Nene

Rockets’ Nene To Opt Out

Veteran Rockets center Nene has decided to opt out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Nene’s contract featured a $3,825,360 player option for the 2019/20 season, which he’ll turn down.

Nene, 36, averaged a career-low 13.0 minutes per contest in Houston last season, recording 3.6 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 42 games.

Given his age and his increasingly limited role with the Rockets, Nene’s decision to forgo a salary of nearly $4MM isn’t one I anticipated. It will be interesting to see how he does on the open market — perhaps his agent got word that another team is ready to put a more favorable offer on the table, or perhaps he’s doing Houston a favor.

The Rockets are said to be in the running for Jimmy Butler, who would have to be acquired in a sign-and-trade deal. That would put a hard cap on Houston’s spending for the 2019/20 league year.

Removing Nene’s $3.8MM cap hit from their books would give the Rockets some much-needed flexibility in that scenario and the veteran big man could still theoretically return on a minimum salary deal. He’d earn a projected $2.56MM on a one-year minimum contract, but would only have a cap hit of about $1.62MM.

Of course, it’s possible Nene won’t seek a new contract at all. According to Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic (via Twitter), retirement is a viable possibility for the former seventh overall pick.

Nene’s player option decision was the last one to be reported for the 2019/20 season. The full list can be found here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Gauge Market For Capela; CP3 Also Potentially Available

After a disappointing second-round exit to the Warriors in this year’s playoffs, general manager Daryl Morey and the Rockets are showing an aggressive desire to upgrade their roster in calls to front offices, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where James Harden gets traded, but the Rockets are making virtually all of their players and picks available in discussions. Even someone like Chris Paul could be moved in the right deal, Woj adds.

Meanwhile, Marc Stein of The New York Times reports (via Twitter) that Clint Capela is among the players whose market value the Rockets have been gauging in recent days.

While the Rockets would be reluctant to move someone like Paul, who has been a key contributor to their success over the last two years, it’s not clear how much value he’d even have on the trade market. The veteran point guard’s numbers slipped a little in 2018/19 (his 15.6 PPG and .419 FG% were career lows), he’s entering his age-34 season, and he’s owed $124MM over the next three years.

Capela’s career résumé isn’t as decorated as Paul’s, but he may be the more valuable asset at this point due to a more team-friendly contract. Having missed out on some incentives that were considered likely this season, Capela has a cap hit below $15MM in 2019/20, and is under contract through 2022/23, his age-28 season.

Outside of Harden, Paul, and Capela, the only two Rockets players with guaranteed contracts for 2019/20 are Eric Gordon ($14MM) and P.J. Tucker ($8.35MM), both of whom are good values. Nene may also pick up his $3.8MM player option, while Isaiah Hartenstein, Gary Clark, Chris Chiozza, and Michael Frazier all have non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed minimum-salary deals.

Of course, the Rockets have never been shy about making their draft picks available in trade talks. The club reportedly offered the Timberwolves four future first-rounders last fall for Jimmy Butler, but Minnesota passed on that offer.

Even if Houston doesn’t make any huge moves this offseason, the roster figures to undergo a good deal of change. Rotation players like Iman Shumpert, Gerald Green, Austin Rivers, and Kenneth Faried will all be unrestricted free agents, while Danuel House is up for a new contract via restricted free agency.

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.”

Warriors Rumors: Green, Durant, Bogut

After some early-season struggles, Draymond Green has hit his stride for the Warriors as of late, anchoring the team’s defense and averaging 14.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, and 8.0 APG on 68.4% shooting in his first two games vs. the Rockets. As Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic writes, team owner Joe Lacob was never concerned that Green wouldn’t have an impact during Golden State’s postseason run.

“He’s Draymond Green,” Lacob said. “I wasn’t worried. I want Draymond Green to be here forever. He’s as Warrior as they come.”

Lacob’s assertion that he wants Green to be a Warrior “forever” may be put to the test this offseason. While the former Defensive Player of the Year is under contract for one more year, he’s eligible for an extension this summer, and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports that Green is “gearing up” for those extension talks, having recently hired Rich Paul to represent him.

Green, who signed his current deal in 2015, one year before the NBA’s salary cap spike, has long felt that he’s underpaid, but his “mounting injury history and advancing age” may limit his earning power going forward, Windhorst observes. As such, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of proposal the Warriors are willing to put on the table during the offseason. The team could offer Green a four-year extension that starts in 2020/21 and is worth up to approximately $99.7MM.

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Speaking of Green, the NBA has rescinded the technical fouls called against him and Rockets center Nene on Tuesday night, Windhorst reports. That means Green’s postseason technical foul count is back down to three — players who rack up seven technicals during the playoffs receive a one-game suspension.
  • Marcus Thompson’s upcoming book “KD” provides some clues that suggest Kevin Durant may be leaning toward leaving the Warriors this summer, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who obtained an advance copy. As Berman explains, the book portrays Durant as someone who wants to erase the “negative feelings” that his move to Golden State generated and hints that his “final chapter” will happen elsewhere.
  • Whether or not this ends up being Durant’s final playoff run with the Warriors, he certainly appears to be enjoying it so far, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “This is where this sh– is fun, this is when it’s serious and I’m just embracing it,” Durant told Haynes. “I’m just having so much fun right now. This time of year is what I’m geared for. I’m just hooping at a high level and enjoying the competitiveness of the playoffs. You go through such a long season to get to this point, and now it’s time to produce.”
  • Andrew Bogut‘s current stint with the Warriors is happening in the middle of a two-year contract with the Sydney Kings, an unusual arrangement that will see Bogut return to Australia’s NBL next season to complete his deal. Speaking to Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group, NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger explains why he has no problem with that arrangement and could be open to other players doing something similar in the future.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Paul, Faried, Nene

After a scary fall on his right wrist and brief exit from the Rockets‘ win over the Sixers on Friday, precautionary x-rays on James Harden were negative, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Harden is expected to play on Sunday against the Mavericks.

Harden returned to Friday’s game to finish with 31 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Last season’s Most Valuable Player leads the league in scoring, averaging 36.6 PPG.

“[He’s] dealing with pain [in the wrist], I guess,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. “I don’t know, he just fell on it. He’s fallen on it before and is sore, so there was some pain there and then this just aggravated it.”

Check out more Rockets notes:

  • The Rockets have reeled off seven straight wins to move into third place in the Western Conference. A healthy Chris Paulwho has overcome a hamstring injury, holds the key for Houston to make a deep run into the postseason and beyond, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon writes.
  • Kenneth Faried missed Friday’s win over Philadelphia and will not play Sunday due to an adductor strain. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets that after undergoing an MRI, Faried is doubtful to play Monday.
  • In the absence of Faried, Nene has become the Rockets’ lone backup center, but he has played a major role in the team’s last few wins, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes.

Texas Notes: Smith Jr., Barea, Nene, Gasol

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is willing to welcome Dennis Smith Jr. back to the team whenever he’s ready, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Smith hasn’t played in the past four games — officially because of back soreness and an illness — and didn’t join the Mavs for their current road trip. He also didn’t report for Friday’s practice.

“This is just my feeling, is that he’s being told to stay away for whatever reason,” Carlisle said on his weekly radio show. “I just don’t want people out there to think he is snubbing the Mavs or anything like that. This is just my opinion, I believe there’s business stuff going on, and he’s being told to stay away. Listen, if that’s what they feel is in his best interests, he should trust his advisers. But it’s unlike him not to want to be with his teammates. I do feel strongly that people should not look at Dennis in this situation now and judge him harshly, that he’s doing something against his teammates or the Mavs or anything like that. I just think this is a business-type situation, and this is what he’s being advised to do.”

Sources told MacMahon that Smith is frustrated over changes to his role on the team with the arrival of Luka Doncic, but the Mavericks remain hopeful for a reconciliation. Smith’s agent, Glenn Schwartzman, didn’t return text messages and phone calls seeking a comment. Carlisle said he also reached out to Smith and Schwartzman.

There’s more NBA news out of Texas:

  • Mavericks guard J.J. Barea expects to be out of action for six to nine months after surgery to fix a torn right Achilles tendon, tweets Dwain Price of Mavs.com. The 34-year-old, who suffered the injury last week, will be a free agent this summer.
  • The Rockets won’t ask Nene to play more minutes with starting center Clint Capela sidelined after thumb surgery, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The team expects to bolster its frontcourt by signing Kenneth Faried once he clears waivers Monday. “Coach has a plan,” Nene said. “We have other big men. We have young big men, too. They will get those minutes. Coach will decide when I am going to play.”
  • Pau Gasol has been back in the Spurs‘ starting lineup in four of the past five games, but the move hasn’t resulted in more playing time, notes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News. He has averaged just 11 minutes per game during that stretch. “At this point, I’m just doing my best with the opportunity and the conditions I am playing under,” Gasol said.

Poll: Rockets’ Playoff Chances

In what has seemingly been a weekly topic among NBA fans and analysts, the Rockets‘ slow start has only gotten worse, as they have now lost three straight games for the third time this season and sit at 11-14, good for 14th in the Western Conference.

What many brushed off as a simple slump due to injuries and cold shooting has continued throughout the season, despite the team boasting the healthiest rotation in recent games as Chris Paul, Gerald Green and Nene have all returned from injuries.

While the Rockets’ offense has struggled from time to time (they rank ninth in the league), it is the defense that has continued to fail them, as they have fallen all the way down to 25th on that end of the floor. Additionally, the team’s lack of quality depth has been exposed as a result of their top players not leading the way as expected.

Chris Paul is in the midst of the worst season of his career while Eric Gordon has been nowhere near the levels from previous seasons. Meanwhile, James Harden and Clint Capela are putting up eye-opening offensive numbers but aren’t playing the level of defense they were at last season. Combine all of those factors together and you get the perfect recipe for this disastrous season for the Rockets.

Barring a trade, there is no solution on the way, especially considering the amount of problems that need solving. Sure, the season is just over one-quarter of the way through, but the Rockets’ recent play doesn’t inspire confidence in their abilities moving forward.

At the moment, the Rockets are just 2 1/2 games out of the eighth seed. That begs the question, do you think the Rockets will make the playoffs? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote

Western Notes: Korver, Nowitzki, Rockets, Rose

Shooting guard Kyle Korver knew the Cavaliers’ front office might deal him early in the season and he listed the Jazz as one of his preferred destinations, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News reports. Korver was traded for Alec Burks and two future second-round picks. “It feels like a good fit,” Korver told Woodyard. Korver is in his second stint with Utah, having played there from 2007-10. He has averaged 8.5 PPG in 19.5 MPG in his first two games since the deal.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Dirk Nowitzki participated in a 3-on-3 scrimmage at the end of practice on Monday as he nears his return to action, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. The longtime Mavericks power forward has not played this season due to a left ankle injury. Dallas is hopeful he can make his season debut sometime this month. “He’s got to keep working on strength, playing simulation games with some of our guys,” coach Rick Carlisle told Sefko. “Sprinting, moving and all that. It’s never going to be the same as running out there with real NBA players. But you got to do what you can do.”
  • Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni believes improved health will lead to better defense, as he told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets currently rank 26th in that department. Nene and Chris (Paul) coming back, first of all, that’s two of the better defenders in the league, so that helps,” D’Antoni said. “That’s going to take minutes off Clint (Capela) and P.J. (Tucker). So they’ll be better defensively because they won’t be as tired. … We know we need to be in the top 10 to be a real contender.”
  • D’Antoni has high praise for the Timberwolves’ Derrick Rose, who has reinvented himself as a shooting guard, Feigen writes in a separate story. Rose is averaging 19.3 PPG despite starting just five of 21 games. “Accepting new roles is tough. Some guys can do it. Some guys just can’t do it,” D’Antoni said. “They can try to shoot threes all they want. When they can do it, for the team, obviously, it’s beneficial. The league has changed. If you want to be effective, you have to change sometimes.”

Rockets Big Man Nene Ready To Return

Rockets center Nene Hilario is poised to make his season debut on Saturday,  Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Nene suffered a strained calf muscle during the preseason.

“The important thing is I feel better,” Nene told Feigen. “I feel good. I’ve been working. In the last two, three practices I did what I need to do to see the movement I’m going to use in a game, especially in my style, my game style.”

Nene is in his third season with the Rockets. He’s making $3.6MM this season and holds a $3.82MM player option on next season’s contract. He averaged 6.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 14.6 minutes per contest in 52 games last season.

It remains to be seen how much coach Mike D’Antoni will use the veteran. Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark have received most of backup frontcourt minutes behind starting center Clint Capela and power forward P.J. Tucker.

Details On Rockets’, Pelicans’ Trade Offers For Butler

A report over the weekend indicated that the Timberwolves had three trade offers on the table for Jimmy Butler before ultimately deciding to pull the trigger on a Sixers package headlined by Robert Covington and Dario Saric. In their latest report for The Athletic, Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic provide some details on the other two offers Minnesota was considering, which came from the Rockets and Pelicans.

According to Charania and Krawczynski, the Rockets – who had previously offered four first-round picks attached to Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss – adjusted their proposal to make it more appealing to Tom Thibodeau, who remains in win-now mode. Houston’s offer featured Eric Gordon, Nene, and two first-round picks, sources told The Athletic. It’s not clear what sort of protections would have been on those first-rounders, or whether any other pieces were involved.

As for the Pelicans, they weren’t mentioned often over the last couple months as a serious suitor for Butler, but they were engaged in talks with Minnesota at the end of the process. Charania and Krawczynski report that New Orleans’ package was headlined by Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick. Again, it’s unclear what other pieces would have been included in such a deal — Mirotic’s salary wouldn’t have been enough to match Butler’s on its own.

The full report from Charania and Krawczynski is excellent, providing a timeline of the Butler saga from mid-September right up until today. It’s worth checking out in full if you have a subscription to The Athletic.

Here are a few more highlights from the piece:

  • Friday’s game was viewed as a fork in the road for both the Timberwolves and Butler. We previously heard that Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden decided after that game that Butler had played his last game for the team — it sounds like Butler had made up his mind too. According to Charania and Krawczynski, the 29-year-old had decided to begin sitting out indefinitely after that game if Minnesota didn’t trade him.
  • Thibodeau subsequently told his staff after Friday’s game that they had to move Butler, sources tell The Athletic. In fact, the Timberwolves nearly held the All-NBA swingman out of Friday’s game because they already had traction on a potential deal.
  • The Heat‘s original offer for Butler included Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, and a draft pick, per Charania and Krawczynski. Miami later extended Winslow and put Josh Richardson into an offer. However, when a deal involving Richardson fell apart, the Heat pulled him off the table and never included him in another offer.