P.J. Tucker

Rockets Rumors: Harden, Tucker, TPE, Oladipo

When the Rockets finally moved James Harden last week, multiple reports indicated that it came down to the Nets and Sixers. However, those weren’t the only two teams with legitimate interest in the former MVP during the final days of the Harden sweepstakes.

According to Kelly Iko and Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Celtics remained in the hunt for Harden in the later stages of negotiations. While Danny Ainge publicly said that Boston and Houston hadn’t had any recent discussions, sources tell The Athletic that the Rockets saw the C’s as “part of their process” until the end. Iko and Amick report that Houston also received multiple “big” offers from teams that weren’t on Harden’s wish list.

Still, according to The Athletic, by the time Harden gave his infamous final press conference as a Rocket – during which he criticized the team as “not good enough” – he knew a move to Brooklyn was close. He had been receiving regular updates on the situation, per Iko and Amick, who say that the Sixers’ interest was “very real,” but that the Nets kept upping the ante with their offers.

Here’s more on the Rockets and the Harden saga:

  • According to Iko and Amick, Rockets held a team meeting following their second consecutive blowout loss to the Lakers last week, and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both spoke, seeking answers about Harden’s level of commitment, buy-in, and accountability. Harden made it clear during that meeting that the newcomers hadn’t been in Houston long enough to understand what was going on, per The Athletic. Jae’Sean Tate would later describe that meeting as the point where the Rockets “drew the line” on the situation.
  • A contract extension offer is on the table for P.J. Tucker, but he hasn’t accepted it and appears to have tabled those negotiations for now, sources tell Iko and Amick. While Tucker is prepared to spend the rest of the season with the team, he also wouldn’t necessary be opposed to a trade, according to The Athletic. A separate report indicated that the Rockets are demanding three second-round picks in return for the 35-year-old forward.
  • Rockets GM Rafael Stone said over the weekend that the team plans to be aggressive in attempting to use the $10.65MM traded player exception it created in the Harden deal. Iko and Amick suggest that’s not just posturing — the team has also privately indicated it will attempt to use that TPE to land a quality player.
  • Stephen Silas‘ high opinion of Victor Oladipo was a factor in Houston’s decision to acquire him, Iko and Amick report. The Rockets want to take a serious look at Oladipo in the coming months and decide whether he fits into their long-term plans. For his part, Oladipo intends to evaluate the fit as well, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “If things work out, if I’m happy,” Oladipo said, adding that he’s “blessed and fortunate” to be in Houston. “Essentially, it’s like a business plan. You have to go through every aspect of the business plan, kind of figure out if you want to invest in it.”

Rockets Seeking Three Second-Round Picks For Tucker?

After replenishing their stash of first-round picks by acquiring four first-rounders (and four more potential pick swaps) in their deal sending James Harden to Brooklyn, the Rockets are reportedly looking to stockpile second-round picks if they move forward P.J. Tucker.

League sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Rockets are currently demanding three second-round picks in return for Tucker, who has been receiving trade interest from teams around the NBA.

[RELATED: Wolves Expected To Re-Engage With Rockets On P.J. Tucker]

Tucker is a strong, versatile defender and a reliable three-point shooter who is making just $8MM this season, making him an ideal fit for any contender. On the other hand, he’s 35 years old and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so teams may be reluctant to meet Houston’s asking price.

Houston previously traded away its second-round picks in 2022, 2023, and 2027. The team has acquired Golden State’s 2024 second-round selection and has the ability to swap second-round picks with Philadelphia in 2021, but would benefit from landing two or three extra second-rounders for Tucker — those picks could be used to draft cheap young talent in future seasons or could help grease the wheels on future trades.

Within the same Ringer article, O’Connor reports that the Rockets were seeking Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, and three first-round picks from Philadelphia when the two teams discussed Harden last week.

The Sixers were reportedly prepared to surrender Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, but were said to be reluctant to part with Maxey and apparently felt Houston’s final asking price was too high. It’s also unclear how willing Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was to send Harden to Philadelphia, where former Houston GM Daryl Morey is the Sixers’ new president of basketball operations.

Wolves Expected To Re-Engage With Rockets On P.J. Tucker

Now that the Rockets have moved James Harden, there’s an expectation that the team will be more open to trading P.J. Tucker as well. A report earlier this week indicated that multiple teams are asking about Tucker, and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic says the Timberwolves are among the clubs expected to be in the hunt for the veteran forward.

The Wolves, who reportedly inquired on Tucker during the offseason, have been monitoring his situation in Houston since before the draft and have maintained contact with the Rockets since then, according to Krawczynski.

Minnesota’s president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas worked in Houston’s front office before joining the Wolves in 2019, though it remains to be seen whether his friendly relationship with the Rockets’ top decision-makers will help grease the wheels for a potential deal. As Krawczynski points out, Tucker’s versatility and his $8MM expiring contract will make him a logical trade target for several contenders.

Still, the Wolves look like an especially good fit for Tucker, given their lack of reliable options at the power forward spot. Rosas himself has acknowledged that the team could use an upgrade at the four, as Krawczynski relayed earlier in the week.

“The power forward position is probably one of the areas where we have the most questions right now,” Rosas said. “Part of it is there’s some young guys there and we’re trying to get to a good fit. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if we’re not trying to improve and get better and address our needs.”

Having opted for a Harden package loaded with draft picks and swaps, the Rockets would likely prioritize draft assets again in talks for Tucker and would presumably attempt to land a first-round pick. That may reduce the Wolves’ chances, according to Krawczynski, who points out that Minnesota has already traded away a top-three protected 2021 first-rounder and isn’t in a great position to be selling off more picks for a 35-year-old on an expiring deal.

Even if the Rockets do intend to move Tucker, there’s no rush to do so right away, as the trade deadline isn’t until March 25. While we wait to see which other teams might be in the mix for the former Texas Longhorn, it’s worth noting that the Nuggets weren’t among the teams to inquire as of Wednesday night, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link).

Teams Asking Rockets About P.J. Tucker

With the James Harden situation resolved, multiple teams are contacting the Rockets about P.J. Tucker, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

The 35-year-old forward was unhappy about not receiving an extension from the team before the season began. He is making $7,969,537 in the final season of his contract.

The Sixers reportedly wanted to pick up Tucker as part of a Harden trade, but they may not have the same interest level now that Harden is headed to Brooklyn. Daryl Morey, president of basketball operations in Philadelphia, brought Tucker to Houston as a free agent in 2017 when he was general manager of the Rockets.

Tucker is in his 10th NBA season and his fourth in Houston. He is averaging 5.6 PPG this year and is shooting 52% from 3-point range.

Rockets Moving Closer To Harden Trade; Sixers, Nets In Mix

2:34pm: The Sixers, who have traded away a protected 2025 first-rounder, are attempting to scrounge up more draft picks to sweeten the pot for the Rockets, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. As Stein explains (via Twitter), Philadelphia is making an effort to keep Maxey out of a potential deal.

1:47pm: The Rockets continue to haggle over exactly which players and other assets would be included a Harden trade, but league sources say the Sixers appear to be the favorites, tweets Stein.

Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle confirms that Philadelphia has offered Simmons, but says the Rockets and 76ers have yet to agree on the rest of a trade structure. Houston wants Thybulle included in the package, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

1:28pm: The Rockets are pursuing a Sixers trade package that would be headlined by Simmons and Tyrese Maxey, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). The 76ers are known to be interested in P.J. Tucker in addition to Harden, Stein says (via Twitter).

1:13pm: As the Rockets seriously consider their trade options, they conducted today’s practice without Harden in attendance, head coach Stephen Silas told reporters (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon).

We felt that it was best for the group and best for James not to come to practice,” Silas said.

The Rockets plan to keep Harden away from the team until a trade is done, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link). That’s another sign that the team is moving toward finalizing a deal in the very near future.

Woj and Shelburne add (via Twitter) that Houston’s talks with Brooklyn and Philadelphia were gaining momentum in recent days, even before Tuesday’s postgame presser.

1:04pm: It appears the Rockets have increased their efforts to trade James Harden in the wake of his blunt assessment of the team’s shortcomings on Tuesday night. According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, Houston is “sifting through offers” from the Nets and Sixers and could move quickly to complete a deal.

Sources tell Charania and Amick that the Nets have prepared a package that would include four future first-round picks and three pick swaps. Teams are only permitted to trade draft picks up to seven years in advance and can’t leave themselves without a first-round pick in consecutive future seasons, so Brooklyn is essentially willing to put all its first-rounders on the table.

In that scenario, the Nets would presumably trade its 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027 selections and agree to pick swaps for 2022, 2024, and 2026. However, The Athletic’s duo cautions that Brooklyn may hesitate to mortgage so many future assets.

It’s also not clear which players the Nets would make available in such a package. Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link) is among those who have heard that Houston hasn’t been enamored with the players the Nets have to offer. Previous reports have suggested a third team may be necessary to complete a trade sending Harden to Brooklyn, but it’s not clear if the 31-year-old’s comments on Tuesday night changed the equation and prompted the Rockets to lower their asking price a little.

As for the Sixers, Charania and Amick note that the Rockets have pursued a package headlined by Ben Simmons. The report doesn’t make it explicitly clear whether or not Simmons is on the table, but suggests he could be had. According to The Athletic, the Rockets and 76ers have also discussed Matisse Thybulle, a player Houston likes.

While Harden has expanded his list of preferred destinations beyond Brooklyn and Philadelphia, those were said to be the first two teams he expressed interest in joining and are still believed to be atop his wish list. Both teams make sense as fits, since they have the assets to acquire Harden without giving up their very best players.

Joining the Nets would give Harden the opportunity to reunite with former teammate Kevin Durant, while heading to Philadelphia would see him rejoin former Rockets GM Daryl Morey and team up with star center Joel Embiid.

Extension Rumors: Z. Collins, Allen, Tucker, Mykhailiuk, Markkanen

Like his teammate Gary Trent Jr., Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins doesn’t intend to sign a contract extension with the club before the season, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Agent Mark Bartelstein tells Scotto that discussions with Portland on a long-term deal for Collins will be tabled until the 2021 offseason.

“(Blazers president of basketball operations) Neil (Olshey) and I have talked quite a bit about Zach, and there’s no question how strongly the Blazers feel about him,” Bartelstein said. “We both feel that an extension probably just doesn’t make sense at this time based on Zach not having a chance to play as much last year due to his injuries.

“Everyone’s focus right now is on getting Zach back to full health and having a terrific season, and then Neil and I will sit down and get to work on a contract this summer.”

Collins missed most of the 2019/20 season due to a shoulder injury, then had to be shut down early during the summer restart thanks to ankle surgery. He only played a total of 11 games in his third year, so he’ll look to make a stronger impression during the fourth and final year of his rookie contract in ’20/21.

Here’s more from Scotto on potential candidates for contract extensions:

  • The Nets have had exploratory discussions with center Jarrett Allen about a possible rookie scale extension, according to Scotto, who hears from a source close to Allen that the big man has enjoyed learning from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and wants to remain in Brooklyn long-term.
  • Scotto confirms that P.J. Tucker and the Rockets are engaging in extension talks, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reported on Friday. If the two sides don’t reach a deal and Tucker becomes available in trades, Houston should have no problem finding suitors — multiple teams have expressed interest in acquiring him, says Scotto.
  • There’s mutual interest between the Pistons and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in a potential extension, writes Scotto. Mykhailiuk, who will become a restricted free agent in 2021 without a new deal, would be eligible for up to $53.76MM over four years. That’s probably higher than Detroit would be willing to go, but it’s worth noting that the third-year guard made 40.4% of his three-pointers in 2019/20 and sharpshooters like Davis Bertans and Joe Harris did very well in free agency.
  • Although the Bulls and Lauri Markkanen have both publicly expressed a desire to finalize a rookie scale extension by Monday’s deadline, the team sides remained far apart heading into the weekend, according to Scotto.

Rockets, P.J. Tucker Continue Extension Talks

The Rockets and P.J. Tucker have continued to discuss a possible contract extension for the veteran forward, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Tucker’s agent Andre Buck and Rockets general manager Rafael Stone had a conversation on Friday morning, Feigen adds.

Although no deal is imminent, there’s some optimism that “there may be something there,” Feigen hears from a person close to the situation. That source tells The Houston Chronicle that both sides are “hopeful” they’ll be able to work something out.

The lack of a contract extension has reportedly been a major source of frustration for Tucker, who has been seeking a new deal since at least the summer of 2019. His current contract will pay him $7.97MM in 2020/21 before expiring, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this season if he doesn’t agree to terms with the Rockets before then.

According to Feigen, Houston will likely offer Tucker a two-year extension — a longer deal would be all but impossible due to the NBA’s over-38 rule. A new two-year contract for Tucker could be worth up to nearly $25MM, including a first-year salary of $12MM (120% of the league’s estimated average salary). Feigen suggests that the amount of guaranteed money in the second year of such an offer may be a sticking point in negotiations.

Tucker has been a crucial part of Houston’s rotation since joining the team in 2017. Over the last three years, the 35-year-old – who hasn’t missed a single game due to injury – has knocked down 36.9% of his three-point attempts while playing stout defense against opposing big men in small-ball lineups.

While December 21 is the deadline for rookie scale extensions and certain veteran extensions, Tucker will remain eligible to sign a new deal during the regular season, so he and the Rockets don’t necessarily have to resolve the situation within the next few days. Still, the Rockets – who are still dealing with a disgruntled star in James Harden – may be motivated to get something done to ensure they don’t have another unhappy veteran in their starting lineup.

Southwest Notes: Vassell, DeRozan, Tucker, Pelicans, Redick, Bledsoe

Spurs swingman DeMar DeRozan is helping to teach rookie Devin Vassell the nuances of the NBA game, Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News writes. Vassell was selected with the 11th overall pick in the draft and also plays on the wing. “A lot of times, even in practice, he comes to me and asks questions,” DeRozan said. “That’s big for a young guy to to be able to come to our vets and just ask questions, ask what he is doing wrong, what he can do better.” Vassell had 12 points, six rebounds and three steals in 24 minutes during his preseason debut.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Seeking an extension, Rockets forward P.J. Tucker says he wants to go “where I am wanted,” Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Tucker promises to “do my job” even if the club doesn’t offer him an extension. Tucker, who will make approximately $7.97MM this season, will enter unrestricted free agency next summer.
  • The Pelicans’ acquisition of center Steven Adams from the Thunder and subsequent decision to give him an extension was a head-scratcher, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. They could have instead acquired a better shooter in Al Horford or re-signed Derrick Favors. They also would have been better off holding onto George Hill, rather than dealing him in the same multi-team trade involving Denver and Oklahoma City, Hollinger contends. Hill is a better shooter than Eric Bledsoe and New Orleans also has enough depth at the point, Hollinger adds.
  • Bledsoe will have to pass a series of tests before he can rejoin the Pelicans, coach Stan Van Gundy told The Athletic’s Will Guillory and other media members (Twitter link). Bledsoe left the market due to a personal matter and missed a COVID-19 test. J.J. Redick was held out of the team’s preseason game on Monday due to contact tracing.

Harden Practices With Rockets, Will Play Tuesday

After registering six negative coronavirus tests, star guard James Harden practiced with the Rockets on Monday for the first time this season, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Head coach Stephen Silas, who confirmed that P.J. Tucker also returned to practice for the Rockets, said that both Harden and Tucker looked “very good.” Silas added that he and Harden had a good conversation, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link).

He was locked in and asking good questions,” Silas said of Harden, adding that the plan is for the 31-year-old to play in Houston’s preseason game on Tuesday vs. San Antonio (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN).

As we relayed this morning, Harden hasn’t backed off his desire to be traded at all and is still pushing Houston to move him. However, he has reportedly told the team that he’ll be “professional and engaged” until a trade occurs, recognizing that keeping his value high will increase the Rockets’ chances of finding a deal they like.

It doesn’t appear that any Harden trade talks have gotten serious so far, with teams unwilling to meet the Rockets’ high asking price so far. Yaron Weitzman reported earlier today (via Twitter) that Houston wants three first-round picks in addition to Ben Simmons in a deal with Philadelphia. I’m skeptical that the Rockets’ asking price will stay that high, but given that the Sixers haven’t even put Simmons on the table yet, it’s fair to assume the two sides remain far apart.

Rockets Notes: Tucker, Harden, Morey, Wall, Cousins

Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, after not traveling with the team for this weekend’s preseason games, is expected to join the team for Monday’s practice and could play Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link). Tucker, 35, had reported to camp a day late and had been limited during practices as the team ramps up his activity.

As we previously relayed, Tucker has been upset about not receiving an extension from the Rockets. In fact, Tucker’s desire to remain in Houston long-term dates back to at least June 2019, when he said he would “love” to discuss an extension. However, major turnover has taken place since then, including the departures of longtime head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey, the recent trade of Russell Westbrook, and the current uncertainty of James Harden‘s future with the franchise.

Over the past few seasons, Tucker has established himself as a core piece of Houston’s lineup. The 6’7″ Tucker shifted into a center role after Clint Capela was traded, paving the way for the Rockets’ small-ball lineup. Tucker excelled in the role as a defensive stopper for the Rockets, in addition to maintaining a near 37-percent clip shooting beyond the arc.

Check out more news and notes around the Rockets organization below:

  • Harden has begun individual workouts with the Rockets as he works toward recording six consecutive negative COVID-19 tests, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. At that point, Harden can begin practicing with the team. The Rockets superstar’s interest in being traded has become a significant talking point in recent weeks, with reports this week indicating that he has expanded his list of preferred destinations beyond the Nets.
  • While Morey’s departure from the Rockets seemed abrupt, he reportedly informed the team he would be leaving his role as GM about a month before the news became public, per Henry Abbott of TrueHoop (subscription required).
  • New acquisitions John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins looked promising during their preseason debuts as Rockets on Friday. Wall, in his first action in over two years coming off heel and Achillies injuries, recorded 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, five rebounds, nine assists and two steals in the Rockets’ 125-104 win over the Bulls. As for Cousins, he saw 15 minutes of action, tallying 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. “Tonight was just great to be back in an NBA game, period,” Wall said after the game, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN.