Rockets Rumors

P.J. Tucker Withdraws From Team USA Due To Ankle Injury

Another veteran has withdrawn from Team USA’s World Cup roster, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that an ankle injury will sideline P.J. Tucker. The Rockets forward will focus on getting healthy and preparing for training camp, per Charania.

Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle notes (via Twitter) that Tucker turned his left ankle in a practice on Thursday and has been diagnosed with a mild sprain. The 34-year-old had been “extremely enthusiastic” about participating in the World Cup, so he’ll be disappointed to miss it, Feigen adds.

It was less than a week ago that USA Basketball announced 17 finalists for its World Cup roster. Since then, Tucker, Kyle Lowry, and Marvin Bagley have all pulled out, leaving 14 contenders for the final 12-man roster.

Harrison Barnes, Jaylen BrownDe’Aaron FoxJoe HarrisKyle KuzmaBrook Lopez, Khris MiddletonDonovan MitchellMason PlumleeMarcus SmartJayson Tatum, Myles TurnerKemba Walker, and Derrick White remain in the mix to represents Team USA in China. The 2019 World Cup will get underway on August 31.

Details On Westbrook's Amended Payout Schedule

Following up on his recent report that Russell Westbrook amended the payment schedule on his contract upon being traded to the Rockets, Marc Stein of The New York Times provided some additional details in his newsletter this week.

According to Stein, Westbrook’s contract previously called for 25% of his $38.5MM salary to be paid on August 1 and again on October 1. As part of his trade to the Rockets, those installments were adjusted downward to 12.5% of his salary, meaning they’re now worth $4.8MM apiece instead of $9.6MM, Stein writes.

The changes will allow Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta to avoid paying half of Westbrook’s $38.5MM salary by October 1. Under Fertitta, the club has been averse to making significant upfront payments in a variety of transactions — when Houston traded cash in three separate deals during the 2018/19 league year, it always sent that cash in many installments, rather than in a single lump sum.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Roby, Ivey, Westbrook

Callie Caplan of SportsDay reports that 2018/19 NBA Rookie of the Year, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, is working his tail off this summer to become better conditioned as he becomes a focus night in and night out for Mavs’ opponents during the 2019/20 season.

Per Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, “it’s just a natural progression that every player needs to have going from Year 1 to Year 2, especially someone like Luka that had such a great first year. People are really going to be coming for him in his second year, and the continued work on body and conditioning and developing his game is going to keep moving him in the direction of becoming a really great player.”

Doncic, who is training in his native Slovenia this summer, has not yet returned to Dallas to join his Mavericks teammates, but Carlisle, assistant coach Jamahl Mosley and teammate Dwight Powell all visited him this offseason and liked what they saw. “I know he’s working his butt off this summer,” Carlisle added. “I know he’s very motivated for this (upcoming) season.”

There’s more news from around the Southwest Division this afternoon:

  • Newy Scruggs of NBC5 Dallas-Fort Worth (h/t to SportsDay) suggests that although the $1.5MM first-year salary for rookie Isaiah Roby may seem high, it was not an overpay by the Mavericks because of the lack of guaranteed salary in years three and four. Moreover, at least one source told Scruggs that Roby has Kyle Kuzma-type potential. If so, his contract will be a steal.
  • Niele Ivey, the first female assistant coach in Grizzlies history, believes that outside of being a head coach, a move to the NBA was the next step in her professional career, writes David Cobb of The Commercial Appeal. “I was like, ‘you know what? I felt like I’ve worked really hard and I’m at a great point in my career now and — outside of being a head coach — this would be next level for me.'”
  • As we noted yesterday, Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook agreed to alter his payout dates when he was traded from Oklahoma City in order to ease the initial/upfront financial burden on Houston ownership.

Westbrook Agrees To Alter Contract; Hartenstein, Frazier Get Extra Work In

  • As part of his trade from the Thunder to the Rockets, Russell Westbrook agreed to alter his contract, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The changes will make his deal “more team-friendly and less front-loaded,” sources tell Stein.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein and Michael Frazier are trying to seize opportunities with the Rockets through extensive offseason workouts that are heavy on 3-point shooting, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Both players will come to camp next month without fully guaranteed deals. Hartenstein has a 50% guarantee on his $1,416,852 contract for this season, while Frazier has the same salary with no guarantee.

Carmelo Anthony: “I Want Another Shot”

Appearing today on ESPN’s First Take, Carmelo Anthony told Stephen A. Smith that the end of his tenure with the Rockets left a bad taste in mouth and made him question whether he wanted to continue trying to play in the NBA (video link).

However, after taking some time off to consider his options, Anthony remains committed to finding a new NBA home, he tells Smith. According to Carmelo, he’s “in the gym every single day” as he works toward a comeback.

I love the game too much to be away from it,” Anthony said (video link).

During a recent appearance on “The Breakfast Club,” Anthony’s trainer Chris Brickley suggested that the 10-time All-Star wants a “farewell season” like the one Dwyane Wade had. That assertion was met with some criticism, but Anthony made it clear in his conversation on First Take today that the idea of a “farewell season” wasn’t coming from him.

“I never said anything about a farewell tour,” Anthony said, per ESPN. The former All-NBA forward added that he feels as if “there’s too many people speaking on my name, and I don’t like that” (video link).

While Anthony disputed one of Brickley’s claims, he agreed with another — Carmelo’s trainer said during his Breakfast Club appearance that the 35-year-old is ready and willing to play a reduced role, a point Anthony reiterated to Smith.

“What’s going to make me happy is going to a place, playing basketball, enjoying it again, [and] accepting a role that I might not normally have accepted in the past,” Anthony said. “I don’t mind coming off the bench, that’s not an issue with me.”

Asked by Smith which team he might like to join, Anthony didn’t name any specific clubs, but he stressed two priorities — competing for a championship and ideally earning consistent playing time in the process.

“I went to Oklahoma City to try to win a championship. I went to Houston to try to win a championship. The ultimate goal is to win a championship. That’s the only thing left for me to do is to win a championship.” Anthony said (video link). “But I also want to play. I want to get back out there on the court. I miss the game. I was away from the game for damn near a whole season.

“I got an opportunity to step back, I got an opportunity to grow as a person, as a man. And I deserve another shot. I want another shot. I’ll never stop loving the game until I decide to say ‘This is over’ and I can pass that on to somebody else.”

As we noted in our recap of NBA roster counts earlier today, only six of 30 teams currently have 15 (or more) players on fully guaranteed contracts on their rosters, so there could still be some landing spots available to Anthony as training camps approach.

Clippers/Lakers To Headline NBA’s 2019 Christmas Day Schedule

The NBA has set its Christmas Day schedule for the 2019/20 season, according to reports from multiple ESPN writers. Adrian Wojnarowski, Tim Bontemps, and Malika Andrews have details on the five games set for December 25, 2019.

While the order and times of the games haven’t yet been confirmed, these are the five matchups we’ll see on Christmas Day this December, per ESPN’s reporting:

  • Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  • Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers
  • Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors
  • Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors
  • New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets

The Clippers/Lakers and Bucks/Sixers matchups will pit the two current favorites from the Western and Eastern Conferences against one another. Those games figure to be the headliners of the day, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George squaring off against LeBron James and Anthony Davis, plus Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid going head-to-head.

The Rockets/Warriors game – a rematch of the most competitive Western postseason rivalry of the last two years – should be an entertaining showdown as well, even without Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson in the picture. James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and D’Angelo Russell will still provide plenty of star power.

The defending champion Raptors will make a rare Christmas Day appearance, hosting the new-look Celtics, led by Kemba Walker. It’ll also be a rare December 25 home game for the Nuggets, who will take on the young, up-and-coming Pelicans and No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

Which Christmas Day game are you most looking forward to in 2019? Are there any teams or matchups you’re disappointed to see (or not see) on the December 25 schedule? Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Rockets Waive Deyonta Davis, Chris Chiozza

The Rockets have waived a pair of players who had non-guaranteed salaries for the 2019/20 season, parting ways with big man Deyonta Davis and guard Chris Chiozza, per Alykhan Bijani and Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The 31st overall pick in the 2016 draft, Davis spent much of the 2018/19 season with the Warriors’ G League team before earning 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. However, he was waived by Atlanta last month.

The Rockets claimed Davis on waivers, perhaps viewing him as a potential offseason trade chip. But his $1,645,357 salary would have become partially guaranteed for $250K if he remained under contract through July 31, according to Basketball Insiders. Houston won’t be on the hook for that money.

As for Chiozza, the former Florida point guard signed a 10-day contract with the Rockets in February, then inked a three-year deal with the club in March. The final two years of that contract were non-guaranteed, so Houston also won’t owe him any money now that he has been released.

With two extra roster spots now open, the Rockets may be eyeing former first-round pick Terrence Jones for a potential camp deal. Clutch Fans first reported (via Twitter) that Houston was considering bringing back Jones, while Iko suggested in a mailbag this week that the power forward would “soon” join the team.

The 27-year-old has appeared in 180 regular season games for the Rockets since being selected 18th overall by the organization in the 2012 draft.

Western Notes: Rockets, Wolves, Kawhi

Eric Gordon could end up in the backup wing spot for the Rockets when the season begins, as Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes. Houston has depth at the guard position but lacks it in the three/four spots.

Houston still has interest in Andre Iguodala, though Memphis appears to be holding out for a first-round pick, which could be a deal-breaker. J.R. Smith is a possibility. He had his best season under coach Mike D’Antoni when the pair was in New York, though Iko cautions that he hasn’t heard any new developments when it comes to bringing the 3-point marksman to Houston.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Iko doesn’t see Kevin Love as a realistic target for the Rockets, as he explains in the same piece. Love’s salary, which comes in at just under $29MM for the upcoming year, makes a trade difficult for the two parties.
  • Britt Robson of The Athletic examines how the Timberwolves’ current roster fits in with the team’s blueprint for the future. The team failed to pair Karl-Anthony Towns with another All-Star but smartly opted against overspending on middling talent. Minnesota’s 2019 free agent spending spree wasn’t a wild one, as the club brought in five players who combined will make approximately $11MM this upcoming season.
  • Kawhi Leonard attempted to get the Spurs to trade for Paul George while he was in San Antonio, as he tells ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (h/t Justin Russo on Twitter). Leonard was originally drafted with the No. 15 overall pick by Indiana, the team George previously played for. The Pacers traded Leonard’s rights on draft night, but George wishes Indiana had kept him, as Ohm Youngmisuk of relays. “It seems like this was destiny that we were supposed to play together,” George said of his new Clippers teammate.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Bird, Westbrook, Presti

Keeping his young core group together is enough to make the Nuggets a prime Western Conference contender, general manager Arturas Karnisovas told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” (hat tip to the Denver Post’s Mike Singer).

“Definitely we’re banking on our continuity,” the Nuggets GM said. “A lot of teams that made changes and added huge pieces and stars, they’re still dealing in hypotheticals. We’ve watched this group show us last year, take us to a 54-28 season, having the best home record, 34-7, so this group is (established) and they’re still the third youngest group in the league.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Longtime WNBA star Sue Bird has a wide variety of duties as a basketball operations associate with the Nuggets during her league’s offseason, as Alex Coffey of The Athletic details. She observes games and practices, sits in on front office meetings, watches film and helps scouting college and international players. She also provided advice to point guard Monte Morris, which he found insightful. “She helped me stay encouraged when things were getting tough,” Morris said. “She would tell me things she noticed in how I played. It wasn’t always positive. There were times when she was like, ‘This guy’s guarding you this way. Try to counter him this way.’ Just little things like that.”
  • The Thunder have lost superstars before but the trade of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets has left a void, as Brett Dawson of The Athletic details. The bond between Westbrook and the city was stronger than any other star player.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti remains hopeful the team can be fairly competitive next season despite trading away Westbrook and Paul George, Nick Gallo of the team’s website writes. “It’s going to be a different iteration of Thunder team than we’ve seen over the last several years,” Presti said. “The way we were able to pivot has given us the opportunity to have a much brighter future going forward and still have a team coming back this season that we feel good about.”