James Harden

Rockets Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Diop, Caboclo, Green

The Rockets are likely to start training camp and the regular season with James Harden and Russell Westbrook on the roster, Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s SportsCenter (video link). Houston has not engaged on trade talks involving Harden. The team has tried to find a taker for Westbrook but his contract, which has three years and $132.5MM remaining, makes it very difficult. “That’s not an easy trade to make,” Wojnarowski said.

We have more on the Rockets:

  • DeSagana Diop has joined Stephen Silas’ coaching staff, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Diop, who appeared in over 600 games as an NBA player, had been a Jazz assistant coach the last four years.
  • The Rockets’ front office would like to re-sign free agent big man Bruno Caboclo, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. Caboclo, 24, was dealt from Memphis to Houston at the trade deadline in February, but didn’t see much action after joining the Rockets. He appeared in just eight regular-season games and made two postseason cameos.
  • Gerald Green remains hopeful the Rockets will re-sign him, Mark Berman of KRIV tweets. “Everybody knows how much I feel about this city and what this city feels for me,” Green said. The veteran swingman missed the entire 2019/20 season due to a broken foot and has been training privately in Houston.
  • ICYMI, Sterling Brown agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockets on Sunday.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Oladipo, Grant, VanVleet

The Nets have shifted their focus away from a potential James Harden blockbuster and are simply looking to make marginal upgrades to the roster, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Brooklyn might pursue the Hornets’ Nicolas Batum once he clears waivers to give itself another defensive wing. The Nets tried and failed to secure Serge Ibaka‘s services with the $5.7MM taxpayer mid-level exception and also struck out on wing Kent Bazemore, Lewis adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks president Leon Rose isn’t eager to pursue a trade for Pacers guard Victor Oladipo even though GM Scott Perry wants to explore that possibility, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. The front office did make a strong push for free agent forward Jerami Grant, who wound up with the Pistons in a sign-and-trade with Denver. Rose could still make another trade for a rotation player or take on another team’s unwanted contract with an asset attached in order to reach the salary cap floor, Berman adds.
  • Re-signing Fred VanVleet to a four-year, $85MM contract could be considered overpaying but the Raptors have a reputation for rewarding players for a job well done, Eric Koreen of The Athletic opines. While the Raptors may have essentially been bidding against themselves at that price, their reputation of taking care of their own helps in acquiring other players. The contract is also structured so that they can pursue a top-flight free agent next summer.
  • That contract could ultimately prove to be a good value if VanVleet improves in a few areas, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic. He needs to get better with his pull-up shooting and finishing at the rim when he takes over lead guard responsibilities, which will happen when Kyle Lowry leaves or shifts to more of an off-guard role. He also needs to get better in pick-and-rolls, Murphy adds.

Free Agency Rumors: Markieff Morris, Craig, Bazemore, Sixers

A Morris brothers reunion might be in play for the Clippers, Jason Dumas of KRON4 News tweets. Dumas notes that there may be mutual interest in adding free agent forward Markieff Morris – most recently of the Lakers – to a Clippers frontcourt that includes newly re-signed forward Marcus Morris, Markieff’s twin brother. Marcus has agreed to a four-year, $64MM deal to remain with the Clippers.

Markieff’s minutes may be relatively minimal, as he would presumably be the fourth big man in the Clippers’ frontcourt rotation, behind starting power forward Marcus, starting center Ivica Zubac, and just-added veteran power forward/center Serge Ibaka, who will be signed using the club’s full MLE after the departure of Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers. Big man Patrick Patterson was also retained by the Clippers this offseason.

Marcus was a key role-playing piece in the Lakers’ championship run after joining the team off waivers this spring. In 18.4 MPG, Markieff averaged 5.9 PPG and 3.0 RPG, while shooting a stellar 42% on 3.3 three-point attempts per game and 77.8% from the charity stripe across 21 games en route to the Lakers’ 17th NBA title.

Meanwhile, if Marc Gasol ultimately leaves the Raptors for the Lakers, Toronto has strong interest in replacing him with Markieff Morris, and may be able to offer him more than the Clippers can afford.

Here are more free agency rumors:

  • Darren Wolfson of KSTP 5 Eyewitness News tweets that the Timberwolves also considered adding free agent guard Torrey Craig to their offseason roster. Craig ultimately agreed to a contract with the Bucks this offseason, the terms of which have yet to be released.
  • Though Kent Bazemore wound up returning to the Warriors and his close friend Stephen Curry on a veteran’s minimum contract, the Clippers apparently considered using their $3.6MM bi-annual exception to sign the veteran swingman, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets.
  • Though Sixers GM Daryl Morey has already made significant changes to Philadelphia, the club still needs a great perimeter scorer, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer observes. “Obviously, our job is to always look for opportunities,” Morey commented this weekend. “But we feel very good about where we are right now.” Pompey notes that in Ben Simmons, the Sixers have the kind of All-Star blue chip piece that could fit well into a deal for Rockets superstar perimeter scorer James Harden.

Nets Rumors: Durant, Harden, Harris, Ibaka

The Nets aren’t hiding their optimism about Kevin Durant with the new season just weeks away, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Durant has been out of action since suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon during the 2019 NBA Finals, but his recent workouts have players and management believing he can return to an MVP level.

“I don’t think anybody is more excited than Kevin himself to get back on the court. He’s mentioned numerous times he can’t wait to be back, in Barclays, wearing the Nets jersey and being out there,” general manager Sean Marks said in an interview Thursday on the YES Network . “As it pertains to how those guys look, what we’ve seen — they’ve been back in our gym now a couple days — the feedback from the performance team on how they’ve looked is they look terrific. It’s been remarkable to watch Kevin’s development and the way he’s attacked his rehabilitation over the course of the last year. We’re all champing at the bit and excited to see him out there.”

Players who participated in pickup games with Durant during the past month in Los Angeles also had glowing reports, with Jarrett Allen telling Basketball News, “I’ll just keep it short and simple: KD is back again.”

There’s more this morning from Brooklyn:

  • Marks isn’t addressing questions about James Harden, who reportedly asked the Rockets to trade him to the Nets to reunite with Durant, Lewis tweets. Marks is limited in what he can say about a potential deal because of tampering rules. “All you can do is prepare yourself to put the best possible roster forward,” Marks said. “…We just have to be flexible for everything that happens, and put the best roster forward.”
  • Re-signing Joe Harris will be the team’s top priority when free agency officially kicks off this afternoon, Lewis notes in a separate story. One of the league’s top three-point shooters, Harris is reportedly eager for the chance to play alongside Durant and Kyrie Irving“Those are guys I’ve gotten close with now that I’ve been with them this past year,” Harris said. “They’re obviously incredible players. You see what they’re able to do when they are healthy and playing. I don’t think there’s anybody in the NBA who wouldn’t want to play with those guys.”
  • Durant has been recruiting Serge Ibaka, his former teammate in Oklahoma City, but the Nets may not be able to afford him, Lewis adds. Brooklyn is limited to the taxpayer exception of $5.7MM, while several other teams interested in Ibaka can offer the full MLE of $9.3MM.

Latest On James Harden, Russell Westbrook

Since word broke that James Harden was hoping for a trade out of Houston, reports have indicated that the Rockets are hoping they can convince him to reconsider his position and make roster moves that show him the team can still contend for a title. However, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon suggested during an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast that the team’s commitment to that position may be wavering.

“The sense I get from the Rockets is that their ambition, their goal, their hope is no longer about salvaging the relationship with James Harden and kind of getting him on board,” MacMahon said (hat tip to RealGM). “There is a realization that his mind is made up. He wants out and there is a determination to say ‘Okay, we get it. This happens in the NBA, but just because James Harden wants out, doesn’t mean he gets to dictate where and for what.'”

As MacMahon explains, even if the Rockets are no longer confident that Harden can be convinced to spend the rest of his career in Houston, that doesn’t mean the team will make a trade as soon as possible to send him to his preferred landing spot in Brooklyn.

MacMahon, who suggested last week that Houston is “willing to get uncomfortable” with Harden and Russell Westbrook, told Windhorst that the club would be seeking a young potential franchise player and a Jrue Holiday-esque package of draft picks in any deal for Harden. And the Rockets are prepared to be patient in the hopes of having that price met, if not by the Nets then perhaps by the Sixers or another club.

“What they’re saying is, ‘Look, we’re not going to be rushed into this,'” MacMahon said. “… They’re saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to come to camp, you’re probably going to have to start the season.’ At this point, the Rockets have to be willing to listen. They understand that at some point they’re going to have to make a trade. But it’s not when he has two years plus a player option on his deal.”

As for Westbrook, MacMahon said there’s “not a fit for him that makes any kind of sense” on the trade market for now. The Rockets’ hope is that Westbrook will start the season with the team, show he’s healthy, and potentially increase his value, per MacMahon.

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Simmons, Embiid, Harden, Celtics Draft

The Sixers created an $8.6MM trade exception in their agreed-upon deal that will send Al Horford to the Thunder, John Hollinger of The Athletic reports.

That’s significant, as Hollinger points out, because the front office will not have a full mid-level exception to offer in free agency since the club is in luxury tax territory. The exception can be used in a sign-and-trade this offseason or – more likely – a direct trade for a player under contract.

New president of basketball operations Daryl Morey promises he’ll make some roster moves via the free agent route, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. “They’re going to be some additions there,” Morey said of free agency, while adding “we feel very good where we’re at.”

Morey declared that he’s not interested in trading either of his top players, according to the Associated Press’ Dan Gelston. He said Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid “are going to be here for a long time.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics were advised that they shouldn’t pursue a James Harden deal with the Rockets, longtime Celtics beat reporter Steve Bulpett tweets. The front office researched the possibility of adding Harden and were urged to stay away, as the intel regarding the fallout in the Houston organization painted an ugly picture. Presumably, Harden was a part of that dysfunction.
  • The Celtics had three first-round picks to dangle on Wednesday but didn’t move up. It wasn’t for lack of trying, another longtime Celtics beat reporter Mark Murphy tweets. GM Danny Ainge said they explored the possibility but there was “not anything that was really tempting for us in the first part of the draft.” Boston held onto the first two picks and traded the other to the Grizzlies for two future second-rounders.

Wizards, Bulls Rebuffing Overtures For Beal, LaVine

Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine have been “hot names” around the NBA as potential trade targets, but the Wizards and Bulls are rebuffing overtures for their respective leading scorers, says Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

The fact that the Wizards aren’t showing any interest in moving Beal comes as no surprise, as that has been the team’s stance ever since general manager Tommy Sheppard was hired in 2019. Sheppard reiterated on Tuesday that Beal “isn’t going anywhere” this fall.

LaVine’s status hasn’t been the subject of quite as much speculation as Beal’s, and the new decision makers in Chicago – led by president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas – haven’t given many hints about their plans. Based on Goodwill’s report though, it sounds like the team is looking to hang onto LaVine, who has two years and $39MM left on his team-friendly contract.

According to Goodwill, the Sixers have been one of the many teams kicking the tires on Beal and LaVine.

Earlier today, Jason Dumas of KRON4 News reported (via Twitter) that there’s a growing belief within the 76ers’ front office that the team won’t have a shot at acquiring Rockets star James Harden without including Ben Simmons. Dumas suggested that new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is working on something else “significant” that would allow the team to keep both Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Beal and LaVine, who both provide play-making abilities, are the sorts of targets that would make sense for Philadelphia. However, with the Wizards and Bulls reportedly resisting offers, any “significant” move by Morey and the Sixers seems unlikely to include either Beal or LaVine.

Teams will continue to monitor Beal’s and LaVine’s situations on draft night and beyond, tweets Goodwill.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Draft

The Rockets aren’t opposed to entering the 2020/21 season with James Harden and Russell Westbrook on their roster, even if the two former MVPs aren’t happy about it, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who says the team is “willing to get uncomfortable.” The Rockets continue to insist that neither player will be dealt unless a team meets their asking price.

As MacMahon details – and as we’ve heard throughout the last week or two – the Rockets believe time is on their side since both Harden and Westbrook remain under contract for at least two more seasons.

Houston is seeking an especially substantial return for Harden, according to MacMahon, who hears from sources that the club would want a “proven young star” as a headliner, along with a “massive” package of draft picks. While Harden is reportedly pushing to be dealt to the Nets, the Rockets don’t feel obligated to send him to his preferred destination, MacMahon adds.

While the Rockets recognize that Westbrook won’t return as significant a package as Harden, they’re not prepared to move him without receiving young talent and/or first-round picks, says MacMahon. Houston feels it would be selling low on Westbrook after he struggled during the restart due to his coronavirus recovery and a quadriceps injury.

MacMahon, who confirms the Rockets have spoken to the Wizards about a deal involving Westbrook and John Wall, also confirms that Houston would want additional assets in a swap with Washington. The Rockets believe Westbrook can increase his value with a strong start to the 2020/21 season and aren’t concerned that his dissatisfaction will affect his effort on the court.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • The Rockets are hoping to buy a draft pick on Wednesday night, ideally late in the first round or early in the second, sources tell MacMahon. I’m skeptical that any first-rounders will be for sale, but Houston should have options in the second round.
  • Although things aren’t great in Houston right now, they’d only get worse if the Rockets accept a bad deal for Harden, according to Jerome Solomon of The Houston Chronicle, who urges the team to be patient and not give in to the superstar’s demands.
  • Now that the Rockets have picked up the No. 16 pick (in a trade involving Robert Covington), Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic examine what the team could do with that selection.
  • We passed along several more Rockets-related rumors earlier today.

Rockets Rumors: Westbrook, Harden, Luxury Tax, Tate

The Hornets and Knicks are the only teams with “verifiable” trade interest in Rockets star Russell Westbrook so far, Marc Stein of The New York Times writes in his weekly newsletter. And Stein cautions that both clubs’ interest is “conditional” rather than aggressive.

Some people around the NBA believe that Charlotte’s desire to acquire Westbrook will increase if the team doesn’t end up drafting LaMelo Ball on Wednesday night, per Stein. As for the Knicks, their stance is best described as “weighing, but resisting,” according to Stein, who says multiple people within the organization are hesitant to make a move for Westbrook and his pricey contract.

Stein suggests that the best offer the Rockets could expect from the Knicks for Westbrook at this point would include one future first-round pick from Dallas, along with players who aren’t part of the team’s long-term plans, such as perhaps Julius Randle and Dennis Smith Jr.. Even then, there’s no guarantee New York would want to take on the three years and $133MM left on Westbrook’s contract.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • While the Rockets remain reluctant to move James Harden and don’t feel pressure to make a move right away, the “overwhelming expectation” around the NBA is that he’ll eventually be dealt, whether it’s this week, next month, or sometime in 2021, according to David Aldridge and Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Past inquires of Harden have simply been turned aside by the Rockets, but there’s a sense that they’ll now come around if the package is strong enough.
  • Although Harden is reportedly focused on getting to the Nets, the Sixers‘ interest in him has grown in recent weeks, sources tell The Athletic’s duo. According to Aldridge and Iko, rapper Meek Mill – who is from Philadelphia – has been trying to convince Harden to come to the Sixers.
  • The Clippers aren’t currently pursuing Harden, per The Athletic’s report.
  • Sources tell Aldridge and Iko that Harden feels as if some of the Rockets’ decisions – including roster moves and hirings – have been made without substantial impact from him.
  • The Athletic’s sources maintain that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is “hellbent” on keeping the team out of luxury tax territory for the foreseeable future.
  • Sydney Kings swingman Jae’Sean Tate, who went undrafted out of Ohio State in 2018, is expected to sign with the Rockets sometime after free agency opens later this week, Stein reports. John Hollinger of The Athletic recently referred to Tate – who made over 40% of his three-point attempts in Australia last season – as one of the most highly-regarded players outside of the U.S. Houston is also bringing Sydney’s head coach Will Weaver stateside as an assistant on Stephen Silas’ staff, as we relayed last week.

Latest On James Harden, Rockets, Nets

While a pair of former All-Stars – Chris Paul and Jrue Holiday – were involved in trades agreed upon on Monday, another All-Star guard briefly stole NBA headlines. Word broke that Rockets superstar James Harden had turned down an extension offer that would have tacked on two years and a staggering $103MM to the three years left on his current deal. Harden is said to be “singularly focused” on being dealt to the Nets, per Monday’s reports.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, Harden has indicated to the Rockets that he’s not interested in going anywhere except Brooklyn and that he believes the team should make the best deal it can with the Nets, “even if they do not consider it satisfactory.” That’s a bold demand for a player with at least two years left on his contract — even a player of Harden’s caliber.

As Adrian Wojnarowski reiterated this morning during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link), the Rockets aren’t yet acting with urgency and feel like they can afford to take their time, given Harden’s contract situation. While the Rockets have been in contact with the Nets, no substantive discussions have taken place between the two teams yet, Woj adds.

Houston also hasn’t engaged with any other teams about Harden, since he appears to be solely interested in Brooklyn and the Rockets don’t want to move him to begin with, says Feigen.

Here’s more on the former MVP:

  • Although the Nets have several intriguing assets, they don’t have one “knockout” piece – such as a young player with superstar potential or a future pick that would land at or near the top of the draft – to entice the Rockets, Wojnarowski notes. Feigen makes a similar point, suggesting that Brooklyn’s inability to offer a player who could be Harden’s “successor” has Houston resisting the idea of making a trade with the Nets.
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe takes a deep dive into the possibility of a trade between the Nets and Rockets and contends that a Brooklyn offer for Harden would probably have to look something like this: Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, some small salary filler, this year’s No. 19 pick, two unprotected or lightly-protected future first-rounders, and two future pick swaps.
  • As of Monday, the Rockets didn’t consider their relationship with Harden broken, according to Feigen, who said talks between the two sides have been “cordial.” The team just hasn’t yet been able to convince him to reconsider his position.
  • The Rockets’ other former MVP, Russell Westbrook, remains a trade candidate as well, but nothing is close on that front. As Feigen explains, Houston hasn’t yet been able to find a deal for Westbrook that would bring a strong enough return to help convince Harden that the team can still contend for a title.
  • The fact that the Rockets surrendered multiple draft picks and pick swaps in last year’s Westbrook acquisition has made the team hesitant to embark upon a rebuild, per Feigen. Houston also still believes it can be a factor in the Western Conference race if both Harden and Westbrook return and the right additions are made.