Rockets Rumors

Zanik, Rosas Receive Second Interviews For Sixers’ Post

Jazz assistant GM Justin Zanik and Rockets VP Gersson Rosas have earned second interviews for the Sixers’ GM opening, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Philadelphia’s ownership group dined with Zanik on Sunday and will do the same with Rosas on Monday. The ownership group will also hold second interviews with internal candidates on Thursday and Friday, Pompey adds in another tweet. The news was confirmed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Warriors assistant GM and director of player personnel Larry Harris was also recently interviewed for the vacancy, though there’s no indication if he’ll receive another interview.

Some of the internal candidates for the job who were reportedly interviewed this month include former Sixers player Elton Brand, Marc Eversley, Ned Cohen and Alex Rucker.

The organization has been operating without a GM since Bryan Colangelo departed in June amid charges of releasing sensitive information on Twitter.

The Sixers initially targeted big-name NBA GMs and presidents like Rockets GM Daryl Morey, but have since cast a wider net, focusing more on executives who would view the Philadelphia job as a promotion rather than a lateral move.

Associated Head Coach Jeff Bzledik Retires

The Rockets will be without the services of associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik this season, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The mind behind Houston’s defensive improvement has decided to retire at the age of 65.

Wojnarowski adds that the departure, less than 10 days before training camp opens, will put the Rockets on their heels and many of Bzdelik’s responsibilities will be spread over the remaining staff.

G League's Matt Brase To Join Big League Staff

  • The Rockets will add former Rio Grande Valley Vipers coach Matt Brase to head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s staff this season, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle tweets. Joseph Blair is a favorite to replace Brase in the G League.
  • A city prosecutor is reviewing an allegation against James Harden, an Associated Press report states. The Rockets star allegedly grabbed a woman’s wrist and threw her cellphone on the roof outside of a nightclub when she was recording a fight.

Rockets Notes: Morey, Knight, Chriss, Ceiling

GM Daryl Morey believes both Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss will fit nicely into the Rockets‘ system, as Mark Berman of Fox26 passes along via Twitter.

“Typical kind of transaction we try to do. They can be optimized in our system with Coach [Mike] D’Antoni,Morey said of the two incoming players. We wrote about how Chriss could give the franchise a major piece to use on the trade market earlier today.

Here’s more from Houston:

  • Morey was in the Bahamas to see the many of the Rockets‘ players work out together, Berman adds in a separate tweet. “I was super-impressed…I think it’s really critical. The players put it all together themselves,” Morey said.
  • Some on the Rockets believe the team is better this season than the 65-win juggernaut that made it to the Western Conference Finals, Morey tells Berman (separate tweet). “Mike’s the most confident of all, which I love. Usually coaches are sandbagging, but Mike feels like we’ve got a better team this year that last year. So we’re very excited,” Morey said.
  • The Rockets sit at No. 3 in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings, an index led by Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton projecting how NBA teams will fare over the next three years. Houston has the second-best roster on the scribe’s rankings, though the team’s age and looming tax concerns may put a ceiling on what it can accomplish over the next three seasons.

Rockets In Position To Make Another Move

The Rockets set a franchise record for most wins in a season with 65 victories last year. The team didn’t take home a coveted NBA championship but GM Daryl Morey believes no matter what pinnacles a franchise reaches, there’s always room to improve.

“When you’re trying to win a title, there’s always fine-tuning, you can always get better,” Morey said (via Mark Berman of Fox 26 on Twitter).

Morey hinted that he wouldn’t hesitate to make a major move should a worthwhile opportunity present itself. “We have all of our draft picks going forward. If something presents itself that allows us to make a trade to improve the team we’re not going to hesitate to do that,” Morey explained.

Houston lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, though they were able to add Carmelo Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams.

The team also traded away Ryan Anderson, bringing in a former top-10 pick in Marquese Chriss. Chriss, who plateaued during his sophomore campaign with the Suns, is far from a finished product. However, the Rockets should be able to provide him with a better situation to develop, as he’ll be playing alongside established All-Stars and veterans as opposed to a team full of young talent and past-their-prime players.

Should Chriss improve, Morey will have another top trade asset in his arsenal and Houston could be in a position to add a real piece on the trade market.

Chriss, who is owed $3.2MM this season and has a team option on his deal for the 2019/20 season, can be dealt by the team right away, just not in a deal that aggregates his salary with another player. Those restrictions are removed two months after a trade, meaning when the calendar turns to November, Morey can attach Chriss to other players in a trade that brings back a larger salary.

There haven’t been any reports of Chriss being a trade candidate this season, though as we’ve seen with Morey, the wheels are always turning. It’s hard not to see the path that improves Chriss’ trade value early in the season and puts the Rockets in a place where they can yet again be major players on the trade market.

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.”

Frugal Approach Could Prove Costly

The Celtics’ Terry Rozier and the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie are two of the logical trade targets for the Suns in their search for a point guard, according to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype. Rozier is a solid two-way player coming off a career year but the Suns would likely have to offer a package that included an unprotected first-rounder to catch Boston’s attention. A trade for Dinwiddie would be more plausible and he’d be a good fit with Phoenix considering his size, perimeter shooting and pick-and-roll prowess, Urbina continues. The Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, the Cavaliers’ George Hill and the Hornets’ Kemba Walker are some of the other names Urbina throws out as potential targets. The Suns are searching for a starting point guard after trading away Brandon Knight to the Rockets last week.

  • The Rockets took a frugal approach this summer and it could cost them a title, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opines. They traded away Ryan Anderson and allowed two key wing players to walk in free agency. In turn, they signed three players on veteran’s minimum deals and adding a couple of bench players in the Anderson trade, Bontemps notes. So while Houston execs had said they were unconcerned about the luxury tax, their actions showed they wanted to save some money, Bontemps adds.

Rockets Notes: Anderson, Knight, Gentile, Rosas

Trading power forward Ryan Anderson to the Suns did more for the Rockets than just shed salary, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle explains. Anderson didn’t have a clearly defined role with the addition of Carmelo Anthony, while acquisitions Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss could contribute, albeit in a limited fashion. As an added bonus, the Rockets only had to toss in second-rounder De’Anthony Melton instead of packaging a future first-rounder to move Anderson’s contract, Feigen continues. Though Houston tends to play mostly a three-guard rotation, Knight could emerge as the backup point guard if he beats out Michael Carter-Williams. Chriss could become part of the mix as a backup big man if he beats out second-rounders Zhou Qi and Isaiah Hartenstein, Feigen adds. The teams reached an agreement on the trade Thursday.

In other news regarding the Rockets:
  • Knight had a minor cleanup on his knee approximately six weeks ago and may not be ready for start of training camp, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 tweets. Knight, who missed last season with a torn ACL, expects to be ready for the start of the season, Gambadoro adds. Knight is excited about the chance to play for a championship contender, Gambadoro relays in another tweet.
  • Swingman Alessandro Gentile will not join other team members during a team bonding week in the Bahamas during the first week of September because he’s still recovering from right hand surgery, according to a Sportando report. Gentile expects to be fully cleared to practice by the end of the month, the report adds. Gentile, a 2014 second-round pick who has played in Europe since 2009, recently revealed he will join the team in training camp in an uphill battle to gain a roster spot.
  • The Rockets have granted the Sixers permission to interview executive vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas for their GM opening. Get all the details here.

Rockets Trade Anderson, Melton To Suns For Knight, Chriss

AUGUST 31: The trade is official, the Rockets and Suns announced in separate statements.

AUGUST 30: The Rockets and Suns have agreed to a trade, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Phoenix will acquire Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton from Houston in exchange for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.

Anderson has been on the trade block in Houston for over a year, with his expensive long-term contract having stood in the way of a deal until now. While the Rockets will finally shed the two years and $41.69MM remaining on Anderson’s deal, they’ll take back another pricey multiyear contract — Knight is owed $30.28MM over the next two seasons.

Chriss will earn $3.21MM in 2018/19 and has a team option worth just over $4MM for 2019/20. The Rockets will have to make a decision on that option by October 31 of this year. As for Melton, he has yet to sign his first NBA contract, so Houston is technically trading his draft rights to Phoenix. The Suns will have the opportunity to lock him up once the trade is official.

While the in-the-tax Rockets will save some money as a result of the swap, the on-court implications are even more interesting than the financial ones. Anderson’s impressive three-point range allowed Houston to stretch the floor on offense, but his defensive shortcoming made him unplayable in certain matchups — he didn’t see much action in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors last season, for instance.

In place of Anderson and Melton, the Rockets will be receiving two players with intriguing upside. Knight missed the entire 2017/18 season with an ACL tear, but isn’t far removed from averaging 19.6 PPG and 5.1 APG in 52 games for the Suns in 2015/16. Assuming he’s back to full health, Knight could provide Houston with scoring and play-making off the bench behind Chris Paul and James Harden.

Chriss, meanwhile, has yet to develop into the sort of difference-making big man the Suns hoped for when they drafted him eighth overall in 2016. However, he’s still just 21 years old and has shown flashes of potential during his first two NBA seasons. It’s not clear how he’ll fit into the Rockets’ plans.

The Suns, apparently not ready to bet on Chriss taking significant steps forward, will replace him in the frontcourt with Anderson, a veteran stretch four capable of playing alongside No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. Phoenix will also add Melton, a 2018 second-round pick who had an impressive Summer League showing for the Rockets, filling the box score with 16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.0 SPG in five games in Las Vegas.

The deal will leave the Suns lacking in experience and depth at point guard. Second-rounders Melton and Elie Okobo could see minutes immediately, with Shaquille Harrison and Isaiah Canaan also in the mix.

It will be interesting to see whether Phoenix has another move up its sleeve to fortify that point guard position or if the club simply plans to lean more heavily on Devin Booker as its primary play-maker. In his full report on the trade, Wojnarowski notes that the Suns may envision a larger role for Harrison.

The Rockets will create a modest traded player exception worth about $2.58MM in the deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Receive Permission To Interview Three GM Candidates

The Sixers have been granted permission to interview three candidates for their open general manager position, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, Larry Harris (Warriors), Gersson Rosas (Rockets), and Justin Zanik (Jazz) are among Philadelphia’s potential targets. Team ownership intends to start meeting with candidates next week, league sources tell ESPN.

An assistant GM and director of player personnel for the Warriors, Harris previously spent nearly two decades with the Bucks, serving as Milwaukee’s general manager from 2003 to 2008. He headed to Golden State for the 2008/09 season, initially serving as an assistant coach before moving to the team’s front office.

Rosas has spent the better part of two decades with the Rockets and is currently the executive vice president of basketball operations for the team. A close associate of general manager Daryl Morey, Rosas had a brief stint as the Mavericks’ general manager in 2013 but returned to Houston shortly thereafter. He was reportedly considered for front office openings in Charlotte and Detroit earlier this year.

Zanik, who held an assistant general manager position with the Jazz until 2016, left to join the Bucks at that time. Milwaukee appeared to be grooming Zanik as the eventual replacement for general manager John Hammond, but the club passed over him last summer following an unusual GM search, opting to promote Jon Horst instead. Zanik left the franchise in the wake of that decision, returning to Utah in his old assistant GM role.

Following the dismissal of Bryan Colangelo in Philadelphia, the Sixers initially targeted big-name NBA GMs and presidents like Morey, but have since cast a wider net, focusing more on executives who would view the Philadelphia job as a promotion rather than a lateral move.

Team owner Josh Harris recently said that the 76ers want to make sure they find a perfect fit, and would be content leaving their interim structure in place if necessary. Head coach Brett Brown is currently serving as the club’s interim president of basketball operations, though he has plenty of help in the front office — Ned Cohen, Marc Eversley, and Elton Brand were among those receiving promotions this week.