Jeff Green

Rockets Notes: Next Steps, Westbrook, Green, Nwaba

It has been an eventful day in Houston, as word broke this morning that one of the NBA’s longest-tenured general managers, Daryl Morey, has decided to step down from his position in the Rockets‘ front office.

Few – if any – lead executives were more closely associated with a team’s identity and philosophy than Morey was, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN, who notes that Morey’s analytical approach to the game resulted in the Rockets pushing the limits on pace and three-point attempts. We don’t have a clear sense yet of what sort of influence GM Rafael Stone will have on Houston’s playing style, so the team’s new head coach may determine its direction in the short term, writes Pelton.

According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Stone is a believer in small-ball, but it’s not clear if he’s as enthusiastic about playing a full 82-game season without any traditional centers. As such, it will be interesting to see how aggressively the Rockets attempt to fortify their frontcourt this offseason.

Of course, bigger roster decisions will be on the horizon for Stone and the Rockets, especially if the team fails to make a deep playoff run again in 2021. I’d be surprised if Stone does anything drastic right away, but sources who have spoken to Marc Berman of The New York Post believe the Rockets are likelier to consider the possibility of a Russell Westbrook trade following Morey’s departure.

“I can’t imagine they are keeping (James) Harden and Russ together,” one NBA executive told Berman. “Russ excels best as the best player on a team and Harden needs outside shooters around him – not a ball-dominant guard. I think Russ will be the one traded.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • After thriving in Houston down the stretch and during the postseason, Rockets forward Jeff Green is expected to receive interest from “a slew of contending teams” this offseason, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. As I noted last week, Houston only holds Green’s Non-Bird rights, so it may be tricky to re-sign him without using the mid-level or bi-annual exception.
  • Following Doc Rivers‘ exit from Los Angeles, the Rockets initially wanted to hire him to fill their head coaching vacancy, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN. However, Rivers quickly reached an agreement with Philadelphia, taking him off the board for Houston. With Rivers and Tyronn Lue unavailable, the franchise is reportedly focusing on three potential finalists.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic conducted an extensive Q&A with Rockets wing David Nwaba, who spoke about his Achilles recovery, his fit in Houston, and more. Nwaba said he anticipates being good to go for the start of the 2020/21 season. “I’m working on getting in shape. It’s taken longer than what I thought to get back into shape, but that’s going to happen through time,” he said. “… The season’s probably going to start in two, three months — I should be more than ready.”
  • In another piece for The Athletic, Iko and Danny Leroux took an in-depth look at the Rockets’ short- and long-term salary cap situation.
  • If Morey seeks another NBA job, there will be no shortage of opportunities for him, writes Chris Mannix of SI.com.

Five Non-Bird Free Agents Who May Be Difficult To Re-Sign

Every player who finishes a season as a member of an NBA roster gets some form of Bird rights as a free agent, allowing his team to go over the cap to re-sign him. However, a player who spent just one year with his club typically only has Non-Bird rights, which are the weakest form of Bird rights, as their oxymoronic name suggests.

With the Non-Bird exception, a team can re-sign a player for up to four years and give him a raise, but that raise has to be a modest one. Non-Bird rights allow for a starting salary worth up to 120% of the player’s previous salary or 120% of the minimum salary, whichever is greater.

In other words, a Non-Bird free agent who earned $5MM can only get a starting salary worth up to $6MM on his new deal unless his team uses cap room or another exception (such as the mid-level) to bring him back.

This cap restriction will apply specifically to a handful of players around the NBA who may be in line for raises this summer. Because these players will be Non-Bird free agents, it may be a challenge for their teams to re-sign them without cap room or an exception like the bi-annual or mid-level.

Let’s take a closer look at five players who will fall into this category this offseason…


Markieff Morris, F, Lakers
Dwight Howard, C, Lakers

During their run to the NBA Finals, the Lakers have matched up with talented opposing centers such as Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Bam Adebayo, while also facing a Rockets team that doesn’t use a traditional center. Anthony Davis has, of course, been the most important factor in the Lakers winning those frontcourt battles, but Morris and Howard have played major roles as well, proving their value as role players on a championship-caliber team.

Morris signed a $1.75MM contract during the season, while Howard’s one-year deal is worth the veteran’s minimum, so neither player can sign for more than 120% of the minimum if the over-the-cap Lakers hope to use their Non-Bird rights. If the cap doesn’t increase, that would mean a max of $2.8MM for Morris and $3.08MM for Howard.

My assumption is that both players would be able to do better than that on the open market. So if they’re not willing to accept team-friendly discounts to remain in Los Angeles, the Lakers may have to dip into their mid-level exception (projected to be worth $9.26MM) to try to re-sign one or both players.

Carmelo Anthony, F, Trail Blazers

Anthony’s NBA career appeared to be on the verge of ending before he worked out a minimum-salary deal with Portland. He outperformed that modest contract, with 15.4 PPG and 6.3 RPG on .430/.385/.845 shooting in 58 games (all starts) for the Trail Blazers in 2019/20.

Like Howard, Anthony would be limited to a ’20/21 salary of $3.08MM via his Non-Bird rights. If the Blazers need to go higher than that to retain him, they’ll have to repeat a move they used last summer, when they re-signed Non-Bird free agent Rodney Hood with their taxpayer mid-level exception in order to give him a raise.

Jeff Green, F, Rockets

Green was underwhelming during his brief stint with Utah early in the 2019/20 season, but he thrived in Houston, averaging 12.2 PPG on .564/.354/.857 shooting in 18 games (22.6 MPG) as part of the club’s micro-ball lineup. He was nearly as good in the postseason, with 11.6 PPG on .495/.426/.824 shooting in an increased role (28.6 MPG).

Green hasn’t signed a contract worth more than the minimum since 2016, so it’s possible that’s all it will take for Houston or another team to sign him this fall. That’d be a best-case scenario for the Rockets, given how well he fit in their system down the stretch — topping any rival offer exceeding $3.08MM would mean dipping into the mid-level or bi-annual.

Reggie Jackson, G, Clippers

Like most players on the buyout market, Jackson signed a minimum-salary contract with the Clippers to finish out the season, meaning the team will be limited to an offer starting at about $2.8MM.

Jackson was pretty good for the Clippers in 17 regular season games, knocking down 41.3% of his three-point attempts and chipping in 9.5 PPG and 3.2 APG. But he fell out of the rotation in the second round of the playoffs vs. Denver, and the Clippers will likely be looking to upgrade the point guard position this fall. A reunion probably doesn’t make sense for either side, especially if Jackson can get offers exceeding the Non-Bird limit.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Notes: Chandler, Green, Harden, Coach

Rockets center Tyson Chandler is undecided about whether he’ll continue his playing career or retire, according to Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated, who tweets that “opportunity and the state of the world” will be major factors in the 37-year-old’s decision.

Chandler originally thought he’d retire a year ago, but decided that he still had the desire to keep playing. He had an extremely limited role for the Rockets in 2019/20, appeared in just 26 contests and logging a career-low 8.4 minutes per game. His role became increasingly non-existent as the team pivoted to micro-ball — January 18 was the last time he logged more than one second of game action.

Here’s more from out of Houston:

  • Unlike Chandler, Jeff Green isn’t considering the possibility of retiring after this season. While the 34-year-old will be a free agent this offseason, he’s intent on continuing his career, tweets Spears.
  • Everything should be on the table for the Rockets and general manager Daryl Morey this offseason as they consider potential roster changes, according to Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight. That includes considering the possibility of a James Harden trade, Herring notes.
  • Although the Rockets’ list of potential head coaching candidates starts with Tyronn Lue, there are plenty of candidates worth considering, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Feigen provides a long list of potential targets to replace Mike D’Antoni on Houston’s bench, including Jacque Vaughn, Jeff Van Gundy, David Fizdale, and many others.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Restart Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the first round of the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Jordan Clarkson, Jazz, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2016
The late-December deal with the Cavaliers that sent Clarkson to Utah was one of the most impactful trades this season. Clarkson filled a much-needed role as a scorer off the bench for the Jazz. He has reinforced his value during the restart, particularly during the first-round series with Mike Conley leaving Orlando for the birth of a child. Clarkson averaged 22.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.0 APG in the first two playoff games against Denver and was a team-best +33 in Friday’s Game 3 win. Utah will certainly try to retain Clarkson but the Jazz will have competition for one of the league’s top reserves in the prime of his career.

Paul Millsap, Nuggets, 35, PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $90MM deal in 2017
Michael Porter Jr. has been playing some small forward for Denver during the restart due to injuries but his future in the current NBA is at the four, the spot Millsap has occupied when healthy. Millsap’s performances in the restart have been rather forgettable – 10 points or less in five of seven seeding games, along with 21 total points and seven rebounds in 65 minutes during the first three games of the Utah series. Perhaps the Nuggets will bring back Millsap if he’s willing to accept a modest contract and a bench role. It’s hard to see any other team viewing the big man as a starter at this stage of his career, so interest in him may be limited.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nets, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2.48MM deal in 2019
Luwawu-Cabarrot has been one of the big surprises in Orlando. The Nets staggered into Orlando with a depleted roster, but the performances of Luwawu-Cabarrot and other unsung players allowed them to win five seeding games. He scored 24 or more points in three seeding games and has been a major factor off the bench against Toronto in the Nets’ first-round playoff series, averaging 21.5 PPG in the first two games while making 47.4% of his 3-point attempts before the Raptors slowed him down on Friday. His $1.8MM salary for next season is not guaranteed, but he has forced Brooklyn’s hand to retain him beyond this season.

Trey Burke, Mavericks, 27, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $229K deal in 2020
Burke filled a roster spot this summer with Willie Cauley-Stein opting out of the restart. Though the Mavs still had other guard options, Burke has played steady minutes off the bench, averaging 12.0 PPG and 3.8 APG in the eight seeding games. He impacted Game 2 of the playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, scoring 16 points in 18 minutes. If nothing else, the 6-foot point man who has played for five organizations proved this summer he belongs on an NBA roster as a second-unit floor leader.

Jeff Green, Rockets, 33, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $696K deal in 2020
Raise your hand if you thought Green would be an impact player this postseason after the Jazz lopped him off the roster to add a G League standout. The Rockets rescued him off the scrap heap and he’s been a marvelous fit in Mike D’Antoni’s small ball system. Green scored in double digits in all but one of the seeding games and he’s been a huge factor against Oklahoma City in the playoffs, averaging 18.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG in 35.0 MPG through two games. If D’Antoni remains in Houston beyond this season, Green will likely re-sign there. If not, the journeyman has earned another opportunity to wear an NBA uniform.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Notes: Westbrook, Green, D’Antoni, Paul

Nearly everything went right for the Rockets on Tuesday as they dominated their playoff opener without Russell Westbrook, who is sidelined with a strained right quadriceps. Before the game, coach Mike D’Antoni offered a medical update on the star guard, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN, saying the injury is healing, but there’s no set date for his return.

“Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in,” D’Antoni told reporters.

Westbrook was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday to check on his progress, but the results haven’t been made public. A late arrival to the Disney World campus after contracting the coronavirus, Westbrook began feeling soreness in his right quadriceps after an August 4 game. He rested the next two games before playing 28 minutes last Tuesday. An MRI later that day revealed the strained muscle.

There’s more Rockets news to pass along:

  • Ben McLemore and Jeff Green both made huge contributions off the bench in the playoff opener, notes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. McLemore hit four 3-pointers in his first career playoff game, while Green, who was signed in late February, contributed 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. “We’re just trying to put the defense on their heels, giving them a different look,” Green said. “We know that all the focus is going to be on James (Harden), so it’s just another opportunity for us to take the pressure off him with Russell out … for everybody to get involved.”
  • In a separate story, MacMahon examines D’Antoni’s belief in small-ball, which dates back to when he was in Phoenix more than 15 years ago. The Rockets fully committed to the concept when they shipped out starting center Clint Capela at February’s trade deadline. “If you think something’s right and the numbers prove it’s right, then go all-in,” D’Antoni said. “You can’t muddy the waters. You can’t just go halfway.”
  • Chris Paul, who is facing his former team in his first playoff series since being traded last summer, addressed his relationship with Harden, his ex-backcourt partner (video link from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports). “We don’t talk or communicate or nothing like that, but that’s all good and well,” Paul said. “I wish him the best in anything and everything he does. That’s one thing I think people fail to realize, sometimes, in these situations. Sometimes you have teammates, and it is for that period of time. But that’s okay. You can wish each other well going forward. It doesn’t mean you have to be kumbaya, and it doesn’t mean you have to be enemies. At the end of the day, everybody’s got a life to live.”

Western Notes: Giles, Looney, J. Green, Spurs

Harry Giles has played some of the best ball of his career as of late for the Kings, but his contract situation raises uncertainty about whether the team will be able to keep him this offseason, Greg Wissinger writes for The Sacramento Bee.

Giles, who missed his entire rookie season due to knee issues, had a part-time role for the Kings a year ago, averaging 7.0 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 58 games (14.1 MPG). However, despite flashing some potential, Giles had his fourth-year option for 2020/21 turned down by Sacramento last fall, ensuring that he’ll become an unrestricted free agent this summer. When he does, the Kings won’t be able to offer him a starting salary worth more than $3,976,510, the value of the declined ’20/21 option.

It remains to be seen whether Giles will actually generate enough interest to receive an offer larger than that from a rival suitor, but he has been boosting his stock in recent weeks. The third-year big man has started 14 of 16 games for the Kings since the start of February, averaging 10.4 PPG and 6.3 RPG with a .624 FG% in 21.0 MPG during that stretch.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Although Kevon Looney just recently turned 24 years old, his health is becoming an ongoing concern for the Warriors, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area, who notes that Looney’s diagnosis of neuropathy is a chronic condition that can only be managed, not fixed.
  • Jeff Green, the newest addition to Houston’s roster, has seen an increased role over the Rockets‘ last two games, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Green was a +28 in the team’s nine-point loss to Charlotte on Saturday and went 8-for-8 from the floor on Sunday, making a strong case to continue playing extra minutes going forward.
  • Earlier this season, amidst chatter that he may be a candidate to become the Spurs‘ next head coach, Kansas coach Bill Self said there was “zero truth” to those rumors. Recently, Self reiterated that he has no plans to leave the Jayhawks to become Gregg Popovich‘s successor, as Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News relays. “People may say whatever because (Spurs CEO R.C. Buford and I) are buddies, which we are, and proud of that,” Self said. “But I am not going to be the next coach of the San Antonio Spurs, nor would he want me to be. I mean, they got arguably the greatest coach of all time that still has got a lot of gas in the tank. So, that is a rumor I know some people have said, but that is a pretty ridiculous one right there.”

Texas Notes: Westbrook, Green, Mavericks, Samanic

Russell Westbrook capped off his best month since joining the Rockets with a 41-point performance Saturday in Boston, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Westbrook averaged 33.7 PPG in February, marking the second-best scoring month of his career. He’s also displaying efficiency that wasn’t part of his game earlier in the season. Westbrook, who took just two of his 27 shots last night from beyond the arc, posted a 54.9% shooting percentage during the month.

“Right now, I think I’m moving in the right direction,” he said. “I’ve just got to stay locked in with what I’m doing, with my craft and what I’ve been doing since I’ve been in the league.”

The improvement in Westbrook’s game has accompanied Houston’s decision to fully commit to a small-ball approach. The decision to trade starting center Clint Capela has spaced the floor and made it easier for Westbrook to get to the basket.

“One thing he can do and one thing he’s great at is driving to the rim,” teammate Jeff Green said. “When you’re spacing the floor and you’re taking (defenders) out the middle, you’re allowing him to access the lane whenever you want. You’re playing right into his hands.”

There’s more NBA news from Texas:

  • Now that Green has signed with the Rockets for the rest of the season, he would like to make Houston his long-term home, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. After playing for nine teams in his 13-year career, Green likes his new surroundings. “It’s a great city, great culture,” he said. “My wife loves it. That’s the biggest say-so now in the household. As long as my wife loves it, I love playing basketball. Houston being a great city, I’d love to stay there.”
  • The Mavericks may not replay the final eight seconds of last Saturday’s loss in Atlanta even if they win their protest, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Owner Mark Cuban doesn’t believe it would be worth finishing the game unless it affects the team’s seeding for the playoffs. Townsend adds that the Mavs likely won’t file their evidence report in the case until shortly before the deadline of midnight tomorrow (Twitter link).
  • Luka Samanic understands that spending time in the G League is the Spurs‘ way of developing players, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News. The 19th pick in the 2019 draft, Samanic is putting up big numbers in Austin, but hasn’t seen any playing time in the NBA. “You have to be patient and just trust what they say, and look at what everybody did before,” Samanic said.Lonnie (Walker), Dejounte (Murray) and Derrick (White). So why not me?”

Rockets Notes: Harden, Tucker, Van Gundy, Bench

James Harden believes he’s taken for granted around the basketball world, as he told Rachel Nichols of ESPN (Twitter link). “I feel like I’m the best player,” said the former Most Valuable Player, who once again leads the league in scoring. “Throughout the course of the year, I don’t see double teams for anybody else. Usually, you’ll see a double team after a 50-point night or a 60-point night. I have an 18-point night, the next game I’m seeing a double-team.”

Harden also took a dig at Giannis Antetokounmpo, who joked while choosing his All-Star squad that he didn’t want Harden because he preferred someone who passed the ball. “I wish I could just go to the rim at 7-feet and just dunk,” Harden said. “That takes no skill at all.”

We have more on the Rockets:

  • P.J. Tucker has accepted his new role as the team’s middle man in its Microball lineup, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. Tucker says it’s just part of the job description of a team player. “It’s not a choice,” he said. “It’s like when people ask me why I play so hard. Like, it’s not a choice to play hard. I don’t have a choice. That’s what you’ve got to do. Period.”
  • Broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy doled out praise to coach Mike D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey for their willingness to take criticism by embracing unconventional lineups, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. “I admire their basketball courage,” Van Gundy said. “They have true conviction. They don’t waffle. They believe in what they believe. And they are unafraid of the consequences or the criticism. That’s when you can coach freely and manage freely.”
  • The recent additions of Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll have made the team’s bench much more formidable, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes. Forward Danuel House is noticing the difference. “It makes your team a very dangerous team,” House said. “Especially with your starting five. If your starting five is capable of putting up points and your bench is capable of putting up points, the team can stay consistent. There are no highs or lows, so that’s really good for our team.”

Rockets Sign Jeff Green For Remainder Of Season

The Rockets have signed forward Jeff Green for the remainder of the season, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

The move was anticipated with Green’s 10-day contract about to expire.

Green, who was released by the Jazz in December, was a free agent for nearly two months before agreeing to sign with the Rockets last week. He and the team initially reached a 10-day deal so he could evaluate the situation before making a rest-of-season commitment.

In four games with Houston, Green has averaged 9.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 19.3 MPG. The 33-year-old power forward has looked comfortable as the reserve center in the Rockets’ small-ball lineups.

With Green’s signing, Houston has a full 15-man roster. Terms were not disclosed but if it’s a minimum-salary deal, he’ll earn $695,526 the rest of the way, with a $439,475 cap hit.

Rockets Expected To Sign Jeff Green For Rest Of Season

Jeff Green‘s 10-day contract with the Rockets doesn’t expire for a couple more days, but it sounds like the two sides will extend their relationship beyond Thursday. According to Jordan Schultz of ESPN (Twitter link), Green intends to sign with Houston for the rest of the season.

Green, who was released by the Jazz in December, was a free agent for nearly two months before agreeing to sign with the Rockets last week. He and the team initially reached a 10-day deal so he could evaluate the situation before making a rest-of-season commitment. Both Green and the Rockets are “really happy with the fit,” per Schultz.

In three games so far with Houston, Green has averaged 9.3 PPG and 3.0 RPG on .833/.714/.750 shooting. It’s a safe bet that those shooting marks will decline going forward, but the 33-year-old has looked comfortable as a de facto big man in the Rockets’ small-ball lineups.

When Green’s rest-of-season contract becomes official, Houston will have a full 15-man roster. The team had a pair of open roster spots following the All-Star break, filling them with Green and DeMarre Carroll, who was bought out by San Antonio.

The exact value of Green’s new contract will depend on when it’s made official. If he signs a minimum-salary deal on Friday, the day after his 10-day contract expires, he’d earn $695,526 the rest of the way, with a $439,475 cap hit.