James Harden

Rockets Notes: D’Antoni, Harden, Paul, Staff Changes

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said talks regarding a contract extension are in an advanced stage, he told Mike Berman of Fox 26 Sports. D’Antoni, who has one season left on his four-year, $16MM contract, believes he can go an additional two or three years.

News that the two parties were negotiating an extension came to light last weekend.

“I don’t do it (negotiate). That’s my agent. He takes care of that stuff,” D’Antoni said. “They’ve been discussing it for a long time now. It just hasn’t been a couple weeks. It’s been awhile that they’ve been talking. So they’ll figure it out.”

We have more on the Rockets:

  • D’Antoni was caught off-guard by a report that James Harden and Chris Paul had a verbal altercation in the locker room after the team was eliminated by Golden State, he told Berman. “It was definitely blown out of proportion,” D’Antoni said. “Those are discussions that (happen with) every good team that has a lot of alpha dogs and we do. Those are things that (happen) in the locker room and on the floor, time outs and everybody’s trying to compete and win a championship. That happens all the time. So it was nothing out of the ordinary at all. It kind of took me a little bit by surprise. I was shocked. Just wow, okay, it just didn’t happen.”
  • The Rockets fired player development assistant coach Irv Roland, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. That’s quite significant, since he has been Harden’s trainer since 2016 and also has a tight relationship with Paul, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets.
  • The organization also mutually parted ways with assistant Roy Rogers, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Rogers wanted more than a one-year offer, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Assistant Mitch Vanya and video coordinator John Cho were also let go, Feigen adds.
  • Despite the extension talks, the staff shakeup has made some people in the coaching community wonder if the team’s brass is trying to convince D’Antoni to leave, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. The Rockets also parted ways with associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik last week.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Pelicans, Grizzlies

As the Rockets prepare for a pivotal offseason, the team will have to make sure all of its most prominent figures are on the same page. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, there was “something of a clash of styles” brewing during the season in Houston, as some members of the team – including Chris Paul – pushed Mike D’Antoni to include more movement in his offense.

D’Antoni and the Rockets, of course, relied heavily on James Harden‘s isolation-centric style, and those iso possessions became less efficient in the postseason.

There were some “tense moments” between Harden and Paul throughout Game 6, according to Charania, who hears from sources that the two Rockets guards had a verbal back-and-forth about ball distribution in the locker room after the game.

Charania cautions that occasional heated moments like that aren’t uncommon around the NBA, and emotions run particularly high after season-ending losses. Still, it will be interesting to see if an apparent difference in philosophies will result in any tweaks to the Rockets’ offense next season.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Rockets hosted a free agent minicamp this week, and veteran guard Xavier Munford was among the participants, tweets Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Former Spurs guard Brandon Paul also attended that minicamp, per Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype (Twitter link).
  • With Pelicans head of basketball operations talking about the possibility of retaining Anthony Davis, Will Guillory of The Athletic makes the case for Davis staying in New Orleans, even as he acknowledges that a trade is still the most likely outcome.
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN.com takes an in-depth look at the Grizzlies‘ upcoming offseason, exploring the team’s plans for Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, along with key dates and deadlines worth monitoring.

NBA Announces 2018/19 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2018/19 season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Antetokounmpo and Harden scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

As we detailed in March, this year’s All-NBA selections have significant financial implications for several players. Here’s a breakdown of how several All-NBA candidates were impacted:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Bucks, which he can sign in 2020. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by five years.
  • Damian Lillard is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Trail Blazers, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by four years.
  • Kemba Walker is now eligible for a super-max contract with the Hornets, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2019/20 and would be for five years.
  • Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, and other super-max candidates who didn’t earn All-NBA honors aren’t eligible for super-max contracts (or a super-max extension, in Beal’s case). Thompson’s and Vucevic’s maximum contracts this summer would start at 30% of the cap.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns‘ extension with the Timberwolves, which goes into effect in 2019/20, will start at 25% of the cap, rather than 30%, because he didn’t earn All-NBA honors.

Beal and Thompson received the most All-NBA votes of any guards who missed out on the All-NBA teams, receiving 34 and 27 points respectively. Sixers guard Ben Simmons got seven points, while no other guards had more than four.

LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs) and Danilo Gallinari (Clippers) were the runners-up at forward, receiving 17 and seven points, respectively. Pascal Siakam (Raptors) had four points, while no other forwards had more than three.

At center, Towns received 20 points, followed by Vucevic at four and Pistons center Andre Drummond with three.

Interestingly, the 15 players named to the All-NBA teams for 2018/19 were the same 15 players that Hoops Rumors readers voted for in our end-of-season All-NBA polls last month. The only differences were George swapping places with Durant and Irving flipping spots with Westbrook.

The full and official All-NBA voting results can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24.

Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Trae Young are the finalists for the Rookie of the Year award, while Lou Williams heads the field for the Sixth Man award. His Clippers teammate, Montrezl Harrell, and Domantas Sabonis are the other finalists.

Antetokounmpo and George are also finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award along with Rudy GobertDe’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell and Pascal Siakam will vie for the Most Improved Player honor, while Mike Budenholzer, Michael Malone and Doc Rivers received the most votes for the Coach of the Year award.

Rockets Owner Promises To Upgrade Roster

The Rockets have no plans to hit the restart button after their Game 6 flop at home against the Warriors. Owner Tilman Fertitta is intent on improving the roster to help the core group get over the hump in future playoffs, Tim MacMahon of ESPN reports.

“I’m very fortunate to have the starting five that I have, but if we can make this team better, we’re going to make this team better,” Fertitta said. “That’s just a fact. I have a great team. I love all five of my starting five, but it’s my job to make sure that we put the best team that we can put on the court next year.”

It’s one thing to say that upgrades are forthcoming. It’s another thing to pull that off when the team already has major salary cap issues. The combined salaries of James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker alone put Houston over the projected cap of $109MM for next season.

Harden isn’t going anywhere, so unless the Rockets could somehow unload Paul’s contract — he’s owed a whopping $124MM over the next three years — they’re not going to gain significant cap relief in a trade. The Rockets do have nine trade exceptions they can utilize but none are worth more than $3.62MM.

Houston’s bench is bound to look different because virtually all of its reserves become free agents or have non-guaranteed contracts for next season. The only exception is veteran big man Nene, who can exercise a $3,825,360 player option.

Both of their draft picks this June were traded away in previous deals, with the first-rounder being conveyed to the Cavaliers and the second-rounder going to the Knicks.

The only other major asset Houston will have at its disposal is the $5.7MM mid-level exception for a taxpaying team. Perhaps the Rockets can entice a quality player to sign for below-market value in order to join a contending team.

Otherwise, GM Daryl Morey will have his work cut out for him to create a deeper and more productive bench. Fertitta remains optimistic the Rockets will be champions in the near future.

“I can promise you, we’re going to win some championships with James Harden, because we are not going to sit here,” he said. “We will go to battle every year. We’re going to have a strong offseason, and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to be a better team. We are not going to sit on our hands, I can promise you that.”

Harden: I Could “Barely See” After Eye Injury

5:50pm: Per Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Harden went straight to an eye doctor after the Rockets’ plane landed in Houston this afternoon and the team is optimistic he won’t have issues with his vision in Game 3 and beyond.

8:22am: After getting hit in the face by Draymond Green while fighting for a rebound in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game, Rockets star James Harden suffered an eye injury and left the game until midway through the second quarter. Harden was able to finish the game, but speaking later to reporters, including Janie McCauley of The Associated Press, he admitted that the eye drops he received to alleviate the discomfort only helped so much.

“I can barely see. Just tried to go out there and do what I can to help my teammates,” Harden said. “It’s pretty blurry right now. Hopefully it gets better day by day.”

Despite playing with blurred vision and stinging eyes, Harden still managed to put up 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting in 34 minutes, though he did turn the ball over six times and finished with a -9 plus-minus in Houston’s second loss of the series.

“He fought through some stuff. The guy looked like he was not in great shape the first half, I think it might have cleared up a little bit,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “But he got raked pretty good in the eyes. But that’s him. I didn’t have a doubt he was coming back unless it was something catastrophic. I’m sure he would have loved to have played better. Under the circumstances, I thought he played great.”

The good news for Harden and the Rockets is that there will be an unusually long three-day gap between Games 2 and 3, so the reigning MVP will have until Saturday to recover. As D’Antoni noted, Harden is extremely unlikely to miss any time due to the ailment, but the Rockets – already in a 2-0 hole – will be in trouble if he’s not at full strength going forward, so this will be something to watch closely for the rest of the series.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Paul, Morey, Gordon

James Harden and the Rockets found themselves at the center of attention in the NBA Sunday, coming up short against the Warriors in a 104-100 road loss in Game 1. Harden struggled shooting the ball and finished just 9-of-28 from the field, partially a result from several questionable no-calls on his attempted three-pointers.

Of the 28 shots Harden attempted, 16 of them were from 3-point range. There were multiple shots where Klay Thompson or another Warriors player dangerously over-extended on the play, giving him little-to-no space to land.

“They missed four of them. That’s 12 foul shots,” an irritated Mike D’Antoni said postgame of the officiating.

D’Antoni mentioned the officials admitted their wrongdoings at halftime, vowing to take a closer look at whether Harden was being fouled. The final play of the game saw Harden attempt a three at the top of the key and receive contact from Draymond Green, with no call being made. The case could be made that Harden extended his legs out in a flopping motion on the shot, but the officials were still ripped by several team figures and fans.

“I just want a fair chance, man,” Harden said. “Call the game how it’s supposed to be called, and that’s it. I’ll live with the results. Especially because we all know what happened a few years back with Kawhi [Leonard], and that could change an entire series. Just call the game how it’s supposed to be called and we’ll live with the results. It’s plain and simple.”

The Rockets have a chance to bounce back and take Game 2 on Tuesday night, which is also set to commence from Oracle Arena.

There’s more out of Houston tonight:

  • Chris Paul was ejected at the end of Game 1 after picking up his second technical foul. Paul argued a no-call and appeared to make slight contact with the referee, something the league has issued suspensions for in the past. Should Paul be suspended for Game 2, it would be a crushing blow to a Houston team still hoping to steal homecourt advantage in the series. “I don’t know yet,” Paul said when asked if he made contact with the official, admitting that he hadn’t watched the replay yet. “He just called a tech and that was my second.”
  • Daryl Morey‘s new plan for the Rockets is peaking at just the right time, Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle writes. Players such as Carmelo Anthony, James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams started the season with Houston, but Morey and his staff made the decision to move on from each of them to seek other talent. In turn, they brought in the likes of Austin Rivers, Danuel House and Kenneth Faried. “It’s very odd,” Morey said. “When we sign people, we make a commitment to them and we want it to work out. Quite a few didn’t work out this year. I would prefer not to make all those changes, but the reality was it wasn’t working. We got Chris (Paul) and James (Harden) in his prime, and it’s unacceptable to not do everything we can to make sure we’re maximizing their presence.”
  • Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle details how Kelvin Sampson — college coach of Eric Gordon — helped Gordon take a turning point in his first collegiate game that still affects his career today. “On a whim, I told him to guard the point guard,” Sampson said.  “Pick up him up 94 feet. Eric asked me what I meant and I told him, ‘turn him as many times as you can.’” Gordon is recognized as one of the most underrated defenders within the Rockets, continuing to improve as his career progresses.

And-Ones: Silver, Mock Draft, Players’ Poll, Belinelli

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is willing to consider shortening the regular season and even the length of games, he said in a press conference on Friday. Silver’s comments were relayed by the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney“The format we have in place now — I’m a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand it’s 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there’s nothing magical about it,” Silver said. He also tossed out the idea of reducing the length of games from 48 minutes to 40, the same as college and international games. Holding mid-season tournaments is something else he’s willing to consider. None of the potential changes are close to be implemented, Mahoney adds.

We have more from the basketball world:

Southwest Notes: Harden, Rockets, Dirk, Caboclo

Even after a grueling 2018/19 season, Rockets guard James Harden hopes to suit up for Team USA in the 2019 World Cup this September, as he tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“Of course I want to play,” Harden said. “It’s an opportunity to represent your country, go out there and play basketball. It’s something I love doing. If that opportunity presents itself, I’ll be in. Not everyone gets that opportunity. As a basketball player, that’s one of the highest points you can get for basketball.”

Harden, who previously won gold medals for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, is one of 35 players who was named to USA Basketball’s player pool for events between 2018-20. Obviously, not all of those players will get the chance to play on USA’s 12-man roster in the fall, but as the league’s reigning MVP, Harden probably has one of those 12 spots if he wants it.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Ray Allen hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2014, but Rockets GM Daryl Morey hasn’t given up hope that the veteran sharpshooter will decide to make an NBA comeback. Appearing last month on The Rich Eisen Show (video link), Morey referred to Allen as his “white whale,” vowing that he’d sign the 43-year-old to a 10-day contract right now if Allen were interested (hat tip to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype).
  • Longtime Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning for a 22nd NBA season next year. While Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News thinks retirement is the more likely outcome, he makes the case that playing another season wouldn’t negatively impact Nowitzki’s legacy.
  • In an excellent piece for The Athletic, Blake Murphy takes a deep dive into Bruno Caboclo‘s long, winding road to an NBA rotation role. With Caboclo playing regular minutes for the Grizzlies, Murphy spoke to a handful of his teammates and coaches, as well as draft expert Fran Fraschilla, who famously said that the young forward was “two years away from being two years away” when the Raptors selected him in 2014.

Rockets Notes: Tucker, Faried, Clark, Harden

Rockets point guard Chris Paul is openly campaigning for forward P.J. Tucker to make the league’s All-Defensive First Team, but Tucker isn’t looking for individual accolades, as he told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I don’t know why he’s doing that,” Tucker said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to make my case for making it, be mad and cry if I don’t. I don’t care. I want to win. I don’t care if somebody says I’m the best or the worst defender. I’m going to go out and do what I do every single night no matter what. I never got praise for anything I’ve done so I don’t look for it.”

Barring a trade, Tucker will remain the team’s perimeter stopper for at least one more season. Tucker’s $8,349,039 salary for next season is locked in, though his $8MM salary for the 2020/21 season is not guaranteed.

We have more on the Rockets:

  • Power forward Kenneth Faried is expected to return on Monday after missing five games with a sore hip and strained adductor, Feigen reports. Faried has posted 14.9 PPG and 9.4 RPG in 16 games since signing with Houston after he was waived by Brooklyn in January.
  • The salary protection for forward Gary Clark is locked in at $708,426 for the 2019/20 season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The Houston forward had a clause in his contract that would have guaranteed his full salary ($1.4MM) if he appeared in more than 36 games and either played in one playoff game or was waived by April 10. Clark has appeared in 41 games but 21 were played under his two-way deal, which didn’t count toward those 36 games. Clark did not play in Sunday’s win over Dallas.
  • James Harden‘s play has created a new way of evaluating players, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle to Feigen and other media members. “It’s a pretty remarkable phenomenon,” Carlisle said. “I don’t know if there’s ever been anything quite like this. They’re extremely effective. He’s extremely effective. It’s bringing new metrics into play and things like that. There’s a lot of people studying it, looking at it. … One I heard this year is there is now a statistic on stepback shots, which I had never heard of before this year.”