Tilman Fertitta

Rockets Owner: We’d “Love To Have” Jimmy Butler

While the Heat are regarded as the most serious suitor for Jimmy Butler, the Rockets have also been cited as one of the teams most aggressively looking to acquire the All-NBA wing from the Timberwolves. In a conversation with Steven Godfrey of SBNation.com, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta confirmed that his club would like to trade for Butler – a Houston native – if the price is right.

“We would love to see Jimmy come home to Houston,” Fertitta told Godfrey. “It’s not a financial decision, it’s an assets decision on our part. We’ve got a great basketball team. We think we’re as good as anybody in the league. We’re not going to give up unreasonable assets, to break up this team, to get Jimmy Butler. But we would love to have him.”

The Rockets were said late last month to be making a strong effort to land Butler, though a report last week suggested that the Wolves may be reluctant to send the 29-year-old to Houston, since doing so would help create another super-team in their conference. It’s also not clear what kind of price the Rockets would be willing to pay for Butler — Minnesota would likely ask for Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and draft picks.

Fertitta’s comments – which appear to have been made last month, based on Godfrey’s timeline – probably won’t change the Butler equation at all, but they could result in a fine for the Rockets owner. Executives and representatives for other NBA teams have been hit with tampering penalties for far more innocuous comments about rival players.

Rockets Notes: Carmelo, Knight, Luxury Tax

Carmelo Anthony‘s scoring numbers have been on the decline for the last five seasons, but he was never moved to a bench role in either New York or Oklahoma City — the 10-time All-Star has appeared in 1,054 career regular season games and has started them all.

That may change during the upcoming season, but Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t tip his hand on Media Day, telling reporters – including Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (Twitter link) – that he’s still waiting to see how the pieces fit before decide whether Anthony will start or come off the bench.

Asked about the possibility of coming off the bench, Anthony said no one has had that conversation with him yet. Pushed further on the matter, the veteran forward suggested he’d be open to the idea: “Whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship, that’s what’s going to be done” (Twitter links).

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • New Rockets guard Brandon Knight has an infection “that needs to clear up,” per general manager Daryl Morey (Twitter link via MacMahon). Knight, who recently underwent knee surgery, will be sidelined through the preseason, Morey added.
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta called the luxury tax a “horrible hindrance” and suggested that the franchise may look to avoid the repeater tax down the line (Twitter link via MacMahon). However, he also noted that he’s in Houston to win championships, and an extra $5-10MM won’t stop him from doing so (Twitter link via Kelly Iko of The Athletic). Those tax penalties would only be an issue if the Rockets are still paying them and stop winning, Feritta said.
  • Earlier today, we passed along the latest on the Rockets and draft-and-stash prospect Alessandro Gentile, who doesn’t yet have an agreement in place with the club.

Rockets Rumors: Capela, Luxury Tax, Anthony

In the wake of multiple reports suggesting that the Rockets and Clint Capela aren’t close to reaching a new deal, Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com provides some specific details on the negotiations between the two sides.

Sources tell MacMahon that Houston’s initial offer to Capela was in the neighborhood of $60MM for four years. However, the young center is believed to be seeking a deal similar to the one Steven Adams signed with the Thunder — $100MM over four years.

Accepting an offer in the $60-70MM range would mean earning a lower annual salary than several lesser centers around the NBA, so it makes sense that Capela would be seeking a larger deal. Still, he’ll have to be careful about overplaying his hand. Only the Hawks and Kings still have the cap room necessary to top a $15MM-per-year offer, and neither club seems eager to use its remaining space on a center.

Capela could accept his qualifying offer and hope for stronger outside offers as an unrestricted free agent next summer, but that’s a risky move. That qualifying offer is worth less than $5MM, so if Capela suffers a major injury during the 2018/19 season – like DeMarcus Cousins did in a contract year – he’d regret not having accepted Houston’s best long-term proposal.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Although the Rockets have already lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, new team owner Tilman Fertitta is adamant that the luxury tax isn’t influencing Houston’s roster decisions, as MacMahon details. “We know we’re going to be in the luxury tax, and if you want to compete for a championship, I feel like unless you get real lucky, you’re going to be in the luxury tax,” Fertitta said on Monday. “So it is what it is. … It never even came up in any discussion.”
  • General manager Daryl Morey acknowledged that the Ariza and Mbah a Moute departures will hurt, but sounds optimistic that the team will find a way to fill those newly-created roster holes. “Both Trevor and Mbah a Moute were a big part of our team,” Morey said, per MacMahon. “That’s part of my job and our staff’s job is to put together a new group for this year. We feel confident. We need our best team on April 15. We’re going to either sign or trade or something to get us back to where we need to be, and we also really like our group.”
  • Fertitta also expressed confidence about the Rockets’ roster: “We feel like we were a Chris Paul injury away from being in the Finals, and we feel really good about this year. I think come opening night, I think everybody’s going to be really impressed with the team that we have on the floor.”
  • Within MacMahon’s piece, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms that the Rockets plan to pursue Carmelo Anthony once he’s waived or bought out by Oklahoma City. Many executives around the NBA reportedly view Houston as the frontrunner to land Anthony, and Wojnarowski noted in a tweet that the Rockets are “determined” to sign him.

Rockets Notes: Paul, Capela, Offseason, Gentile

Having assumed control of the Rockets last fall, new owner Tilman Fertitta is entering his first offseason with the franchise, and predictably identified re-signing free agents Chris Paul and Clint Capela as his club’s top priorities, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston relays (video link).

Outside of bringing back those two key players, Fertitta believes the Rockets don’t need to make major adjustments to their roster, though GM Daryl Morey will certainly do all he can to bring in reinforcements. The Rockets’ owner also expressed confidence that the club will be in position to make another deep playoff run next spring.

“We’re going to be back,” Fertitta said, per Berman (video link). “We have a great team, great coaches, and we have a great organization. You’re not going to see a lot of change over the year. You don’t mess with success.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) takes an in-depth look at Houston’s coming offseason, breaking down the possibility of the Rockets acquiring LeBron James, exploring what Chris Paul‘s next contract will look like, and explaining why Clint Capela‘s agent figures to use Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams as points of comparison for his client.
  • Capela is considered a very good bet to return to the Rockets, but Frank Urbina of HoopsHype identifies a few other clubs who could make a play for the restricted free agent this offseason.
  • After initially committing to playing on the Rockets’ Summer League roster this July, draft-and-stash prospect Alessandro Gentile will likely have to miss Summer League and the next FIBA World Cup qualifiers. As Emiliano Carchia of Sportando details, Gentile is undergoing surgery to repair a fractured finger on his right hand.
  • On Tuesday, we took a closer look at the Rockets’ cap situation entering the 2018 offseason.

Rockets Owner OK Paying Tax For Chance At Title

Even after signing Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright this week, the Rockets’ team salary remains slightly below the luxury tax threshold for 2017/18. Next season, however, if the team wants to re-sign players like Chris Paul, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza – not to mention possibly making a run at LeBron James – going well into tax territory is a virtual lock.

New Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who paid $2.2 billion to buy the franchise from Leslie Alexander before the ’17/18 season got underway, isn’t particularly looking forward to ponying up more money for a luxury tax bill, but he tells Sam Amick of USA Today that he’s ready to do so if it means having a legit chance to win championships.

“The NBA is a tough business,” Fertitta said. “And you can go from making money to losing money very quickly. Everybody has to remember, I did pay $2.2 billion for this team. I didn’t pay $80MM for it, okay? And I’m not worth $20 billion, but I have no problem paying luxury tax if I truly think that it truly gives me the chance to win the championship next year, okay?”

Fertitta’s comments suggest that he won’t simply hand over a blank check to team management — he pointed out that this year’s team is a legit championship contender without team salary going over the tax threshold, hinting that the league’s highest-paid teams aren’t always its best. Still, the Rockets owner has faith that GM Daryl Morey will help him invest his money wisely. According to Morey, the two men have already had conversations about next year’s payroll.

“We’ve talked through (the luxury tax),” Morey said. “We’re going to be in the tax next year, and…nothing’s going to hold him back from putting together a championship team. He obviously has the money; he just paid the highest amount ever for a team.”

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Moore, Bickerstaff

A number of Rockets players have seen new opportunities arise following James Harden‘s hamstring injury, among them journeyman Briante Weber and Houston native Gerald Green, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes.

The Rockets have opted to slot supersub combo guard Eric Gordon in as the starting two beside Chris Paul, allowing Weber to fill the role of primary backup point guard. Green, similarly, has seen an opening as the team’s backup shooting guard.

Green, a 31-year-old, 11-year veteran, signed with the Rockets in late December while Weber, a two-way signee, has spent the majority of the campaign with Houston’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley.

Including the 27 points he dropped off the bench on Wednesday, Green is averaging 13.8 points per game for the Rockets while Weber has seen his role with the big league club grow considerably since December 22.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans can attribute much of their success this season to the hot hand of seven-year veteran E’Twaun Moore, John Coon of the New Orleans Advocate writes. “He’s a good shooter and he’s had more opportunities than he normally would have during a season,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’ve got two really good big guys in there and they create double-team situations and they’re very unselfish players, so they’re willing passers.
  • While interim Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has embraced some of the team’s young players, the results on the court aren’t all that different than what previous coach David Fizdale was producing. Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes that the new bench boss remains committed to the team’s process.
  • New Rockets owner Tilman Feritta isn’t phased by the team’s recent slide, Sam Amick of USA Today writes. “I’m not worried about [the struggles]“, Fertitta said. “It’s a five-game stretch. Hopefully we have all of our downs now and we have all of our ups later. It’s amazing what injuries have to do with these teams winning and losing, too.”

Southwest Notes: Parsons, Matthews, Nelson, Rockets, Spurs

Chandler Parsons stint with the Grizzlies has not gone according to plan. The former Rockets and Mavericks standout has been hampered by knee injuries, including three knee surgeries the last three years. Now, after playing just 15 minutes in Memphis’ first few regular season games this year, Parsons is frustrated with his limited playing time, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal writes. 

“It sucks right now playing 15 minutes a night to be honest with you,” Parsons said. “But they have a plan in place that, hopefully, I’ll be playing big minutes when it matters.”

Parsons appeared in just 34 games last season, averaging 6.2 PPG and 2.5 RPG in a career-low 19.9 minutes per game. After signing a four-year, $94MM deal with the Grizzlies in July 2016, Parsons has not come close to his past performance. If he continues to show he’s over his prior knee injuries, the Grizzlies will look salvage the remainder of their pact with the 28-year-old.

Check out more news coming out of the Southwest Division:

  • Wesley Matthews‘ early season struggles may seem to be the perfect chance to bench him but if the Mavericks ever intend on trading him, they must do it while his value is high, Eddie Sefko of Dallas Sports Day writes.
  • Veteran Jameer Nelson endured a 10-hour journey from Philadelphia to Los Angeles to join his Pelicans teammates for a Sunday evening contest against the Lakers. As William Guillory of NOLA.com writes, Nelson, 35, posted five points and five assists in 24 minutes — including a clutch three-pointer — to help New Orleans avoid a loss in a game they once led by 22 points.
  • New Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said that James Harden is “truly the best player in the NBA” as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes.
  • Olivier Hanlan, a former second-round pick by the Jazz from 2015, has joined the Spurs’ G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, according to Chris Reichert of 2Ways10Days (Twitter link). San Antonio currently holds Hanlan’s NBA rights, having acquired him in last year’s Boris Diaw swap.

New Rockets Owner Open To Selling Shares To Beyoncé

New Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta isn’t planning on bringing in any shareholders, but he indicates that he would make an exception for Houston native Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Scott Soshinick of Bloomberg.com relays.

“I prefer to own 100 percent,” Fertitta said. “If somebody as special as a Beyoncé or somebody like that wanted to come in for a tiny percentage because they wanted to be an ambassador for the team because this is their hometown — would I sit down and discuss it with them? Yeah, I would sit down and discuss it with them. It’s a compliment to have somebody like Beyoncé to want to be a part of your team.”

Beyoncé considered an investment in the franchise when former owner Leslie Alexander put the team on the market over the summer. It’s uncertain whether or not the pop icon has interest in an arrangement with Fertitta.

It’s also unclear whether or not the NBA would allow Beyoncé to become a stakeholder in the team since her husband Jay-Z currently runs the Roc Nation Sports agency, which represents several NBA players. Jay-Z was forced to sell his minority stake in the Nets when he started the agency

It’s fair to speculate that the league would at least sit down with the power couple to discuss the potential issues with Beyoncé owning a slice of the Houston franchise. While there have been no reports indicating that the 20-time Grammy winner would face obstacles from the league on her way to owning a share of the Rockets, the potential for conflict of interest would exist.

It’s becoming more common for North American franchise owners to sell minority shares to celebrities. Justin Timberlake currently owns a piece of the Grizzlies, while Will Smith has a minority stake in the Sixers.

New Rockets Owner Discusses Front Office, Team

Tilman Fertitta, who recently bought the Rockets from Leslie Alexander for $2.2 billion, does not plan on making any immediate changes to the team, Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com relays. The Texas businessman will have the final say on future personnel matters that involve the luxury tax, though he will lean heavily on GM Daryl Morey and his staff with decisions that concern basketball operations.

“I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know,” Fertitta said. “On the business side, I’ll be a huge support to [Rockets CEO Tad Brown], not that he needs it. I’m into details. I’m not into micromanaging. But I can tell you this, I thought I knew a lot about basketball. I’ve learned more about basketball in the last 30 days than I learned in the last 30 years, hanging around Daryl and the basketball people. It’s a different technology and a different science than what the fan sees. Like I said, I know what I know and what I don’t know. I just don’t want surprises.

“Are there tough decisions to make? Absolutely. And does the buck stop with me when things are good and they’re bad? Yes, but I rely heavily, heavily, heavily on the people that get up and do this every day.”

Fertitta added that he feels Morey is the “best general manager in the NBA.” Morey pulled off one of his most impressive accomplishments this summer, bringing in Chris Paul in a trade that was made possible in part by a series of smaller deals. The new owner is thrilled to have a pair of superstars on his side.

“To walk into this situation with James Harden and Chris Paul is unbelievable,” Fertitta said. “You’ve got to remember the name of the game is to get to the playoffs, and this is a superstar league. You are not going to get to the playoffs every year and likely make it to the second round if you don’t have a James Harden playing for you. You add a guy like Chris Paul, and you should get to the Western Conference finals.

“That’s the way the league’s going is two or three stars per team. And you know what? If we don’t get where we need to be this year with two superstars … we’re going to make good decisions, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to win. I can promise you that.”

Tilman Fertitta Approved To Buy Rockets

OCTOBER 6: NBA owners have approved the sale of the Rockets to Fertitta, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets. The Houston billionaire was approved 30-0.

SEPTEMBER 5, 9:13am: The Rockets have issued a press release confirming that a “definitive agreement has been signed” for the purchase of the franchise by Fertitta. The deal will require the approval of the NBA’s Board of Governors. According to the Rockets, Fertitta has “no other partners in connection with the transaction.”

8:37am: The sale price for the Rockets will be $2.2 billion, per Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg (Twitter link).

8:34am: Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta has reached an agreement to buy the Rockets from current team owner Leslie Alexander, sources tell Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. According to Berman, the franchise could announce the deal as soon as today.

Rockets CEO Tad Brown announced back in mid-July that Alexander was putting the club up for sale, and we heard just a couple days later that that Fertitta, a Texas native who founded Landry’s restaurants and owns multiple hotels and casinos, was interested in making a bid for the franchise.

“[I] just hope it doesn’t go for crazy numbers,” Fertitta said at the time. “I’ve never really wanted to own a professional team outside of Houston. Houston is my hometown and the place I would prefer to own a professional team.”

Despite Fertitta’s hope that the Rockets wouldn’t sell for “crazy numbers,” it appears he was willing to make a substantial offer to finalize the deal. Confirming that an agreement is in place, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter) that the sale is expected to break the NBA record $2 billion price tag on Steve Ballmer‘s purchase of the Clippers.

Even back in February, before the Rockets won a playoff series, traded for Chris Paul, and extended James Harden, Forbes placed a $1.65 billion valuation on the franchise, and Forbes’ estimates for professional sports teams are often low. Berman notes that Forbes has estimated Fertitta’s net worth to be $3.1 billion.

For Fertitta, while this will be his first time as a controlling owner, it won’t be his first foray into sports franchise ownership. He has previously been a limited partner with the Rockets and the NFL’s Houston Texans.

Although Berman’s report suggests that Fertitta is poised to become the controlling owner of the Rockets, it’s not clear whether he’ll be joined by a series of minority investors or if any big names will be part of his group. Since that July announcement that the Rockets were up for sale, multiple former players – including Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, and Elvin Hayeshave expressed interest in becoming part of an ownership group. Pop star Beyoncé also reportedly had interest in becoming a minority stakeholder in the franchise.

Alexander bought the Rockets for $85MM back in 1993, and has overseen the team since then, including during its two championship seasons in the mid-1990s.