Rockets Rumors

Adam Silver: China Wanted Daryl Morey Fired

OCTOBER 18: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang has said the Chinese government didn’t demand Morey’s firing, per an Associated Press report.

OCTOBER 17: Appearing on Thursday at the TIME 100 Health Summit (link via Sean Gregory of TIME), NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Robin Roberts that the Chinese government wanted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey fired in the wake of his tweet expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong. However, the league refused to entertain that idea.

“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”

After Morey published and then deleted his tweet, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta issued a statement saying that the GM didn’t speak for the franchise and that the Rockets aren’t a “political organization.” However, that was about as far as the team or the league went in denouncing Morey. Silver later made a statement saying that the NBA supported Morey’s freedom of expression, a point he reiterated during his conversation with Roberts.

“These American values — we are an American business — travel with us wherever we go,” Silver said. “And one of those values is free expression. We wanted to make sure that everyone understood we were supporting free expression.”

Silver also said last week that he and the NBA understand that freedom of expression doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, and the league has been feeling the financial consequences of the China controversy.

At the TIME event on Thursday, the NBA commissioner said the league is not only “willing” to cope with lost revenues from China, but that it already is coping with those losses, which have been “substantial.”

“I don’t know where we go from here,” Silver said. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”

Rockets Make Three More Moves

The Rockets converted Chris Clemons Exhibit 10 deal to a two-way contract earlier today and they are not done making moves. The club is signing Matur Maker to an Exhibit 10 deal, Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic reports (Twitter link).

The team has also waived Jaron Blossomgame and Michael Frazier, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Frazier, who was the G League’s Most Improved Player last season, hurt his right ankle during training camp and hasn’t played since, Feigen notes. The Rockets own the guard’s G League rights, but do not hold Blossomgame’s G League rights. The defensive-minded forward played 13.0 minutes per game for the Rockets this preseason.

Maker, meanwhile, is the brother of Pistons big man Thon Maker. He went undrafted in June after playing for Zlatorog Lasko in Slovenia.

Rockets Converting Chris Clemons To Two-Way Deal

The Rockets are converting Chris Clemons‘ Exhibit 10 contract into a two-way deal, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Both of Houston’s two-way slots are open, so no corresponding move will be required as Clemons fills one of those spots.

Clemons, a 5’9″ guard out of Campbell, was the nation’s leading scorer in 2018/19, averaging 30.0 PPG on .448/.357/.869 shooting. He has been impressive for the Rockets in Summer League and preseason play, averaging 20.8 PPG in five Summer League contests in Las Vegas and 13.2 PPG in five preseason games.

Two-way players are eligible to spend up to 45 days with their NBA club. However, that 45-day clock doesn’t start ticking until G League training camps open, so Clemons figures to start the season in Houston before eventually reporting to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Jaron Blossomgame and Shamorie Ponds appear to be the leading candidates to claim Houston’s other two-way contract before the regular season begins.

Gerald Green’s Season In Jeopardy?

OCTOBER 15, 12:30pm: After conducting further testing, the Rockets now fear Green’s foot injury is worse than initially believed and are concerned that he could miss the entire 2019/20 season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). ESPN’s Tim MacMahon adds more details, tweeting that the Rockets think Green’s injury may be a Lisfranc fracture.

The club has yet to issue a formal update, so we’re still waiting for confirmation on Green’s potential recovery timetable. MacMahon notes that the veteran swingman is seeing another specialist today.

OCTOBER 14, 10:35pm: Gerald Green‘s left foot injury will likely cost him 2-3 months, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

The team has not yet released an official diagnosis but the veteran Rockets wing is believed to have broken his foot. While another test is scheduled on Tuesday, all indications are that Green will miss a chunk of the season. The injury occurred during a non-contact situation while playing in a preseason game last week in Tokyo.

Green, 33, re-signed with Houston on a one-year contract in July after agreeing to a deal in June.

Ben McLemore, Thabo Sefolosha and Chris Clemons are the candidates to pick up Green’s minutes at the wing, assuming they all make the team. Austin Rivers and Danuel House have already established roles in the wing rotation, Feigen adds.

NBA/China Notes: Lakers, Nets, Rockets

While a debate raged stateside last week over the NBA’s handling of a controversy fueled by a Daryl Morey tweet expressing support for Hong Kong protestors, Lakers and Nets players found themselves in the eye of the storm as they prepared to play a pair of exhibition games in China. As Shams Charania of The Athletic and ESPN’s Rachel Nichols report, those players met with commissioner Adam Silver to discuss potential next steps when he arrived in Shanghai last Wednesday.

Charania describes Silver as being “extremely thoughtful and transparent” in talks with Lakers and Nets players, coaches, and executives, while Nichols refers to the meeting as “tense.” Multiple sources tell Charania that LeBron James said he believed Silver and the NBA had a responsibility to talk to the media about the situation in more depth before asking the players to do so. Players also spoke about wanting to feel safe and protected during the China trip without being put into unfair positions, Charania notes.

“Being in China, where there was no way of knowing what the Chinese government was thinking or going to do next and the high stakes between the U.S. and China politically, it was almost impossible for these young players to manage through that situation,” a source with knowledge of the meeting told Charania. “Obviously, if they were in the United States or somewhere else, it would have been totally different and handled differently.”

The exhibition games in Shanghai and Shenzhen took place as scheduled, though there was some skepticism earlier in the week that they would happen at all. According to Charania, a “sizeable amount” of players on the Lakers and Nets felt as if it would be best to cancel those games due to the ongoing chaos.

With both teams now back in America, here’s the last on the NBA/China saga:

  • Sources told Charania that some Lakers and Nets players lost money over broken deals in Shanghai, since they ended up not making planned sponsorship appearances. Charania also reports that at least two Rockets players had sponsorship negotiations with Chinese companies hit an impasse in the wake of Morey’s tweet.
  • Several executive and ownership sources who spoke to Charania believe Silver will “regain a foothold” in the league’s relationship with China, but fear “irreparable losses” for the Rockets going forward. China’s response to Morey’s tweet may end up costing the Rockets approximately $25MM in sponsorship money this season, one source estimates to Marc Stein of The New York Times.
  • During last week’s meeting with Lakers and Nets players in Shanghai, Silver was asked directly whether anything would happen to Morey, per ESPN’s report. According to ESPN, multiple players said they thought that if a player cost the league millions of dollars with a tweet, there would be repercussions. Morey won’t face any discipline from the league, which seems like the right call, since his message ostensibly showed support for human rights and democracy.
  • Tom Ziller of SBNation explores the two potential paths the NBA/China controversy could take from here.

Rockets Believe Gerald Green Suffered Broken Foot

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Rockets believe swingman Gerald Green has suffered a broken left foot that could sideline him for months. Green is expected to seek out additional opinions before determining his course of treatment but the veteran will be out indefinitely for now.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN adds that while Green is expected to miss extended time, he is hoping to avoid surgery so that he can return sooner rather than later, while Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes that the team initially thought the injury was only a strain and further tests have been scheduled for tomorrow to confirm the diagnosis.

Green, 33, re-signed with Houston in July after agreeing to a deal in June. This will be his third consecutive season with the Rockets. In 2018/19, Green averaged 9.2 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 73 games while shooting .400/.354/.838.

Western Notes: Valanciunas, Rockets, Johnson

Jonas Valanciunas is dealing with foot soreness, though David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal (Twitter link) hears that there is no structurial damage in the center’s foot. The big man played for Lithuania in the FIBA World Cup and it’s possible the quick turnaround to training camp contributed to his soreness. Valanciunas won’t suit up for the remainder of the preseason, as the Grizzlies are opting to provide him with rest so that he’s fresh for the regular season.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said “there’s always challenges” when it comes to setting the regular season roster, as Mark Berman of Fox 26 relays (Twitter link). D’Antoni added that he feels getting to a nine-man rotation will also be difficult, since he believes Houston has “about 11-12 guys that can play.”
  • Spurs first-rounder Keldon Johnson, who turned 20 this weekend, has impressed his veteran teammates, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. “I remember those days,” Rudy Gay said. “It’s amazing what he’s accomplished at this young age and to be out here playing with somebody like me who has been here since dinosaurs were playing basketball.”
  • Patrick Beverley is back at practice at suffering an undisclosed injury earlier this week, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times reports. The point guard re-signed with the Clippers this offseason on a three-year, $40MM deal.

NBA/China Notes: Shanghai Game, Irving, More

Although the Lakers/Nets exhibition game in Shanghai took place as planned this morning, it was hardly a typical preseason affair. Scheduled pregame and postgame press conferences for commissioner Adam Silver and players on both rosters were cancelled at the behest of the Chinese government, sources tell Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

As McMenamin writes, China also had a hand in cancelling two NBA Cares events involving Lakers and Nets players earlier this week as tension between the league and its top international market continues to simmer.

Still, while the Chinese government has been on the attack over the last several days as it seeks an apology from the NBA over Daryl Morey‘s tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors, Keith Bradsher and Javier C. Hernandez of The New York Times report that the government attempted on Thursday to tamp down on public anger toward the league.

According to the Times duo, the Chinese government seems to be reevaluating its all-out campaign against the NBA due to concerns in Beijing that the situation is hurting China’s image and interests globally. Editors at state-run news outlets have now been told to avoid fanning the flames on the NBA controversy “for fear that it might become overheated,” per Bradsher and Hernandez, who cited three journalists.

As we wait to see how the situation plays out going forward with a second Lakers/Nets exhibition schedule for Saturday in Shenzhen, here are a few more items of interest:

  • During a press conference following the Rockets/Raptors exhibition game in Tokyo today, a Rockets official stopped Russell Westbrook and James Harden from answering a question related to the China controversy, insisting that reporters only ask questions about basketball. Per an ESPN report, the NBA issued a statement indicating it doesn’t condone that approach. “A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question,” the league said. “We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”
  • NBA player agents are advising their clients to avoid addressing the China situation if they can, writes Jabari Young of CNBC. “What I told my guys is, ‘Don’t even talk about it,'” one agent told Young. “I think it’s a fine line, and when you’re walking that fine line, it’s best to not even play around with it.”
  • The NBA’s chilly relationship with China is apparently impacting another basketball league — according to an announcement on their website, the BIG3 is postponing a visit to China that was scheduled for the month of November. Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Glen Davis, and Cuttino Mobley were among the former NBA players expected to participate.
  • While the game itself between the Lakers and Nets today was practically an afterthought, it’s worth noting that Kyrie Irving was knocked out of the game just one minute into the first quarter after he took a shot to the face. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link), Irving – who was already recovering from a facial fracture – was diagnosed with a facial contusion. The team doesn’t seem worried that it’s serious, Lewis adds.

Rockets Claim Ray Spalding Off Waivers

Two days after being released by the Hawks, power forward Ray Spalding has been claimed off waivers by the Rockets, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Houston had opened up a roster spot on Wednesday by cutting injured forward Anthony Bennett.

Spalding, 22, signed an Exhibit 10 contract with Atlanta in July after having his 2019/20 team option turned down by the Suns in June. The No. 56 overall pick in the 2018 draft, he appeared in 14 total NBA games for the Mavericks and Suns in his rookie season, averaging 3.9 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 10.6 minutes per contest.

The Rockets are currently carrying just 11 players with fully guaranteed salaries and both of their two-way contract slots are open, so there’s a potential path for Spalding to stick with the team into the regular season.

Currently, Isaiah Hartenstein, Gary Clark, Ryan Anderson, and Ben McLemore, all of whom have partial guarantees, are the favorites to fill out the 15-man roster. Shamorie Ponds, Chris Clemons, and Jaron Blossomgame are among those vying for the two-way slots.

High-Scoring Chris Clemons Aiming For Roster Spot

  • Chris Clemons is hoping his scoring prowess is enough to earn a roster spot with the Rockets, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The 5’9″ guard won’t get regular playing time in a backcourt that includes James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon, but he may catch on as an extra point guard or possibly on a two-way contract. “I’m just enjoying the opportunity I’ve been given and working every day to try to make this roster,” Clemons said. “Hopefully, I’ll make the roster and be a full-time NBA player. But that’s stuff I can’t control. I’m just playing my game.”