Rockets Rumors

Pacific Notes: Joerger, Anthony, Clippers, Bradley

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidestepped questions about his job status following Saturday’s game, relays Ali Thanawalla of NBC Sports. Joerger has Sacramento off to a surprising 8-8 start after last year’s 55-loss season, but a report last night suggested philosophical differences exist between the coach and front office regarding minutes for younger players.

“Well, usually, I would say, ‘I’d be happy to answer all your questions about tonight’s game,’ but in this case, I’m going to tell you that my focus is with our team,” Joerger said. “And coaching our team and getting better every single night. And we’ve got young guys, and they’re mixed with older guys, and go in there and rally them up.”

Joerger turned away follow-up questions about his job, saying, “I’m not going to get into that stuff.” He has a 67-113 record with the Kings and is signed through the end of next season.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers have been rumored as a possible next stop for Carmelo Anthony, but LeBron James is refusing to comment on the possibility of adding one of his closest friends, writes Liam Blackburn of The Sporting News. “I have no idea, to be honest,” he said when asked about the chance to acquire Anthony. “We don’t even have a roster spot open right now, so that’s not a question for myself.”
  • After missing the playoffs last season, the Clippers are making a strong statement with a 10-5 start and will be in position to get even better next summer, notes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. The team is 5-1 since inserting rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander into the starting lineup and ranks first in the league in opponents’ effective field goal percentage. With only five players signed beyond this season, L.A. could have up to $63MM in cap space in July, enough to offer two max contracts. However, Ziller states that the Clippers’ ultimate plan is to attract Kawhi Leonard, re-sign Tobias Harris and add a few complementary players around them.
  • The Clippers are expected to add another key piece tomorrow when Avery Bradley returns from an ankle injury, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times“I still don’t feel like I’ve been able to get a consistent offensive flow here in this game and what I can bring to the team,” said Bradley, who has missed the past six games. “I still think there’s an area of shot-making that I can contribute to this team.”

Gary Clark's Emergence In Houston

The emergence of Gary Clark has allowed the Rockets to move on from Carmelo Anthony as the 24-year-old has established himself as a key reserve on the Houston roster.

  • The Carmelo experiment did not work out in Houston and now the Rockets need to find a third key piece next to Chris Paul and James Harden to make a run, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer writes. Massive extensions to Paul and Clint Capela zapped the Rockets of financial flexibility, but the team will need to find a player who can space the floor and play defense.

Why Rockets Aren’t Waiving Carmelo Immediately

The Rockets issued a somewhat unusual press release on Thursday, announcing that they were parting ways with Carmelo Anthony. While the announcement contained much of the same language that a typical press release on a waived player would, GM Daryl Morey said in his statement that the club is still “working toward a resolution” on the situation. In other words, “parted ways” isn’t actually a euphemism for “waived” in this case — Anthony is still technically on Houston’s roster, just not with the team.

While it may seem odd for the Rockets not to just request waivers on Anthony today and move on from the situation entirely, there are a handful of reasons why it makes sense for the team to hold off on such a move.

For one, waiving Carmelo could lead to an unfavorable outcome for either the Rockets or Anthony — if he goes unclaimed on waivers, Houston would be on the hook for his entire salary and the tax penalties that will come along with it. On the other hand, if Anthony is claimed off waivers, taking his contract off the Rockets’ books, he could end up being acquired by a team he has no interest in joining, eliminating his ability to pick his new club.

Although most players go unclaimed on waivers, Anthony’s contract is pretty claim-friendly. As we detailed on Thursday, the league’s waiver rules allow any team to use the minimum salary exception to place a claim on a player who is on a one-year, minimum salary contract. Only the Thunder and Hawks would face restrictions on Anthony, since they recently traded him and bought him out, respectively. Any other club could theoretically put in a claim.

Finding a trade partner willing to take on Anthony would be the easiest way to avoid waivers altogether and to create a win-win situation for the team and the player. The Rockets could send Anthony to a team he’s interested in joining and clear his contract from their cap at the same time, reducing their tax bill.

Meanwhile, Anthony’s new team wouldn’t have to match salaries, since Carmelo’s contract could be absorbed using the minimum salary exception. That team could also essentially give up nothing for the veteran forward – perhaps just a top-55 protected second-round pick – and might even be able to convince the Rockets to include a little cash, since Houston would still come out ahead by avoiding Anthony’s tax hit.

Unfortunately for the Rockets, NBA rules prevent Anthony from being traded for about another month, since players who sign as free agents in the offseason can’t be dealt until at least December 15. So if Houston hopes to go the trade route, it will be at least a few weeks before the situation is resolved.

Even if the Rockets can’t eventually find a trade partner for Anthony, there’s one more reason why it makes sense for the team to exercise some patience. Houston is currently carrying 14 players on its NBA roster, the league-mandated minimum. If the team dips down to 13 players, it would have two weeks to add a 14th man. So as soon as the Rockets release Anthony, that clock starts ticking.

With Anthony’s salary already locked in, barring a waiver claim, the Rockets aren’t increasing their projected tax bill by keeping him on the roster a few extra days or weeks. However, if they waived him, then had to sign another player within the next two weeks, that new player’s contract would help push the club’s tax bill higher.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets To Part Ways With Carmelo Anthony

The Rockets are officially moving on from veteran forward Carmelo Anthony, the team announced in a press release on Thursday.

Despite parting ways with Anthony, there are no immediate plans for him to be placed on waivers, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. Houston will allow him to remain on the roster, giving his reps the chance to explore possible teams for the 12-time NBA All-Star to join.

“After much internal discussion, the Rockets will be parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and we are working toward a resolution,” general manager Daryl Morey said. “Carmelo had a tremendous approach during his time with the Rockets and accepted every role head coach Mike D’Antoni gave him. The fit we envisioned when Carmelo chose to sign with the Rockets has not materialized, therefore we thought it was best to move on as any other outcome would have been unfair to him.”

Anthony joined the Rockets with hopes of providing frontcourt depth on a contending roster, but his role gradually changed after the first two weeks of the season. That proposed role didn’t fit in the eyes of Anthony, who would’ve surrendered significant minutes on the team.

“It wasn’t fair for him as a Hall of Fame player to play in a role that wasn’t good for him,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). “It wasn’t a fit.”

Teams like the Lakers, Pelicans and Trail Blazers could be interested in Carmelo, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. A separate report from Marc Spears of The Undefeated suggests the 76ers and Heat may also have interest, but that the Lakers are done making signings in the short term.

Anthony, 34, is in his 16th NBA season. He appeared in just 10 games with the Rockets after signing a free-agent deal to join the team in the summer, averaging 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and a career-low 29.4 minutes per contest.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Southwest Division

Over the course of the 2018/19 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

Only one Southwest team currently ranks in the top eight in the West, and it’s the last club that many of us would’ve predicted to make the postseason coming into the season (the Grizzlies). Still, the Rockets, Spurs, Pelicans, and Mavericks remain in the playoff hunt, meaning it may be a while before we get a clear sense of which clubs in this division will be buyers and which will be sellers.

Here’s our early-season look at a few possible trade candidates from the Southwest…

Wesley Matthews, G/F
Dallas Mavericks
$18.62MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019

Matthews’ potential availability will hinge on how the Mavericks perform as a team over the next couple months. The veteran wing was considered a trade candidate last season, but the Mavs – knowing he’d be a key part of their lineup if they made a postseason push in 2019 – placed a high price tag on him.

With Matthews’ contract set to expire at the end of this season, Dallas will have less incentive to hang onto the 32-year-old if this season goes south. With 16.2 PPG and a .382 3PT% so far this season, Matthews looks a little more like the player he was in Portland, and he’d have value to a contender.

Matthews’ cap charge will be the most significant roadblock if the Mavs explore the trade market — it will be hard to find a team that can match his salary without including a multiyear contract or two. Dallas’ willingness to take on multiyear money would likely hinge on how much that player could help them going forward — or the value of the other assets included in such a deal.

Solomon Hill, F
New Orleans Pelicans
$12.25MM cap hit; guaranteed $12.79MM salary for 2019/20

With Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday leading their frontcourt and backcourt, respectively, the Pelicans‘ primary hole is on the wing, where they could badly use a versatile three-and-D swingman. Hill, who hasn’t evolved into that player, may have the contract necessary to bring back that sort of piece on the trade market.

With two years left on his deal, Hill matches up well with someone like Courtney Lee, who has a similar contract. His salary could also be put toward matching that of a higher-paid player like Kent Bazemore, who is earning about $18MM.

The Pelicans have shown a willingness to trade their first-round picks frequently in recent years, and it seems likely they’ll be open to doing so again this year, as they look to convince Davis they’re capable of contending. Attaching that first-rounder to Hill could net the Pelicans a reliable contributor in a deal similar to last year’s swap of Omer Asik and a first-round pick for Nikola Mirotic.

Marquese Chriss, F/C
Houston Rockets
$3.21MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019

Like the Pelicans, the Rockets could use another wing or two, and they also have an expendable player (Brandon Knight) with about two years and $30MM left on his contract, which could be used in a deal. Rather than essentially making the same case for Knight as a trade candidate that we just did for Hill, let’s focus instead on another Houston trade candidate: Chriss.

A former eighth overall pick, Chriss has seen his stock crater over the last couple years. The Suns gave up on him, the Rockets have barely played him, and Houston also turned down his fourth-year option for 2019/20, setting him up to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Chriss’ situation is reminiscent of Jahlil Okafor‘s a year ago. In Okafor’s case, the Nets took a flier on him, acquiring him from Philadelphia in a December deal. If there’s a team out there willing to take a chance on Chriss in a similar trade – perhaps surrendering a veteran that would help the Rockets more in the short term – I don’t think Houston would hesitate to make a move.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Notes: Carmelo, MCW, Paul, Bzdelik

While there has been no resolution yet to the Carmelo Anthony situation in Houston, the uncertainty surrounding the 10-time All-Star hasn’t been a distraction for the rest of the Rockets, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“In this league, man, you’ve seen it all, especially the vets,” forward P.J. Tucker said. “You see all kinds of crazy situations. There’s different things going on. You’re a professional. You go out. You play the other team. The situation is unfortunate, but in this league, you got to say, ‘Who’s up next,’ get ready to play and go out and play your (butt) off.”

As Tim MacMahon of relays, league sources still believe that Anthony has played his last game with the Rockets.

As we wait to see what happens with Carmelo, let’s round up a few more items on the Rockets…

  • Within his look at the Rockets’ offseason changes, MacMahon observes that Michael Carter-Williams has been just as disappointing as Anthony, with Houston having been outscored by 45 points during his 97 minutes on the court. James Ennis has been better, but a hamstring issue has prevented him from developing chemistry with his new teammates. “I don’t think they’re all on the same page,” a Western Conference scout told MacMahon last week. “I think that’ll come. I think they’ll get it. It’s still a long season, still remains to be seen. They’ll figure it out and be fine.”
  • When the Rockets re-signed Chris Paul to a four-year deal this summer, they knew that the fourth year, worth $44.21MM, probably wouldn’t provide good value, writes MacMahon. However, they do expect more from Paul this season, with the veteran point guard off to a slow start. “That’s a lot to do with it,” Paul told ESPN. “I look at myself first in this situation. I know I’ve got to play better, and that’ll help us play better.”
  • One scout who spoke to MacMahon believes Paul looks “a step slow,” but CP3 points out that he’s having no problem creating shots — just making them. MacMahon also suggests that some people believe the Rockets are dealing with a “hangover” from last season in the early going this year. “We didn’t win,” Paul said. “So we can’t have a hangover.”
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta personally recruited defensive specialist Jeff Bzdelik to get him to rejoin the team, offering a significant raise and making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid assistants, according to MacMahon. Bzdelik won’t be back with the organization on a full-time basis until after Thanksgiving, MacMahon adds.

Tracy McGrady Says Carmelo Anthony Should Retire

As Carmelo Anthony continues to sit out with what the Rockets call an illness, one prominent former player thinks that Anthony should call it quits and retire from the NBA. Seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady, speaking while appearing on Tuesday’s edition of ESPN’s The Jump, said:

“You know what? I honestly think Melo should retire, I really do… I don’t want him to go through another situation like this, and people are just pouring negativity on this man’s legacy. I really think, because it hasn’t worked out the last two teams, just go ahead and — you have a Hall of Fame career — just go ahead and let it go.”

Rumors have swirled about Anthony’s status with the Rockets as he continues to miss games, with a report on Sunday suggesting that his tenure with Houston is expected to come to an end very soon.

Today, we relayed that the Heat could be an option for Anthony should the Rockets move on from him, and his representatives are sure to still be exploring all possible destinations. The Sixers and Lakers have also been mentioned, but reports suggest neither option is very likely.

Rockets Made Run At Frank Vogel For Assistant Job

The Rockets made a run at Frank Vogel earlier this fall in an effort to hire him to Mike D’Antoni‘s coaching staff, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times.

According to Stein, Houston viewed Vogel as a candidate to help fill the void created when defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik retired. Bzdelik has since come out of retirement and rejoined the Rockets, presumably eliminating the need for the organization to hire another assistant.

Vogel, the longtime coach of the Pacers, most recently served as the head coach in Orlando. The Magic fired him this spring, two years after hiring him. Vogel’s contract with the Magic was reportedly a four-year deal, meaning he’s still being paid this season and next season. As such, it makes sense that Vogel would take his time to consider all his options for his next job, rather than accepting an in-season assistant offer from Houston.

While it can’t be attributed entirely to Bzdelik’s return, the Rockets have looked much better on defensively lately than they did at the start of the season. After surrendering 115.6 points per game in their first seven contests, Houston has given up just 96.3 PPG in its last six.

Western Notes: Lowry, Covington, Rockets

The Jazz saw Gordon Hayward walk away after the 2016/17 campaign but he wasn’t the only star the team had an eye on that offseason. Utah spoke with Kyle Lowry‘s representatives during the summer of 2017 and the organization felt confident that it could sign Lowry, sources tell Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

The front office decided to pull out of the Lowry sweepstakes because signing the point guard would have required the team to use the cap space it had planned to use for Hayward. Lowry ended up re-signing with Toronto on a three-year pact.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

Thibodeau On Butler Trade: “We Had To Be Patient”

In his first comments since the Jimmy Butler trade became official, Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau addressed the organization’s decision to deal its superstar.

Speaking to reporters, including ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Thibodeau said that Minnesota pondered several offers for Butler. The Timberwolves felt the return from Philadelphia was the best of the bunch and that’s when the decision was made.

“We knew we had to be patient,” Thibodeau said. “We felt we had a few offers that were good. So once we got offers to the point where we felt good about what the offers were, we thought this was the best one for us. So we executed.”

After nearly two months of trade rumors and drama, the Timberwolves dealt Butler and center Justin Patton to Philadelphia for a package of Robert CovingtonDario SaricJerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.

As we relayed earlier today, Minnesota considered trade packages from the Rockets and Pelicans before accepting the Sixers’ offer. The Nets were also reportedly involved in discussions but were not a serious suitor for the four-time All-Star.