James Harden

Texas Notes: Harden, CP3, Noel, Mejri, Nowitzki

Friday marked the five-year anniversary of the Rockets‘ franchise-altering deal to acquire point guard James Harden from the Thunder. Since joining Houston, Harden has evolved into one of the NBA’s top players. In five seasons with Houston entering 2016/17, he has been a runner-up for the Most Valuable Player award twice and made the NBA All-Star team five times.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes, Harden, 28, looks back at the trade bringing him to the Rockets fondly.

“Five years go by fast, man,” Harden said. “It’s been a good five years, a great five years, the best five years of my life. This organization has shown me so much love and given me the opportunity to show who I am as a person and as a player. I appreciate it.”

Harden spent his first three seasons in Oklahoma City as one of the NBA’s most potent sixth men, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2011/12 season. Now, Harden is signed long-term by the Rockets as the face of the franchise. That status was unattainable in OKC with former MVP Kevin Durant and then-budding superstar Russell Westbrook in the fold.

Check out other news from teams in Texas:

  • Feigen writes in a separate article that Chris Paul, who has missed five of the Rockets’ first six games due to a bruised left knee, had no idea he would miss this much time. Paul banged knees with Mario Chalmers almost a week before the Rockets’ season-opener against Golden State and has not played since the team upset the Warriors to open the year.
  • Nerlens Noel was displaced in Philadelphia and traded to the Mavericks last season. While his statistics are not eye-popping, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that his energy and impact while on the floor is the reason why he could be in lime for a major free agency payday.
  • While Noel has been effective, foul trouble has been a concern. Other centers on the Mavericks roster have not been consistent either but Salah Mejri has vocalized his frustration due to a lack of playing time, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is in his 20th season with the Mavericks and he is considered one of the greatest players in team history. However, the 39-year-old may also be taking away playing time from Noel as head coach Rick Carlisle is hesitant to play both seven-footers simultaneously, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News Writes.

 

Southwest Notes: Parsons, Matthews, Nelson, Rockets, Spurs

Chandler Parsons stint with the Grizzlies has not gone according to plan. The former Rockets and Mavericks standout has been hampered by knee injuries, including three knee surgeries the last three years. Now, after playing just 15 minutes in Memphis’ first few regular season games this year, Parsons is frustrated with his limited playing time, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal writes. 

“It sucks right now playing 15 minutes a night to be honest with you,” Parsons said. “But they have a plan in place that, hopefully, I’ll be playing big minutes when it matters.”

Parsons appeared in just 34 games last season, averaging 6.2 PPG and 2.5 RPG in a career-low 19.9 minutes per game. After signing a four-year, $94MM deal with the Grizzlies in July 2016, Parsons has not come close to his past performance. If he continues to show he’s over his prior knee injuries, the Grizzlies will look salvage the remainder of their pact with the 28-year-old.

Check out more news coming out of the Southwest Division:

  • Wesley Matthews‘ early season struggles may seem to be the perfect chance to bench him but if the Mavericks ever intend on trading him, they must do it while his value is high, Eddie Sefko of Dallas Sports Day writes.
  • Veteran Jameer Nelson endured a 10-hour journey from Philadelphia to Los Angeles to join his Pelicans teammates for a Sunday evening contest against the Lakers. As William Guillory of NOLA.com writes, Nelson, 35, posted five points and five assists in 24 minutes — including a clutch three-pointer — to help New Orleans avoid a loss in a game they once led by 22 points.
  • New Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said that James Harden is “truly the best player in the NBA” as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes.
  • Olivier Hanlan, a former second-round pick by the Jazz from 2015, has joined the Spurs’ G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, according to Chris Reichert of 2Ways10Days (Twitter link). San Antonio currently holds Hanlan’s NBA rights, having acquired him in last year’s Boris Diaw swap.

Southwest Notes: Harden, Noel, Parsons

The Rockets brought in Chris Paul to ease the load on James Harden to initiate the offense every play down the court but that will have to change now that the veteran guard is expected to miss up to a month with a knee injury, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes.

Suddenly the plan to ration Harden’s energy for late in the season has come crashing down. “That’s out the window,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Last season Harden averaged a 29.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game but appeared to be overworked toward the end of the season. The converted two-guard saw his playmaking skillset flourish under the tutelage of D’Antoni. This season, the Rockets were hoping to pick up where they left off as an offense but while preserving their franchise star’s health.

With Paul shelved, the Rockets will need to make sure that they build big enough leads to let reserve guard Bobby Brown come in and hold down the fort temporarily.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • While Nerlens Noel could end up making his mark on the Mavs franchise, finding him a significant workload on a nightly basis may be difficult, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. In three games this season, Noel has played 20, 27 and 16 minutes.
  • It didn’t take long for Grizzlies fans to start booing Chandler Parsons this season. The 28-year-old that missed much of last season with an injury is in the second year of the four-year, $97MM contract he signed last summer. Parsons told the media, including Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal, that he’ll simply treat Grizz home games as away games.
  • The Rockets have managed to win the first three games of their season but that doesn’t mean the offense is up to head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s standard. “Oh no, no, no,” D’Antoni told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “We got a lot of things we have to clean up. We’re not real sharp right now. I was just telling the guys the biggest thing is preseason was about 10 days shorter than [previously]. With the preseason, we played eight games. That would be a normal preseason schedule.

Texas Notes: Gay, Paul, Harden, Withey

Rudy Gay was back on the court for the first time since January in Friday’s preseason game against the Kings, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio’s top free agent addition of the summer managed just four points in 18 minutes, but was happy that he felt no effects from the left Achilles tendon tear that ended his time with the Kings. “I’ve practiced pretty hard, just knowing I can get up there still, jump and be athletic,” Gay said. “It takes a lot of pressure off me.”

Gay got the start at small forward Friday and may continue in that role as long as Kawhi Leonard is sidelined with a right quadriceps issue. Gay has been a starter throughout his 11-year NBA career, but is expected to step into a reserve role once the team is at full strength.

There’s more today out of Texas:

  • The Spurs‘ latest rookie project comes to the team with a desire to be a great defender, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Brandon Paul went undrafted out of Illinois in 2013 and has spent most of his career in Europe. The 26-year-old shooting guard signed a two-year deal with the Spurs in July with a one-season guarantee of $815,615. “Anybody can put the ball in the basket,” Paul said. “But in order to stick out, you’ve got to be able to play both ends of the floor.”
  • Rockets star James Harden is engaged in a verbal battle with former coach Kevin McHale through the media. After McHale said on NBA TV this week that Harden is “not a leader,” the MVP runner-up responded today by calling McHale a “clown,” relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN“I did anything and everything he asked me to do,” Harden said. “I’ve tried to lead this team every day since I stepped foot here in Houston. To go on air and just downplay my name, when honestly he’s never taught me anything to be a leader … but I’ve done a great job. The organization, my coaches, you can ask any of those guys how I’ve worked extremely hard every single day to better [myself], obviously as a basketball player, but be a leader as well.”
  • Mavericks center Jeff Withey has worked on his 3-point shooting to try to fit into coach Rick Carlisle’s system, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Withey signed a two-year contract worth nearly $3.4MM this summer, but only $350K of that is guaranteed. “We like his length, shot-blocking ability,” Carlisle said. “[Owner] Mark [Cuban] was really a key guy on this. He’d been studying him for a while. And he’s shown that he can knock in some perimeter shots from time to time.”

NBA Modifies Closeout, Continuation Rules

The NBA has decided to re-evaluate how it handles two particular fouling situations, Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press writes, and two players will see their names live on in notoriety as a result.

In what can colloquially be referred to as the Zaza Pachulia rule, officials will be granted authority to look at replays and make a judgment call as to whether or not a defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way after defending a shot. If necessary, the official can assign a flagrant or technical foul accordingly.

Pachulia’s name is the first to come to mind considering the impact that one particular moment this past spring had on the Western Conference semifinal. That series saw Kawhi Leonard fall to a sprained ankle after landing on a conspicuously positioned Pachulia foot after a closeout.

The second fouling situation that will be viewed differently in 2017/18 pertains to continuation. Officials, Mahoney writes, will now ensure that shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a foul out on the perimeter is worthy of free throws.

Cited in the report as a common perpetrator of milking continuation calls is Rockets guard James Harden. By limiting the number of perimeter foul calls that lead to free throws, the league will disincentivize players from forcing unnatural shots after absorbing content.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Moore, Long, Cunningham

The Rockets enter the 2017/18 campaign with last season’s Most Valuable Player runner-up in James Harden and offseason acquisition Chris Paul, widely viewed as one of the greatest point guards ever. A deal for Carmelo Anthony has not materialized but Houston is still an improved team, David Aldridge of NBA.com writes.

Aside from the acquisition of Paul, the Rockets have been in headlines all offseason. Tilman Fertitta purchased the Rockets for $2.2 billion, Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston hard, and even to this point, Anthony to Houston rumors persist. Nonetheless, head coach Mike D’Antoni believes his team is in prime position for success.

“The biggest advantage is for 48 minutes we have a Hall of Fame point guard (either Harden or Paul) on the floor. That’s huge,” D’Antoni said. “And both of them can play off the ball real well, they’re both great shooters, and both can exploit the defense when the ball is kicked … whoever initiates it would normally finish it, but if they have to kick the ball over to the other guy, they’ll finish it.”

Aldridge also breaks down the team chemistry heading into the season and expectations for a team that won 55 games last season.

Below you can read additional notes around the Southwest Division:

James Harden Talks Chris Paul, Rockets, Summer 17

Chris Paulwho had the ability to become a free agent this offseason, informed the Clippers in June that he would not be returning to the club. Instead, he intended to go to the Rockets, which prompted Los Angeles to trade him to Houston prior to him activating his Early Termination Option.

James Harden played a key role in bringing Paul to Houston. The 2016/17 MVP runner up discussed the acquisition with Sam Amick of USA Today, telling the scribe that he spoke with Paul about forming a dynamic backcourt.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously [Paul] was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.”

Harden continued, telling Amick that he feels the move puts the team in a position to match up with Golden State, the conference’s 3-time reigning champ.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build-up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance,” the 27-year-old added.

Harden understands that playing alongside someone as great as Paul is a huge opportunity. Paul can become a free agent at the end of next season, so there’s no telling whether the 2017/18 campaign will be the only one where the two share a backcourt. Harden, who has made several changes to his offseason routine, including the addition of yoga and pilates, isn’t going to take the opportunity for granted.

“Every summer, it’s about getting better and putting yourself in a position to last an entire season,” Harden said.“I know how exciting this season is [going to be, and] I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity [events], a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in.”

Western Notes: Jackson, Harden, Muhammad, Wolves, Clippers Arena

Rumors of the Suns trading promising rookie Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving should be put to rest, writes Greg Moore of AZCentral.com. Moore writes that Jackson and Devin Booker each create a sense of “awe and wonder,” making anyone who watches them dream of the future.

The Arizona-based scribe argues that the manner in which coach Earl Watson talks about Jackson comes off much more as genuine optimism for the future than big talk to boost trade value.

“I love Josh Jackson,” Watson said Monday. “Something about him is just uncommon.” Devin Booker, meanwhile, “always had that edge.” “(Those) two together are going to be great young guys who can push other guys to become better because they’re so inner competitive,” Watson said.

Watson joked in response to being asked about a rumor that Jackson had grown two inches since being drafted:  But “if he did, we love it, and even if he didn’t … let’s build the legend. Yeah, he grew. Absolutely. He’s like 7 feet now … anyone coming up against him should be intimidated by his constant growth vertically, in height, and ability to play above the rim.”

In a recent interview, Jackson addressed the trade talk, saying, “I think if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.” However, he also said: “I’m going to make the best of whatever situation that I’m presented with. If I’m traded to China, whatever, I’m going to come out, and I’m going to be happy and just try to make the best of it.”

Here are more notes from the Western Conference:

  • James Harden is more fit and fired up than ever, writes Sam Amick of USA Today.  “I know how exciting this season is (going to be, and) I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity (events), a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in,” Harden said. The Rockets‘ 2017 postseason ended with concerns over Harden’s fatigue and stamina.
  • Shabazz Muhammad may have to settle for a short-term “prove-it” deal for next season, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Heading into the offseason, coach Tom Thibodeau used the word “optimistic” when discussing re-signing Muhammad. However, in July, the wing’s rights were renounced. On Wednesday, Timberwolves signee Jamal Crawford tweeted Muhammad, “c’mon back home.”
  • The mayor of Inglewood and the four other council members unanimously approved a revised agreement with a Clippers-controlled company to shrink the four-block area where an arena could be built so homes and a church aren’t displaced, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. More than a dozen citizens had raised concerns about the potential arena before the vote took place.

Southwest Notes: Harden, Anthony, Irving

GM Daryl Morey recently praised James Harden for his role as a recruiter, telling ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on his podcast (h/t Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders) that Harden “understands the plan,” adding that “he wants to execute for the team he’s leading.” 

Hamilton notes that Harden had a hand in recruiting Chris Paul to the Rockets and his involvement in bringing Carmelo Anthony to Houston will be crucial. The Rockets don’t have an array of young, promising talent to offer the Knicks, so the probable way to get Anthony in Houston is for the 10-time All-Star to force his way onto the team, something that appears is already happening. That likely doesn’t occur without Harden and Anthony being on the same page.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Landing Anthony is not a sure thing for the Rockets and Hamilton examines what other talent the team could pursue should they find themselves unable to swing a deal with New York. DeMarcus Cousins, who will be a free agent after the season, could be an option. Hamilton also names Kenneth Faried and Jahlil Okafor as frontcourt players who could be targets.
  • Hall of Famer David Robinson believes the Spurs would be “crazy not to want” Kyrie Irving on the team, as he said on SiriusXM NBA Radio (h/t Inquirer.net). “I certainly think you add a talent like that to a system that can … enhance his impact in the game and make him more efficient,” Robinson said of the point guard. San Antonio is on Irving’s short list of destinations where he would like to be traded.

Players Who Can Veto Trades In 2017/18

No-trade clauses are rare in the NBA, but one such provision has been the subject of much discussion so far in 2017, as Carmelo Anthony made use of his NTC to block the Knicks from sending him to an undesirable destination. For much of the offseason, Anthony was focused on joining the Rockets, but he eventually agreed to a deal that sent him to Oklahoma City.

Anthony is one of just two NBA players whose contract includes an explicit no-trade clause, but there are still several players each year who have the ability to veto trades. A player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract – or a two-year deal with an option year – is given no-trade protection, and so is a player who signs an offer sheet and has that offer matched by his previous team. Players who accept qualifying offers after their rookie deals expire can also block deals, though no restricted free agents have signed their QOs so far this year.

Taking into account that list of criteria, here are the players who must give their consent if their teams want to trade them during the 2017/18 league year:

No-trade clauses

Players whose offer sheets were matched

  • Otto Porter (Wizards)
    • Note: Even with his consent, Porter cannot be traded to the Nets during the 2017/18 league year.

Players accepting qualifying offers

Players re-signing for one year (or two years including an option)

In addition to the players listed above who can veto trades through the 2017/18 league year, there’s another small handful of players who can’t be dealt under any circumstance until at least next July. The following players signed a Designated Veteran Extension this season, which precludes them from being traded for a full calendar year:

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

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