August 27, 2015 at 9:51 am

Chuck Hayes not signing back with Rockets after all

Chuck Hayes Houston Rockets

Chuck Hayes was all but back in his Rockets uniform, with Bill Worrell warming up his “There’s no mamby pamby in the Chuckwagon” calls, but in the end, it didn’t come together.

Hayes won’t be coming back to the Rockets after all, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

“Due to limited roster flexibility (and) other financial considerations, Chuck Hayes will not be signing with the Rockets as previously announced,” said Hayes’ agent, Calvin Andrews.

Hayes was once an anchor of a strong Houston Rockets defense, having played here from 2005 to 2011. Hayes left for the Sacramento Kings as a free agent before the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season.

This is not the first time a deal with the Rockets fell through for Hayes. The undersized center had an agreement in 2011 to stay with Houston rather than sign with Sacramento, but the Pau Gasol trade fell through for “basketball reasons,” which changed the plans.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
August 20, 2015 at 9:51 am

Podcast: Talking Rockets, Vipers with new RGV Coach Matt Brase

matt-brase-houston-rockets

There is no one more uniquely qualified to be the new head coach of the Houston Rockets’ D-League affiliate than Matt Brase.

Brase is a former assistant coach with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and was the Rockets’ Director of Player Development for the past two seasons, working closely with every player. Brase was announced as the new head coach of the Vipers this week.

In our conversation, Brase, the grandson of Arizona legend Lute Olson, talks about his basketball background and philosophy, his plans for the Vipers and how he balances Rocket player development with NBADL success. We also talk about what he saw from some of the young guys at Summer League and cover the current Rockets as well — from Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones to Ty Lawson and James Harden.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
August 18, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Jason Terry returns to Rockets

Jason Terry returns Houston Rockets

Veteran guard and three-point marksman Jason Terry is returning to the Houston Rockets for the 2015-16 season, a source confirmed to ClutchFans.

The news was first reported by Shams Charania of RealGM.com.

Terry averaged 7 points in 21 minutes per game with the Rockets last season, including a team-best 39% shooting from behind the arc. Now a 16-year NBA veteran, the 37-year-old Terry — known fondly as “Jet” — was widely regarded as one of the leaders in the Houston locker room.

With Pat Beverley out due to injury, Terry started all 17 of Houston’s playoff games at point guard — scoring 9.2 points and dishing out 2.8 assists in just under 29 minutes per game.

Terry enters the 2015-16 season as Houston’s third point guard following the July acquisition of Ty Lawson and the re-signing of Beverley. But with Lawson facing a possible suspension to start the season, Terry could see minutes early in the year as Beverley’s primary backup. He could also play at shooting guard behind James Harden and the newly-acquired Marcus Thornton.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , |
August 12, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Rockets will host Spurs on Christmas Day, Warriors on New Year’s Eve

Houston Rockets San Antonio Spurs Christmas Day 2015

Training camp opens next month and now we know what the 2015-16 schedule will look like.

The Houston Rockets will open the season on Wednesday, October 28th, at home against Ty Lawson‘s former team the Denver Nuggets (this news was actually posted nearly a week ago by insider cyberx on the forums). Of course, Lawson is unlikely to play (suspension likely coming) and Dwight Howard also will miss this game due to his one-game suspension.

But Howard returns for a big one, and it’s fitting — Game 2 has the Rockets hosting Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on October 30th in a rematch of the Western Conference Finals. Howard’s suspension came when he hit a technical foul playoff limit in Game 5 of that series.

It doesn’t get much easier as the Rockets travel to Miami for their third game, then return home to face Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, in the first eight days of the regular season, the Rockets will play four home games. The schedule is very home-heavy to start.

Here are some key notes about the schedule:

  • The Rockets will host Chandler Parsons, DeAndre Jordan Roy Hibbert Samuel Dalembert and the Dallas Mavericks on November 14.

  • As has become tradition, the Rockets will play a series of home games during Thanksgiving week, but won’t play on Thanksgiving Day. New York and Memphis are two of those home games.

  • The Rockets will play on Christmas Day at home at 7:00 PM against LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs. That will be a big one.

  • The Rockets will also play on New Year’s Eve Night at Toyota Center. That has usually been against a weaker opponent. Not this time — Golden State will be on the menu as they break in 2016.

  • The James HardenLeBron James duel at Toyota Center last year was a classic. That rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers is set for January 15th in Houston. They will play again in Cleveland in late March.

  • Josh Smith and the Los Angeles Clippers return to Houston on December 19 at Toyota Center. They also play in Los Angeles on MLK Day, January 18, at 9:30 PM Central in a game televised on TNT.

  • The Rockets will play 9 of 11 games on the road after the All-Star break in a span from February 19 to March 12. That includes a 5-game East swing of Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston and Charlotte.

  • The Rockets play only three homes games in the month of February.

  • Need a strong closing stretch? The Rockets may have that opportunity as their final four games are against likely lottery teams — home games against the Suns and Lakers, a road matchup with the Timberwolves and a home date with the Kings to end the regular season.

  • The Rockets will play 10 games on ESPN, eight on NBA TV, seven on TNT and two on ABC for a total of 27 nationally-televised games.

  • Craig Ackerman and Joel Blank did a video breakdown on Rockets.com of the Rockets 2015-16 schedule.

    Here’s the full schedule in a graphic, courtesy of SportsTalk 790.

    Houston Rockets 2015-16 Schedule

  • Posted in Houston Rockets |
    August 1, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    5 Thoughts After Witnessing Hakeem The Dream Play Once Again

    Hakeem Olajuwon NBA Africa Game

    By now, you’ve seen the clip.

    Hakeem Olajuwon surprisingly made an appearance in today’s NBA Africa Game in Johannesburg and he didn’t disappoint. The Dream, at 52 years old, showed that he’s still got that otherworldly footwork, putting Nicola Vucevic in the spin machine and hitting a 13-foot fadeaway jumper.
    Read More

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    July 30, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Houston Rockets Salary Cap Update: 2015 Off-Season Edition

    Houston Rockets 2015 Offseason

    It’s been an up-and-down journey thus far for Houston Rockets fans this off-season.

    UP:  The Rockets pulled in a nice haul in the 2015 NBA Draft, nabbing Wisconsin small forward Sam Dekker with the #18 pick and stealing Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell with the #32 pick.  Mock drafts had Dekker going as high as #8 and rarely lower than #15; and most mocks had Harrell as a sure-fire first round pick.

    DOWN:  Not long after the draft, word came out that Spanish star point guard (and 2009 second round pick) Sergio Llull had elected not to accept a contract offer from Houston, believed to be for a substantial portion of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (MLE).  One of the world’s best players outside the NBA, Llull represented a potential solution to the Rockets’ point guard troubles.  But, alas, it was not meant to be this summer.  (Note: Llull has since reportedly agreed to a contract extension with Real Madrid that might actually lower his NBA buyout amount for next summer.)

    UP:  Early in the July Moratorium, the Rockets agreed to terms on new deals with Corey Brewer (three years, $23.4 million) and Patrick Beverley (four years, $23 million).  Both signed contracts that decline in salary each year.  Brewer’s starting salary is the maximum amount Houston could sign him to with Early Bird rights; and his total contract pays him the exact same amount as Trevor Ariza over the next three years.  The fourth year of Beverley’s deal (at just over $5 million) is fully non-guaranteed.  Given the contracts that have been handed out this summer, both deals were largely viewed as reasonably good value.

    DOWN:  On July 4, the league’s premier (departing) free agent, LaMarcus Aldridge, announced that he was joining the San Antonio Spurs, shunning the Rockets’ bid for him.  A key reason for the speedy agreements with Brewer and especially Beverley (a restricted free agent) was to prove to Aldridge that Houston would be fielding a competitive roster.  It is believed that the Rockets were attempting to acquire Aldridge via sign-and-trade using a package centered around Jason Terry (to be signed-and-traded via his Bird rights), Kostas Papanikolaou (and his non-guaranteed contract) and young players and/or draft picks.

    UP:  The Rockets added veteran shooting guard Marcus Thornton on a one-year veteran’s minimum deal.  While not much of a defender, Thornton is expected to provide much-needed three-point shooting to a team that utilizes the three-point shot more than any other team.  He is also capable of the occasional scoring outburst.

    DOWN:  Seeking a more defined role in advance of hitting free agency again in 2016 (and probably also a little miffed that the Rockets were not willing to use their MLE on him), Josh Smith bolted Houston for the Los Angeles Clippers after endearing himself to Rockets fans during the team’s recent playoff run.

    UP:  The Rockets agreed to a new deal with restricted free agent K.J. McDaniels (three years, $10 million, using a portion of the MLE).  The McDaniels contract includes a team option in Year 3; and by virtue of signing him outright (rather than waiting to match an offer sheet he could have signed elsewhere), the Rockets can trade him without restriction after December 15.

    DOWN:  Several hours went by following news of the McDaniels signing without the Rockets making another roster move, leaving many fans to be moderately bored for a short period of time.  But Houston’s most notable off-season move came later that evening.

    Ty Lawson traded Houston Rockets

    In Ty Lawson, the Rockets have that secondary play-maker they’ve lacked

    UP:  Houston pulled off a major trade, acquiring Nuggets star point guard Ty Lawson and a 2017 second round pick in exchange for Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, Joey Dorsey, Nick Johnson, and a lottery-protected 2016 first round pick.  In order to make the salaries match in this trade, the Rockets had to renounce their rights to Terry, whose $8.7 million cap hold came off the books, allowing Houston to take back over 150% of its outgoing salary, which is reserved only for teams whose total team salary (including players’ cap holds) does not exceed the luxury tax threshold upon completion of the trade.

    The downside risk of acquiring Lawson — who not long ago was arrested for his second DUI this year — was mitigated by several factors.  None of the players traded to Denver were in the Rockets’ rotation.  The 2016 first rounder immediately converts to a 2017 second rounder (via Portland) if the Rockets somehow miss the playoffs this season.  But most notably, Lawson agreed to make the final year of his contract (for over $13.2 million) fully non-guaranteed, essentially making it like a team option for Houston (although, unlike with a “real” team option, the Rockets would not have any Bird rights to Lawson next summer if they waived him).  At worst, the Rockets will have wasted a draft pick and some money on a troubled point guard.  At best, Lawson can be that second ball-handler and shot creator the Rockets desperately missed in their recent playoff run.

    With those ups and downs out of the way (and with more sure to come), it’s time to once again take a look at the team’s salary cap situation and where the Rockets can go from here.

    Player Salary, Exceptions and Available Cap Room

    The Houston Rockets currently have the following player salary commitments, cap holds and salary cap exceptions available for the 2015-16 season:

    Player salary commitments:  Dwight Howard ($22.36 million), James Harden ($15.76 million), Lawson (12.4 million), Brewer ($8.23 million), Ariza ($8.19 million), Beverley ($6.49 million), McDaniels ($3.19 million), Terrence Jones ($2.49 million), Donatas Motiejunas ($2.29 million), Dekker ($1.65 million), Clint Capela ($1.24 million) and Thornton ($947,276).

    Cap holds:  None.

    Other Salary Cap Exceptions:  Houston has some small trade exceptions from the Alexey Shved ($1.62 million), Isaiah Canaan ($816,482) and Troy Daniels ($816,482) trades.

    The Rockets used a portion of the MLE — which can be either the Non-Taxpayer MLE ($5.464 million) or the Taxpayer MLE ($3.376 million) — on McDaniels.  If Houston elects to use the Non-Taxpayer MLE (of which they will have about $2.27 million remaining) this season, it will be subject to a hard cap at the “apron” level of $88.74 million.

    The maximum team salary (or “soft” salary cap) for 2015-16 came in at $70 million, with the luxury tax threshold coming it at $84.74 million, both numbers a little higher than projected.  However, based on their existing salary commitments (totaling over $85.2 million thus far), the Houston Rockets are officially over the luxury tax threshold.

    More Moves Coming

    With the Rockets already in tax territory, they need to be very careful about their next moves; but with only 12 players under contract, they still need to add to their roster in advance of training camp in a couple of months.

    Reports are that Houston has agreed to terms with former Rocket Chuck Hayes on a one-year (partially guaranteed) veteran’s minimum deal to re-join the franchise that gave him his NBA start.  Assuming that Hayes makes the roster and is not waived before January 10 (when all NBA contracts become fully guaranteed), Hayes will make nearly $1.5 million this year based on his years of service in the league; however, by signing Hayes to a one-year deal, the Rockets will only have to pay him the two-year veteran’s minimum salary ($947,276, which will also be his cap hit), with the league picking up the tab for everything above that amount.  (Thornton is in a similar situation on his one-year deal, getting paid nearly $1.2 million, with only $947,276 of that coming from Houston.)

    There are also reports that the Rockets have extended a contract offer to Terry, presumably also a one-year veteran’s minimum deal.  While Terry may still be negotiating for a second year on his deal, that concession could be costly to the Rockets, both this season and next.  Terry’s minimum salary (like Hayes) is nearly $1.5 million this year; however, for two-year minimum deals, the team is on the hook for the player’s full salary (and the cap hit would match that salary).  Signing a two-year deal with Terry would cost the Rockets an extra $1.38 million this season in salary and luxury tax than what they’d pay for a one-year deal, let alone the salary commitment for 2016-17.

    Shortly after the draft, it was reported that the Rockets had reached an agreement to sign undrafted free agent Christian Wood to a contract.  Presumably, it is a two-year minimum deal with a partial guarantee.  Although his rookie minimum salary would be $525,093, for purposes of determining whether the Rockets are over the luxury tax threshold or the apron level, his cap figure will be the two-year veteran’s minimum salary ($947,276).

    Because the Rockets are over the luxury tax threshold, each veteran’s minimum signing will cost owner Les Alexander at least an extra $1.42 million in luxury tax (or more, if an older vet is signed to a two-year deal), on top of the player’s actual salary.

    The Curious Case of Montrezl Harrell (and the MLE)

    Montrezl Harrell Summer League Rockets

    Montrezl Harrell is worth a portion of the MLE, but at what cost to the Rockets’ cap flexibility?

    Probably the most intriguing roster move may relate to what the Rockets do with Harrell.  As a high second round pick, Houston ideally would like to sign him to a three- or four-year deal paying above the minimum salary using the MLE.  Some players drafted shortly after Harrell have received some relatively sizable contracts, such as #33 pick Jordan Mickey (four years, $5 million, presumably with over $3 million guaranteed) and #36 pick Rakeem Christmas (four years, $4.3 million, with $3.15 million guaranteed).

    Unfortunately, while Houston still has more than enough remaining of the Non-Taxpayer MLE to give Harrell a similar deal, the Rockets are dangerously close to the apron level, where they would be hard-capped if that MLE were used.  Assuming that Terry, Hayes and Wood are all added on minimum deals, the Rockets would only have enough space to pay Harrell about $665,000 in Year 1 of an MLE deal without salary being cut elsewhere.  This would also limit the Rockets’ ability to add any more salary, even for 10-day contracts and other minimum salary signings.  The hard cap is truly a HARD cap.

    For these reasons, it seems that the likeliest course of action (barring a trade involving Harrell or otherwise freeing up a meaningful amount of salary) would be to sign Harrell to a one- or two-year rookie minimum deal.  However, Harrell does not have to accept a two-year minimum deal if he does not want to.  He could instead opt to accept a one-year non-guaranteed contract for the rookie minimum — the required minimum tender for the Rockets to retain his NBA rights — and become a restricted free agent next summer.  This was the same strategy used by McDaniels last year with the Philadelphia 76ers, and that strategy clearly paid off for K.J. this summer.  But McDaniels had the benefit of assured playing time on a horrendous Sixers team, whereas Harrell will likely be relegated to the D-League for most of this season, with no assurances of NBA playing time on a talent-laden Rockets roster.

    With Harrell not being signed to an MLE deal, the Rockets would be free to sign as many minimum contracts as they wish in order to fill out their training camp roster and would be free to make trades taking back additional salary (although they will likely be limited to the 125% matching rules for taxpaying teams).  Of course, any additional salary would still be subject to payment of the luxury tax.

    To Extend or Not to Extend?

    Another key issue on the table for the Rockets this off-season: whether or not to extend the contracts of Jones and/or Motiejunas.  Each is eligible for an extension of their rookie contracts, which can be up to four (new) years in length and at up to the maximum salary (based on the new increased salary cap), although odds are that each would get less than that on an extension.

    As Bobby Marks wrote about recently, Jones and Motiejunas could be two of the most highly coveted free agents next summer.  With the vast majority of teams expected to have copious amounts of cap room, and with the league mandating a minimum team salary at 90% of the new salary cap, teams will be spending like drunken sailors, out of both desire and sheer necessity.

    Terrence Jones Donatas Motiejunas

    Both Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas are due lucrative new contracts next summer

    But even with the imminent threat of them being poached in free agency next summer, it is not expected that the Rockets will take the extension route with either player.  If allowed to hit free agency, each would have a much lower cap hold than what he would likely get on an extension or in free agency ($6.22 million for Jones; $5.72 million for Motiejunas).  Having those lower cap holds gives the Rockets greater flexibility if they want to pursue another star free agent, such as Kevin Durant in 2016, or other avenues for roster improvement.  The Spurs recently used this strategy (electing not to sign Kawhi Leonard to an extension last summer) in order to gain the cap flexibility to sign Aldridge this summer.

    Don’t be surprised if the Rockets explore trade scenarios for at least one of Jones or Motiejunas, perhaps for a future draft pick or a power forward with more years remaining on his contract.  It is unlikely that Houston can afford (or is otherwise inclined) to re-sign both to large new contracts when both play the same position.  On the other hand, the Rockets may just as well be inclined to let both play out the year and go with whichever player best distinguishes himself.  Or hell, they could re-sign both.  There are options galore on that front.

    Conclusion

    It has been a pretty wild off-season thus far for the Houston Rockets.  With the addition of Lawson, they are positioned as a top title contender this season.  While the likely inability to lock up Harrell on a longer-term deal is not ideal, it is a small price to pay for avoiding a hard cap and being able to add to the roster and to make in-season moves.  And with a roster lined with veterans on reasonable contracts and first round picks on rookie scale deals, the Rockets have plenty of flexibility going forward, whether via trade, free agency or otherwise.

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    July 21, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    James Harden named MVP in Players’ Awards

    James Harden celebrates Game 5Houston star James Harden was named by his peers as the NBA’s 2014-15 Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the first annual Players’ Awards ceremony, held earlier this week in Las Vegas.

    Harden MVPThe program took place on Sunday, but will be televised Tuesday night on BET at 7:00 Central. The voting results were embargoed for television purposes, but photos showing Harden as the winner have leaked. Other MVP finalists were Golden State guard Stephen Curry, Cleveland forward LeBron James and Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook.

    “Our players have long wanted to recognize greatness from within their own ranks, and with the first-ever Basketball Players Awards we have created a vehicle for them to do so,” said Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). “The level of participation from players in the voting process has been overwhelming.”

    The NBPA said it launched the ceremony after union members expressed a desire to vote for categories similar to the ones voted upon by media. In the media race, Harden finished second in MVP voting to Curry.

    The push for the Players’ Awards began in February, when Oklahoma City star (and Harden’s close friend) Kevin Durant said he wanted to take end-of-season awards away from the media and into the hands of the players.

    “They have too much power,” Durant said at All-Star Media Day, even though the media awarded him MVP in the prior season. “The players know each other inside and out. The media isn’t in the film room and goes for sexy names.”

    Curry, who won this year’s media award, also agreed with Durant — saying that players know who is having the best year and stand out among their peers.

    “I think (players) should have a portion of the vote,” Curry told the Dan Patrick Show. “Obviously we’re the ones playing against each other. So I think that should be a part of the vote, for sure.”

    Harden scored a career-best 27.4 points per game last season along with 7.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds in leading the Rockets to the West’s second-best record (56-26), the Southwest Division title and their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 1997.

    UPDATE: Here’s video of Harden winning the award and his acceptance speech.

    Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |
    July 20, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Podcast: Ty Lawson, Houston Rockets Point Guard

    Ty Lawson Houston Rockets Patrick Beverley

    The Houston Rockets’ search for a second playmaker and scorer seemed to be eternal, but it looks like it has seen the end with Sunday’s trade for Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson.

    David Weiner, aka “BimaThug” on the board, joined me on the podcast to discuss Daryl Morey’s big trade for Lawson and what it means for the Rockets. We also discuss their money/cap situation, the K.J. McDaniels signing, Josh Smith bolting for LAC and what’s next for the Rockets.

    And oh by the way, that rumor of Chuck Hayes coming back to the Rockets? Out of nowhere, the Chuckwagon favorited this tweet.

    Chuck Hayes Favorites ClutchFans Tweet


    Maybe Alan Williams isn’t who the Rockets have in mind to replace Joey Dorsey.

    Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |