Stanley Johnson, including underwhelming freshman and sophomore seasons, says Luke Wolthuis of Piston Powered. Could Johnson, a well-built two-way forward, make a leap similar to that of Butler’s in Year 3?

Rating: 7 out of 10 Better Late Than Nevers
Author: Luke Wolthuis – @WolthuisLuke
Link: Stanley Johnson, Jimmy Butler comparison

Harrison Barnes verticalAlthough he may not win the award, Harrison Barnes deserves a spot in the Most Improved Player conversation, Sam Guertler of Mavs Moneyball suggests. The forward’s offensive game improved dramatically in his first year as a targeted weapon in Dallas, without any compromise in efficiency.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Additional Better Late Than Nevers
Author: Sam Guertler – @SamGuertler
Link: Harrison Barnes Most Improved Player

It takes a delicate balance of usefulness and expendability for a player to suit up for three different franchises in one season. This year, Ersan Ilyasova dressed for the Thunder, Sixers, and Hawks, and still managed to set a new career high for points in a season. Miles Wray of The Step Back took a good long look at how the season stands up historically.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Bonus Points For Playing For Two Altogether Different Teams Last Year
Author: Miles Wray – @MilesWray
Link: NBA players who play for three teams in one season

It was hard to evaluate the first season in the NBA for Jakob Poeltl, a lottery pick on a reigning Eastern Conference Finals squad, but Brian Boake set out to do so anyway for Raptors Rapture. In Poeltl, the Raptors have a cheap, malleable option to audition as their Stretch 5 of the Future.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Teenage Mutant Ninjas
Author: Brian Boake – @NewmarketBrian
Link: Jakob Poeltl’s future with Raptors

Over the years, Gregg Popovich has simply owned Mike D’Antoni in the NBA playoffs, so much so that the J.R. Wilco over at Pounding the Rock had a particularly specific video commissioned just to drive home the point.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Academy Award-Winning Method Actors
Author: J.R. Wilco – @JRWilco
Link: Gregg Popovich, Mike D’Antoni History

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Hawks’ Front Office Search

The Hawks placed former team president Mike Budenholzer and former GM Wes Wilcox into new roles earlier this month and it appears the team’s search for new front office members is progressing out of its “infancy stage.” 

Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) hears that Sacramento’s Scott Perry is being considered for the open GM position. The Kings hired Perry as their executive VP of basketball operations less than four weeks ago.

Earlier today, we learned that the Knicks have granted the team permission to interview their Director of Player Personnel Mark Hughes for the Hawks’ open GM position. Like New York, Houston will allow Atlanta to interview a member of its front office. The Hawks have their eye on Rockets VP of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas.

Atlanta is reportedly also considering Cavs GM David Griffin and Joe Dumars. The team also plans on discussing the position with TV analysts Chauncey Billups and Brent Barry.

Magic Await Permission To Talk To David Griffin

The Magic have submitted a formal request to the Cavaliers to speak with GM David Griffin, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Griffin is believed to be the front-runner to become Orlando’s president of basketball operations, with a report last month saying he will be offered the job when he becomes available.

The Cavaliers have not responded to the request, Wojnarowski adds, and have the option of holding onto Griffin until his contract expires at the end of June. With free agency starting July 1st, it’s possible that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will deny the interview request as a stall tactic to see if Orlando turns to someone else.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that Gilbert hasn’t made a substantive offer to try to keep Griffin, who built the Cavaliers into a championship team after LeBron James returned in 2014. James has been an outspoken advocate of keeping the GM, but his public comments seem to have had little effect on negotiations.

The Magic are getting ready to start interviewing other candidates for the position, including Hall of Famer Kevin McHale and Bucks GM John Hammond, who still has a year left on his contract in Milwaukee. Interim Magic GM Matt Lloyd has already been through the interview process and is highly thought of in the organization, according to Wojnarowski.

Orlando launched a front-office shakeup when the season ended, firing GM Rob Hennigan and assistant GM Scott Perry. The Magic plan to put control of the front office in the hands of a president, who will then hire the next GM.

The team faces competition from the Hawks, who recently relieved Wes Wilcox of GM duties. Griffin is seen as a candidate in Atlanta, along with former Pistons executive Joe Dumars, Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, Knicks director of player personnel Mark Hughes and former players and current TV analysts Chauncey Billups and Brent Barry. Wojnarowski reports that the Hawks have received permission to interview Rosas and Hughes.

Leonard Will Play Game 1 Against Warriors

Gregg Popovich says that small forward Kawhi Leonard will play for the Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals series against the Warriors on Sunday, reports Melissa Rohlin of MySA.com.

As Rohlin tweets, Leonard was a full participant in Saturday’s practice. After rolling his ankle in Game 5 of the Spurs’ series against the Rockets, the Spurs’ star missed the series’ decisive Game 6, which the Spurs won 114-75.


Nene Avoids Surgery; Return To Rockets Likely?

Leonard injured his left ankle on Tuesday and sat out the Spurs’ 39-point decimation of the Rockets in Game 6 on Thursday, which clinched the series win. Jonathon Simmons replaced Leonard and promptly added 18 points in the rout. Now, the Spurs will look to having their superstar player back in the lineup, hoping to utilize his defensive prowess to tame at least one of the Warriors’ three superstars.

  • Veteran center Nene recently found out he will not need surgery to repair a ruptured groin muscle he suffered in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Nene revealed he expects to re-sign with Houston this offseason despite the injury.”Of course I expect (to be back),Nene said. “That’ll depend on me. I did my job. I just leave it for the coaches, the general manager, my agent. Of course, I’d like to be back. This place, was a blessing for me. They brought me back. They brought the real Nene back. When you’re happy. When you feel good. When you’re engaged, people know you’re work, of course you want to be back.”
  • Feigen also relays that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey feels “it would be normal business” to discuss an extension with center Clint Capela (via Twitter). Caperla averaged 12.6 PPG and 8.1 RPG in 65 contests for Houston.

Community Shootaround: James Harden’s Endurance

After a 39-point loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Spurs, Rockets‘ point guard James Harden has been scrutinized for his poor performance in the series-clinching game. Harden posted just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting with six turnovers, one game after he posted similar totals of 10 points (3-of-11 shooting) and six turnovers in the second half and overtime of a 110-107 loss in Game 5.

Harden enjoyed a historic regular season, averaging  29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. He is in the conversation for the Most Valuable Player award with fellow point guard Russell Westbrook, who became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for an entire season. Now, looking back at Harden’s two clunkers, fatigue from a strenuous season may have set in.

Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said in his exit interview with reporters, including ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, that perhaps resting Harden more next season will keep him sharper.

All great players think they can do everything,” D’Antoni said. “Maybe he does need to take a game off here and there. ‘Hey, you’re nicked up a little bit, don’t play, maybe.’ Something to talk about, but that’s also his greatness, too. So it’s hard. It’s very delicate.”

Harden played in 81 regular season games, his third consecutive season of at least 81 games. If Harden’s playoff games over the last three years are added, he has played in 277 total games. Both D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey indicated that getting Harden, who turns 28 in August, more rest will be a goal next season.

“The offense will get better,” D’Antoni added.“I can get him off the ball some. I can save his legs a little bit and have more confidence [in other ball handlers]. Pat Beverley can run the team a little bit. We can do different things.”

That leaves a few things to be considered: Was fatigue to blame in Harden’s poor Game 5 and Game 6 outings or was it just a few off nights? Also, does it makes sense for the Rockets to rest him more frequently next season despite his tremendous offensive production?

Share your thoughts on Harden in the comments section below!

Motiejunas Takes Legal Action Against Rockets, League

MAY 13, 8:20am: Following Deveney’s report, Motiejunas took to social media to refute the story, claiming that he and the Rockets resolved their issues a month ago (via Twitter).

“A month ago we with the NBPA and the Houston Rockets found an agreement and solved everything. There are no court proceedings between us. The information which was published on the media is false.

However, Deveney claims that the National Basketball Players Association explained the matter between Motiejunas and the Rockets differently, indicating that both sides are still engaged in legal proceedings. Motiejunas and the Rockets were seeking an agreement to resolve this matter, but it’s not clear whether they’ve resolved it already or if a settlement is still being finalized.

MAY 12, 3:50pm: After a tumultuous season in which he bounced around three franchises, Donatas Motiejunas is in the midst of legal action against the Rockets and the NBA, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reports. Sources tell Deveney that the parties could reach a settlement, possibly within the next week.

Motiejunas, who had played for the Rockets since 2012/13, hit restricted free agency last summer but was unable to come to terms on a contract with them or any other suitors. At the time, Motiejunas refused to sign a qualifying offer and that eventually expired.

The Rockets ultimately presented and then pulled an offer they extended at the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign when a deadline they established came and passed in late November with no commitment from Motiejunas’ camp.

Eventually, the big man signed an offer sheet with the Nets in early December worth $35MM over four years, which the Rockets agreed to match. Houston, however, stripped out some of the incentive bonuses that had been included in the Brooklyn offer, a difference of as much as $2MM says Deveney.

When the Rockets and Motiejunas then agreed upon a reworked deal, the center underwent a physical, the results of which prompted Houston to renounce their rights to him, officially making him an unrestricted free agent.

Despite the unrestricted free agency, Motiejunas was unable to procure another offer from the Nets.

In January, as the smoke cleared, Motiejunas signed a deal with the Pelicans where he averaged 3.4 points per game in 34 contests.

This offseason he’ll be a free agent once more and though he has terminated his relationship with his former agent at the Wasserman Group, he could re-sign with them prior to hitting the market.

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