Mike D'Antoni

Rockets Notes: Westbrook, Harden, D’Antoni, More

Speaking today to reporters at the Rockets‘ Media Day, Russell Westbrook and James Harden expressed enthusiasm about teaming up in Houston this season. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com details, Westbrook said the pairing will be “scary” for the rest of the NBA, while Harden suggested the two former MVPs will have no problem sharing the ball on offense.

“If Russ got it going and Russ is having one of those games that we’ve all seen before, guess what I’m going to do: sit back and watch the show, and vice versa,” Harden said. “It’s just a part of basketball. So you can’t sit up here and say, ‘Oh, Russ is going to have the ball for the first half and I’m going to have the ball the second half.’ No, things happen through the course of the game that you just flow with and go with.

“All of us in this locker room and this front office has one goal, and that’s to win it. However that happens, it’s going to happen, and we’re just going to figure it out.”

Westbrook agreed with Harden that the two stars won’t have any trouble co-existing in the Rockets’ backcourt and will focus on what’s best for the team.

“I don’t have to have the ball to impact the game,” Westbrook said, per MacMahon. “I don’t have to score, I don’t have to do anything. I can defend, I can rebound, I can pass, I can lead. Our main goal, main focus, is to win. I can go be scoreless, and if we win, that’s the best thing that ever happened. That’s all I cared about, and that’s all I ever cared about.”

Westbrook, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after the Thunder were eliminated from the postseason in the spring, was only recently cleared for five-on-five work, writes MacMahon. So the Rockets will proceed cautiously with the star point guard, who isn’t expected to participate in all of the club’s practices and preseason games.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • Harden and Westbrook both indicated today that they have interest in representing Team USA in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo (Twitter links via MacMahon and Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston).
  • Head coach Mike D’Antoni, GM Daryl Morey, and owner Tilman Fertitta all downplayed concerns about D’Antoni entering the final year of his contract without an extension and expressed confidence that he’ll stick with the Rockets beyond 2019/20, MacMahon notes in a pair of tweets. Everybody tells me that Mike is the right guy for this team. Mike appears to me to be the right guy for this team,” Fertitta said. “I think he’s a great coach. He’s one of the great offensive minds out there. I truly do not see Mike going anywhere.”
  • Ryan Anderson‘s new contract with the Rockets features a $250K partial guarantee, sources tell Alykhan Bijani and Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). Anderson would receive another $250K, increasing the partial guarantee to $500K, if he makes the opening-night roster.
  • Jaron Blossomgame‘s non-guaranteed deal with Houston doesn’t feature an Exhibit 10 clause, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com hears. That may be a hint that the Rockets don’t expect Blossomgame to play for their G League team. His NBAGL rights are still held by the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers‘ affiliate.

Western Notes: Jazz, D’Antoni, Clippers, Thunder

After trading away Derrick Favors and signing Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz had a little leftover cap room and took advantage of that remaining space by signing Miye Oni, William Howard, and Stanton Kidd to three-year contracts, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Utah would have been limited to two-year deals if the club had exhausted its cap space.

The Jazz intend to have Howard, Kidd, and others compete for the 15th and final roster spot in training camp, per Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter links), who notes that both Howard and Kidd received partial guarantees for the 2019/20 season.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Appearing on SiriusXM NBA Radio this week, agent Warren LeGarie said that his client Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni is perfectly happy to enter the 2019/20 season – the final year of his deal – without a contract extension (Twitter link via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report). It’s not even something we’re considering right now,” LeGarie said of a potential extension. “We have a contract.”
  • Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show (video link) this week, Clippers consultant Jerry West raved about the team’s ownership and culture, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “He’s just a great owner and one of the nicest men I’ve ever been around in my life,” West said of Steve Ballmer. “… He’s willing to spend on players. He’s willing to spend on personnel within the front office. And as I mentioned before, I’ve never been around any organization that is better than this one. That’s for sure.”
  • In trading Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Jerami Grant, the Thunder appeared to be pivoting toward an all-out rebuild. Brett Dawson of The Athletic explores how that rebuilding process might be impacted if Chris Paul starts the 2019/20 season on Okahoma City’s roster.

Mike D’Antoni’s Agent Denies Progress Toward Extension

The Rockets and head coach Mike D’Antoni may not be as close to an extension agreement as yesterday’s report indicated, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston. Warren LeGarie, D’Antoni’s agent, confirms that owner Tilman Fertitta and GM Daryl Morey met with the coach at his West Virginia home, but paints a different picture of negotiations.

“It’s not exactly representing the situation,” LeGarie said. “When they met with Mike … they had presented essentially what they considered (was) a new offer, even though for us it’s the same, it’s the same one that we’re not willing to do. They’ve taken (out) the $2.5MM buyout and made that a $5MM deal. It’s still not Mike’s market (value).”

D’Antoni listened to the offer from Fertitta and Morey, but didn’t engage in negotiations, telling them to present the deal to his agent.

“They’re never talked to me since,” LeGarie said. “So it’s not moving. It’s a little bit disingenuous what is being reported. They believe by going there and bypassing (me) that will somehow get it done. It won’t. … We have not been talking and we’re not closer to a deal.”

D’Antoni has one year left on his contract at $4.5MM. He has been the Rockets’ coach for the past three seasons, compiling a 173-73 record.

Rockets, D’Antoni Close To Extension Agreement

The Rockets have re-engaged contract extension talks with coach Mike D’Antoni and are close to an agreement, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets.

Houston owner Tilman Fertitta has removed the buyout language that was the sticking point when talks previously broke down, MacMahon adds.

D’Antoni is entering the final year of his contract and is due $4.5MM next season. D’Antoni and his agent had broken off negotiations late last month.

Before the breakdown, the Rockets reportedly offered D’Antoni a one-year, $5MM extension which could have increased in value based on Houston’s performance in the playoffs. However, D’Antoni’s agent Warren LeGarie said at the time D’Antoni’s $1MM bonuses for postseason advancement wouldn’t have kicked in until the second round, and that he wouldn’t have earned his full $5MM base salary if he had been fired or if the Rockets failed to make the playoffs.

The Rockets’ brass has made significant changes to D’Antoni staff since the club was eliminated by Golden State in the conference semifinals, parting ways with Jeff BdzelikRoy RogersMitch Vanya, and Irv Roland.

Rockets Rumors: D’Antoni, Offseason, Paul

After head coach Mike D’Antoni ended contract extension negotiations with the Rockets on Thursday, details about the offer that Houston made to D’Antoni began to trickle out.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, team owner Tilman Fertitta claimed that the Rockets offered D’Antoni a one-year, $5MM extension which could have increased in value based on Houston’s performance in the playoffs. As Fertitta described it, the deal – which would’ve been a raise on D’Antoni’s current $4.5MM salary – would’ve paid the head coach an extra $1MM for every series the Rockets won.

“We didn’t end extension talks,” Fertitta said. “Agents’ jobs are to play hardball. I made Mike a great extension offer. It was one of the better base salaries in basketball but also had the highest incentives in basketball. Mike could make $4MM in incentives. Business is business. I’m a very incentive-based guy. If you perform, I want you to do unbelievable.”

However, addressing that offer today, D’Antoni’s agent Warren LeGarie portrayed it a little differently. As Feigen relays, LeGarie said that D’Antoni’s $1MM bonuses wouldn’t have started until the second round, and that he wouldn’t have earned his full $5MM base salary if he had been fired or if the Rockets failed to make the playoffs.

“The reported $5MM is really $2.5MM because it comes with contingencies,” LeGarie said. “One, it’s only $5MM if he makes the playoffs and two, if he is coaching the team at the end of the year. If they decide to fire Mike in the proverbial change of direction, he gets $2.5MM. If there is an injury or a change in the roster construction, of which Mike has no control, he nonetheless would become a victim of it.”

LeGarie emphasized that D’Antoni wasn’t “insulted” by the offer, but said it didn’t make sense for their side, based on the current market for coaches of D’Antoni’s stature.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Despite rumors that the Rockets are making virtually everyone except for James Harden available on the trade market, Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey praised the club’s starting five and predicted it would return next season, per Feigen.
  • According to Feigen, Morey said he hopes to use the Rockets’ mid-level exception to add a “high-quality” player to the roster, signaling that he’ll try to use it on a single player rather than multiple pieces.
  • More from Morey, via Feigen: “Whatever it takes to get over that final hump to get a championship, that’s what we’re going to do. On the coaching front, I … recommended we make some changes. If there’s a trade out there that helps us, great, we’ll do that as well. Our starting five this year I would put up there with anyone. If there’s a trade out there that helps, we’ll do that. We’re going to keep all of our key people.”
  • As Sean Deveney of Sporting News details, executives around the NBA still like Chris Paul as a player, but view his contract as one that would be hard for Houston to move in a trade. “It will have to be a salary dump,” one front-office executive said. “You might get back a decent player and a draft pick. But mostly, it is getting that contract off your books for the next three years. … If you’re Houston, you’re happy just to move him along and let someone else pay him. But you’re going to have to take back a bad contract in the bargain.”

Mike D’Antoni Ends Extension Talks With Rockets

Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has ended discussions with team management about a potential contract extension, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, D’Antoni is now planning to finish his current deal with Houston, which has one year left and will expire in 2020.

This development is the latest in a somewhat surprising series of events in Houston since the team was eliminated by the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals earlier this month. While both the Rockets and D’Antoni expressed interest in getting an extension done, the team has broken up D’Antoni’s staff, parting ways with Jeff Bdzelik, Roy Rogers, Mitch Vanya, and Irv Roland in a series of moves.

Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle wrote in a mailbag this week that there’s no major schism between the two sides. According to Feigen, the Rockets recognize the excellent job D’Antoni has done in Houston, and the veteran head coach had no intention of stepping down with or without an extension.

D’Antoni – who has said he believes he can coach three more years but would’ve been fine with tacking on one season to his current contract – seems OK with heading into the final year of his deal, Feigen tweeted today.

Still, if the Rockets and D’Antoni move forward without a new deal in place, it’s not the most ideal scenario. His ability to put together a quality staff could be compromised if potential assistants know there are no guarantees beyond a single season, Chris Mannix of SI.com observes (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, there were some conversations constructed around a Rockets proposal of a performance-based extension, but those discussions never gained traction with D’Antoni’s camp.

Since taking the reins in Houston in 2016, D’Antoni has compiled a 173-73 (.703) regular season record, as well as a 23-16 (.590) mark in the postseason.

Rockets Open Extension Talks With Mike D’Antoni

The Rockets and head coach Mike D’Antoni have held preliminary discussions on a contract extension that would keep D’Antoni from entering the final season of his deal, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“I’ve let (GM) Daryl (Morey) and (owner) Tilman (Fertitta) know that I’m energized to keep coaching — and believe that I can continue to do this at a high-level for at least another three years,” D’Antoni told ESPN. “I want be part of a championship here.”

D’Antoni is entering the fourth and final year of a $16MM contract he signed with the team back in the summer of 2016. He’s guided the Rockets to deep runs in each of his three seasons as coach, accruing a 173-73 record over that span.

For Houston, it’s unclear how much of a commitment the team would make to D’Antoni in a potential extension, Wojnarowski notes. He is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year.

D’Antoni has held head coaching stints with Denver, Phoenix, New York, the L.A. Lakers and Houston across 15 seasons. The Rockets made it to the Western Conference Semifinals earlier this month but lost to the Warriors in six games, a disappointing end to the campaign.

Rockets Rumors: D’Antoni, Luxury Tax, Gordon

After promising in the wake of the Rockets‘ elimination from the postseason last weekend to upgrade the team’s roster this summer, owner Tilman Fertitta addressed the upcoming offseason more extensively in a conversation with Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle this week.

Before digging into Houston’s roster or offseason plans, Fertitta made it clear that Mike D’Antoni will return for the 2019/20 season, which will represent the last year of his four-year contract with the club. Typically, an NBA team will sign its head coach to an extension rather than let him enter the final year of his deal as a “lame duck.” Fertitta tells Feigen that while he’s not beholden to that concept, he’s certainly not opposed to the idea and plans to meet with D’Antoni in the coming weeks.

“He’s not a lame duck to me. That’s just a media term. That’s just a media buzzword,” Fertitta said. “Mike is going to be 69 years old (next May) and Mike doesn’t know totally what he wants to do, yet. We’ll sit down with Mike in the next few weeks and talk with him.

“We’re more concerned with making our team better next year. Mike will be here. I like Mike. I think he’s a very good coach. Players like playing for him. I keep being told, free agents want to know who the owner is and they want to know who the coach is. Mike and I do well together. Hopefully, we’ll continue to win and Mike will be here for a long time.”

Here’s more from Fertitta on the Rockets:

  • While Fertitta indicates that he’d welcome back the Rockets’ starting lineup, he’s also open to a more “dramatic retooling” and likely won’t enter the offseason with a run-it-back mentality, writes Feigen. “I’ve directed my people to get better next year — anything we can do, from ownership to conditioning and training, all the way to that level,” Fertitta said. “If we can make our team better player-wise, we’re going to make our team better. If we can make our team better coaching-wise, we’ll make our team better.”
  • Fertitta made it clear that he has high expectations for the franchise: “We’re here to win. We’re not here to be just OK and make it to the playoffs. We’re going to do whatever it takes to be a championship style team every year. I will make moves to always extend our runway. I’m not a rebuilding guy to go collapse for three years to get draft picks. I want to keep us at as high a level as we can. I have a good management team. We’re in the City of Houston, which is soon to be the third-largest city in the United States so we should always attract our good share of free agents.”
  • The Rockets’ owner strongly pushed back against the idea that he directed the team to get out of luxury-tax territory in 2018/19, calling it an “accident” and telling Feigen that he’s “still trying to figure out” how they got under the tax line. “I spend more money on little things than anybody else,” Fertitta said. “I just bought us a brand-new 767 that we’re re-fitting right now. Everybody else just rents planes. I want our players on our plane. And it’s not a 757; it’s a 767. Anybody can have an opinion. You can say I’m a lousy owner. But don’t make a statement when you don’t have any (…) idea what you’re talking about.” Despite Fertitta’s fervent denials, it’s hard to see why the Rockets’ front office would make multiple cost-cutting moves if team ownership was entirely unconcerned with ending up in the tax.
  • Fertitta would have interest in signing Eric Gordon to a long-term extension this summer, Feigen writes.
  • More from Fertitta on his vision for the organization, via Feigen: “I want us to be tough. I never want to be soft. I don’t like soft ownership and I don’t like soft teams. That’s not my culture. I do want my players scrambling for a loose ball. I’ll set a hard pick in business. I’ll scramble on the floor for a ball in business. I expect them to do it on the court. I’m not saying they don’t. I have a very hard-playing team. But we’re never going to be soft.”

Southwest Notes: Ferry, D’Antoni, Van Exel, Mavs

Danny Ferry is meeting with the Pelicans today about the team’s permanent general manager position, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Ferry, who has been serving as the franchise’s interim GM since Dell Demps was dismissed, will have the final interview for New Orleans, according to Wojnarowski.

The Pelicans have already interviewed several candidates, including former Cavs GM David Griffin, Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, and Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who had been hospitalized since Friday, has shown improvement and was released today, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. However, he will not coach the team tonight.
  • Grizzlies assistant coach Nick Van Exel has interest in the University of Cincinnati coaching gig, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter). Van Exel, who played at the university, will be looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Grizzlies assistant Jerry Stackhouse, who transitioned from Memphis’ bench to Vanderbilt’s head coaching job last week.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News has previewed the offseason for a pair of Southwest teams this week, exploring what lies ahead for the Pelicans and for the Mavericks.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey To Get Contract Extension

GM Daryl Morey has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Rockets, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Morey was in the final year of his current deal.

The 46-year-old started his career with the Celtics before coming to Houston in 2006 as assistant GM. He was promoted to his current job after the 2007 season.

“I’m super happy,” Morey said. “I’d love to be with the Rockets for life. This obviously solidifies us for a little while. I’m just really thankful to [owner] Tilman Fertitta for having the faith in our team. And really, it is about us having a team of people that makes this all work.”

Morey has built Houston into a perennial contender in the Western Conference and one of the top challengers to the Warriors for the NBA title. His most successful move as GM came prior to the 2012/13 season when he acquired reigning MVP James Harden in a trade with the Thunder.

Morey was also among the leading proponents of bringing analytics to the NBA and is recognized as the inventor of true shooting percentage. He was a co-founder of the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

“We wanted to make sure that Daryl stays locked up,” Fertitta told Mark Berman of Fox 26 (Twitter link). “I think he wanted to make sure he was welcome here in Houston.We have a good working relationship. You want to keep good people under contract.”

Morey said one of his first priorities will be an extension for coach Mike D’Antoni, who is signed through the end of next season.

“He’s such a critical factor,” Morey said. “Speaking for myself only, I would love for him to be here for as long as he wants to be here. He’s so critical to everything we’re doing here. Hopefully, that’s something we can work out at the right time. I think the right thing for everyone is those things are done in the offseason.”