Thabo Sefolosha

Thabo Sefolosha To Skip Orlando Restart

Veteran Rockets swingman Thabo Sefolosha will be skipping the NBA’s bubble season restart and subsequent playoffs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 36-year-old defensive specialist, who was born in Switzerland, inked a fully guaranteed one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with Houston at the start of the 2019/20 season, but has seen limited rotation minutes. Sefolosha opting out of the bubble will effectively make him an unrestricted free agent, though his contract won’t expire until the fall.

Across 41 games, Sefolosha – a former teammate of Rockets All-Stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook while all three were on the Thunder – averaged 2.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 0.6 APG during 10.6 MPG the 2019/20 season, his 14th in the league. Though just 6’6″, Sefolosha primarily logged time as a power forward in coach Mike D’Antoni and team GM Daryl Morey‘s ultra-small ball Rockets lineups.

Sefolosha relayed his concerns about joining the bubble for an extended duration of time, away from his family with the coronavirus pandemic still on the rise, on an episode Brodie and the Beard, a podcast from Kelly Iko of The Athletic, per a tweet from Iko. In that conversation, Sefolosha called an isolated bubble tenure a “huge commitment.”

[RELATED: List Of Players Opting Out Of NBA’s Restart]

Iko observes in a separate tweet that the Rockets front office has been prepping contingency plans for Sefolosha potentially avoiding the season restart. A substitute for Sefolosha will now be sought by the Rockets. Sefolosha stands to lose about $230K in salary, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

And-Ones: James, Deck, Sefolosha

Despite recent rumors, veteran point guard Mike James is set to stay with CSKA Moscow for three more seasons, according to Varlas Nikos of Eurohoops (Twitter link).

James, 29, is a talented two-way point guard who originally signed a one-year contract with the club last summer. He averaged a scorching 21.1 points per game in the EuroLeague this season, also dishing out 4.3 assists while grabbing 3.3 rebounds per contest.

James holds NBA experience with the Suns and Pelicans, making stops with several teams overseas during his career. He played college basketball at Eastern Arizona (2008-10) and Lamar University (2010-12), later going undrafted in 2012.

Despite transactions being temporarily locked in the NBA and NBA G League, several overseas teams continue to add and lose players amid the coronavirus pandemic. There has been increased optimism about a potential NBA return in recent weeks — something that could happen as early as July.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • There is growing concern within Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid that the team may lose forward Gabriel Deck to the NBA, according to Spanish newspaper AS (as relayed by Sportando). Deck’s contract with the team is set to expire in 2021, with the 25-year-old going undrafted three years ago. Deck averaged 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 20.1 minutes per game in the EuroLeague this past season.
  • Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press interviewed Thabo Sefolosha to get his thoughts on the death of George Floyd and the ongoing topic of police brutality. “I was just horrified by what I saw,” Sefolosha said. “That could have been me.” Sefolosha was involved in a well-documented incident with the New York Police Department in April of 2015 while playing for the Hawks, which resulted in a broken leg upon being arrested.

Rockets Not Motivated By Luxury Tax Concerns?

FEBRUARY 4: Contradicting his original report, Young tweets that he’s been told that Fertitta has given Morey the go-ahead to make deadline deals without financial restrictions. The Rockets’ owner isn’t satisfied with the team’s place in the standings so far and wants to upgrade the roster, Young adds.

While that may be true, Houston is close enough to the tax line that it still wouldn’t be a surprise if the club ducks below it in the coming days.

FEBRUARY 3: The Rockets are looking to shave enough salary off their payroll to avoid the luxury tax, Jabari Young of CNBC.com reports.

The Rockets have been actively engaged in trade talks, most notably dangling center Clint Capela, who is in the early stages of a five-year, $90MM contract. Moving Nene, who has a non-guaranteed $10MM salary for next season, would also contribute greatly toward that goal. The Rockets have approximately $139.9MM in contractual obligations and owner Tilman Fertitta wants to get below the $132MM tax line.

Some league executives believes Rockets GM Daryl Morey is being pressured by Fertitta to decrease salary while simultaneously trying to keep the franchise in championship contention, according to Young.

Fertitta has denied in the past that he’s motivated by luxury tax concerns but the team’s moves the past two years have the look of a franchise trying to dodge the tax, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports notes. The way Houston’s 2018 offseason played out, and the curious moves it make prior to last year’s trade deadline, had the appearance of a team with tax concerns, Feldman continues.

Players like Gerald GreenThabo Sefolosha and Tyson Chandler making the veteran’s minimum could be traded and replaced by players making partial-season minimums, Feldman notes. By tossing in assets to move contracts, the Rockets will hinder their chances of upgrading the team, Feldman adds.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Wings, Chandler

The Rockets have faced some questions this offseason about how two high-usage players like James Harden and Russell Westbrook will complement one another. Executives, scouts, and coaches around the league are curious to see how the Rockets’ half-court offense functions when the two guards are playing together and Harden has the ball, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“That’s the billion-dollar question,” one Western executive said.

Despite some skepticism from outside observers, it doesn’t sound like head coach Mike D’Antoni has spent many sleepless nights poring over X’s and O’s to make sure the Harden/Westbrook combo will succeed, as MacMahon writes.

“We’re not going to make it too complicated,” D’Antoni said of his backcourt. “They’re MVPs. They’ll put up MVP numbers. I don’t have to interject how smart I am. That’ll just screw it up. They’re really f—ing good.”

D’Antoni does have a tentative plan for how to stagger his two star guards though, as MacMahon details. According to the Rockets’ head coach, Harden and Westbrook will likely only share the court for about 19 minutes per game if he sticks to his plan. That approach will give the club the best chance to avoid scenarios in which neither player is on the court.

As we look forward to the Rockets’ opener tonight, let’s round up a few more notes out of Houston…

  • Despite concern that Gerald Green will be out for the season, the Rockets aren’t currently pursuing another wing player, per Kelly Iko and Shams Charania of The Athletic. “We don’t feel as though we’re short of wing shooters,” a team executive said. “We have multiple guys who are interesting.” According to Iko, that exec pointed to Ben McLemore and Thabo Sefolosha as two veteran offseason additions who could contribute.
  • McLemore will have his partial guarantee increase from $50K to $500K later today, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
  • Iko reports in the same story that the Rockets discussed a trade this month that ultimately fell through. According to Iko, another team was interested in giving Houston an asset to take on a player’s contract (likely a small contract, given the Rockets’ cap and tax situation), but eventually pulled back.
  • Although the Rockets made some changes to their roster this summer, they brought back all of their core veteran players. That has helped Tyson Chandler make a smooth adjustment to his new team, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “It helps big-time because you understand your role,” Chandler said. “As a young player, you’re trying to figure yourself out. You don’t know what your role is. You’re trying to create your niche. As an older player, you already know.”

Rockets Notes: Westbrook, Harden, Anthony, Mbah a Moute

Scouts and assistant coaches from rival teams are skeptical that the RocketsRussell WestbrookJames Harden backcourt pairing will work, Sean Deveney of Heavy.com reports. There is widespread doubt that the two stars will blend their games offensively since Westbrook is poor 3-point shooter and prefers to play at a different pace than Harden. Many of those interviewed also predicted the Rockets’ perimeter defense will decline.

“They’re both hardheaded guys and we know Harden’s history with other players there,” one scout told Deveney.

We have more on the Rockets:

  • Owner Tilman Fertitta said he never met Carmelo Anthony and was surprised that his staff decided to part ways with the longtime All-Star after just 10 games last season, he told Ian Begley of SNY. “Basketball ops decided to make a decision and, you know, it kind of surprised me too, as a fan of the Houston Rockets. But I know what I know and I know what I don’t know. And if my basketball ops thought that we should move on, then I sure wasn’t going to tell them not to, even though I thought that Melo’s one the greatest players to ever play the game.”
  • It isn’t out of the question that Luc Mbah a Moute will eventually sign with the Rockets, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Currently a free agent, Mbah a Moute decided not to attend a team mini-camp for veteran free agents in Las Vegas. The team had conversations with him over the summer about a possible return but there was lingering doubt about the health, Iko continues. Though the team subsequently signed Thabo Sefolosha, adding Mbah a Moute to shore up wing depth would be ideal, Iko adds.
  • The addition of Sefolosha became official on Monday. Get all the details here.

Rockets Sign Thabo Sefolosha

SEPTEMBER 23: The Rockets have officially signed Sefolosha, per a tweet from GM Daryl Morey.

SEPTEMBER 20: Thabo Sefolosha will sign with the Rockets, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The veteran swingman is participating in a mini-camp with Houston players and other unsigned veterans this week in Las Vegas.

Sefolosha’s contract will be fully guaranteed, tweets Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic, who adds that the 35-year-old had an impressive performance at Houston’s mini-camp.

Sefolosha spent the past two seasons in Utah, where injuries limited him to a combined 88 games. He appeared in 50 games last season, averaging 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in about 12 minutes per night. He has also played for the Bulls, Thunder and Hawks during his 13 years in the NBA.

The defensive specialist has plenty of ties to the Rockets organization, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). He was a former teammate of James Harden and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, and coach Mike D’Antoni was hoping to bring him to Phoenix in the 2006 draft.

Sefolosha will sign for one year at the veteran’s minimum, according to Feigen (Twitter link). With just 10 guaranteed contracts heading into training camp, the Rockets have been looking for veteran help to fill out their roster.

Sefolosha, Brewer, Felton, Others To Attend Rockets’ Mini-Camp

1:41pm: Mbah a Moute, in a change of plans, won’t be attending the Rockets’ mini-camp in Vegas after all, tweets Iko.

12:13pm: A handful of the most noteworthy veteran free agents on the market will take part in the Rockets‘ upcoming mini-camp in Las Vegas, according to multiple reports. In a series of tweets, Kelly Iko and Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic reported that the following players will participate in the mini-camp:

With the exception of Jones, who has spent six seasons in the NBA, all of these players have more than a decade of NBA experience under their belts, which could make them good fits for a veteran Rockets team seeking depth as it looks to make a championship run this season.

[RELATED: Iman Shumpert turns down Rockets’ contract offer]

Although there’s some positional variety among the free agents who are participating in the Rockets’ mini-camp, it appears the team’s primary focus is on wings. Brewer, Mbah a Moute, Sefolosha, and Young all fit that bill. Mbah a Moute and Sefolosha, in particular, could be nice fits in Houston if they’re healthy, given their three-and-D abilities.

None of these veterans are currently under contract with the Rockets, who are carrying 18 players on their offseason roster. However, a strong showing at this week’s mini-camp could very well result in training camp invites for one or two of these veterans. Houston could bring even more of these players to camp if the team is willing to cut any of its current players to create extra spots on the 20-man roster.

No NBA team has fewer players on fully guaranteed deals than the Rockets, so a couple of the team’s regular season roster spots figure to be up for grabs in the preseason.

Free Agency Notes: Raptors, Stephenson, Kyrie, Sefolosha

The defending-champion Raptors will be a different team in 2019/20, with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and starting shooting guard Danny Green off to Los Angeles. In the wake of Leonard agreeing to join the Clippers and Green committing to the Lakers, Toronto president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri issued a statement thanking the two former Spurs for their contributions to this year’s title team.

“We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA Championship,” Ujiri said. “On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes. As an organization, the Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship.”

After losing two All-NBA caliber defenders in Leonard and Green, the Raptors seem to be seeking out a certain archetype as they peruse the free agent market, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic. As Murphy points out, new additions Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are both versatile forwards with size who should help Toronto maintain its identity as a strong defensive club.

Here’s more on free agency:

  • It doesn’t appear there’s anything brewing at the moment for free agent guard Lance Stephenson, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. According to Agness, Stephenson continues to seek a new contract and may have to settle for a minimum-salary deal.
  • While we already know that Kawhi Leonard reached out to Kevin Durant and Paul George before making his free agency decision, ESPN’s Zach Lowe adds Kyrie Irving to the list of players Leonard explored recruiting. Durant and Irving were set on heading to Brooklyn, so those discussions likely didn’t go far.
  • The Jazz haven’t completed closed the door on the idea of a reunion with free agent wing Thabo Sefolosha, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Speaking to Mark Medina of The Mercury News about his decision to join the Timberwolves, Jordan Bell said he was looking for a team that would give him playing time, rather than seeking out the most lucrative offer available. “An opportunity just to play,” Bell said when asked what he prioritized. “Money wasn’t really the issue.” The former second-round pick is getting a one-year, minimum-salary deal from Minnesota.

Free Agent Rumors: Clippers, Nets, Knicks, Kyrie, KD, More

While the Clippers are generally grouped together with the rest of the Los Angeles and New York teams leading up to free agency as the big-market franchises looking to make a major splash on the free agent market, the Clips’ plans may look a little different than what those other clubs have in mind, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

As Buha explains, the Clippers are unlikely to pursue top point guards like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker due to their “steadfast belief” in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been considered untouchable in trade talks.

Additionally, the Clippers likely won’t attempt to sign a second- or third-tier free agent like Khris Middleton or Tobias Harris unless it’s on a short-term deal, according to Buha, who points out that the team traded away Harris because it didn’t want to cap the roster’s ceiling at “good” instead of “great.”

Instead, the Clippers will focus on the top two free agents in this year’s free agent class – Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard – as well as top trade candidate Anthony Davis. If L.A. is unable to land one of those superstars, the organization figures to remain patient, avoiding a reactionary signing or trade and instead shifting its attention to re-signing its own free agents and making smaller moves, says Buha.

As we wait to see how that plan plays out, let’s round up a few more rumors and notes related to free agency:

  • Within his full report on Kyrie Irving‘s agent change, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski shares some intriguing tidbits on two of this summer’s top free agents. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Irving remains “intensely interested” in the Nets, with the Knicks expected to remain competitive for the star point guard. Both New York teams are still interested in signing Irving and Kevin Durant together, even after KD’s Achilles tear, according to Woj.
  • There’s a feeling in both NBA circles and in the Nets‘ front office that Brooklyn will land at least one star free agent this offseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post explores some potential Plan Bs for the Knicks in the event that they miss out on Durant or back off their pursuit of the two-time Finals MVP at all following his Achilles injury.
  • The Jazz appear likely to lose veterans Ekpe Udoh and Thabo Sefolosha in free agency, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune, who examines the impact the duo had on Utah’s locker room over the last couple seasons.

Jazz Notes: Favors, Ingles, Sefolosha, Udoh

The Jazz have until July 6 to decide whether to keep Derrick Favors for another season, but the 27-year-old power forward is certain that he wants to stay in Utah, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. The Jazz hold a team option on Favors’ $17.65MM salary for next season and will have close to a week to examine the free agent market before making a final decision.

“I have a team option; I need that option picked up! I would prefer to come back here,” Favors told Walden. “The grass is not always greener on the other side. … I’m happy in the situation that I’m in, in the position that I’m in — I think it’s good for me and the organization.”

Utah can open enough cap room to make a maximum offer by letting Favors go. While that’s enticing, several Jazz players are lobbying for the team to keep Favors, and GM Dennis Lindsey admits that he has enormous value.

There’d be no playoffs this season without Derrick, no playoff advancement the two previous years,” Lindsey said. “I get it, I get it — obviously, Jae [Crowder] comes in and we have some more mobility and spacing. … [But] Derrick Favors isn’t part of the problem, he’s part of the solution.”

There’s more today from Utah:

  • After winning 50, 48 and 51 games the past three seasons, it’s time for the Jazz to take some chances to reach the next level, contends Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. That may mean parting with Favors, along with Kyle Korver and Royce O’Neale, who also have non-guaranteed contracts, and letting unrestricted free agents Ricky Rubio and Raul Neto move on. Deveney suggests finding a Rubio replacement by resuming talks with the Grizzlies about Mike Conley or targeting Nets restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell. While Tobias Harris would fit perfectly, Deveney believes he will stay with the Sixers and sees the Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon as a possible alternative.
  • Joe Ingles could be switched to a sixth-man role if the Jazz are able to make an upgrade at the wing this summer, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. Ingles improved as a playmaker this year and his durability makes him valuable however the team decides to use him.
  • As free agents over the age of 30, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh both face uncertain futures in Utah, Sorensen adds in a separate story“I’m going to keep my options open and see what makes sense,” Sefolosha said. “Like I say, I had a great experience here for two years and I think it would be great if I can come back and keep working with this group and keep evolving.”