November 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Terrence Jones appears unlikely to be ready anytime soon

Terrence Jones

The initially not-serious leg injury to Terrence Jones continues to grow more mysterious by the day, with the forward’s absence now at eight games — over two weeks of real time — and counting.

Consider the timeline:

Nov. 3: Jones plays 30 minutes in a 104-93 win in Philadelphia but at much below his usual efficiency, scoring 6 points (3-of-11 FG) and grabbing 4 rebounds. Two nights earlier, Jones led the Rockets with 25 points (10-of-16 FG) and 10 rebounds in a home win over Boston.

Nov. 4: An hour before the Rockets play in Miami, the team lists Jones as out with a “bruised right leg”. Houston Chronicle beat writer Jonathan Feigen hears the injury “does not seem serious”.

Nov. 7: The Rockets update the official listing of the injury to a “Peroneal nerve contusion”, saying Jones will be out one week (same as Patrick Beverley, who was nursing a hamstring strain) and then reevaluated. This remains the last official Jones medical update from the team with a timetable.

Nov. 14: After said week, Kevin McHale says Beverley will be back “much sooner” than Jones. Beverley did, in fact, return for the next game (Nov. 16).

Nov. 17: Play-by-play announcer Bill Worrell says on the Rockets-Grizzlies telecast that the Rockets are “maybe a month or so away” from getting Jones back. If that timeline ends up accurate, meaning Jones returns Dec. 17 — his absence would be 19 games, or nearly 25% of the season.

Nov. 19: Houston’s PR team says a timetable on Jones hasn’t been set and that’s he’s being monitored regularly.

Nov. 20: In an interview with SportsTalk 790, GM Daryl Morey is asked for an update on Jones. His response, transcribed by ClutchFans user J.R.:

It’s a tough one. It came on quick, unexpected. They don’t know what triggered it. The nerve is not signaling his foot well but it’s coming back. It could come back as quick as it went. It’s longer rather than shorter. It’s gonna be awhile is what their best guess is. … They thought it could be caused by getting hit in the leg in a certain spot. The doctors are confident he’ll have a full recovery but don’t know when. If he was you or I, this would not be a big deal. He has full movement but just weaker now. Getting back to being a NBA player, that’s a much bigger difference.”

So in two-and-a-half weeks, this has progressed from “does not seem serious” to still “gonna be awhile”. Considering they’re also challenged up front by a minor knee injury to Dwight Howard and sub-standard play from Jones’ replacement Donatas Motiejunas (5.4 points on 36.7% FG, 5.1 rebounds, PER of 8.1), it’s certainly not welcome news for an already thin group of Rockets’ bigs.

From what I can tell, Morey’s comments look on point. Jones has been seen walking around Toyota Center without a noticeable limp. The issue, of course, is that he’s been in suits rather than basketball gear. His routine walking movement seems fine, but the nerve injury appears to have shut Jones down from any sort of strenuous physical activity.

As a result, the longer this goes on, the trickier it gets. Not only will Jones have to rehabilitate the leg, but he’ll also face a major challenge in regaining the peak conditioning that it typically takes players an entire training camp and preseason to attain. There’s also the issue of Jones’ game being extremely dependent on his speed and athleticism. Naturally, because of all the variables in play, a precise timetable for his return to play is becoming rather difficult.

I reached out to Will Carroll, lead writer for sports medicine at Bleacher Report, to see if he could recall any comparable injuries whose recoveries could serve as a template. Carroll referenced Carson Palmer, the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals (though he’s now out for the season with a torn ACL, a different injury), as a possible analog. Though the nerve injury to Palmer was to his arm rather than his leg, the functionality of the throwing arm for an NFL quarterback would carry similar importance. Palmer, who suffered the injury on Sept. 8, was able to return on Oct. 12.

Summary: The reason no one knows a timetable is because even the Rockets themselves don’t know. The situation remainds fluid. What is clear, though, is this: the longer we go without hearing word of Jones resuming physical activity, the more concerning the situation becomes. It’s a real shame for Jones, who in his third year was off to a very encouraging start (14 points on 52% FG, 7.5 rebounds, 19.4 PER in 29 minutes) as the Rockets’ starter on the front line next to Howard.

In the meantime, starting Saturday, the 9-3 Rockets play five games in eight nights. With some luck, it seems Howard could help out that difficult stretch by returning early next week.

Jones, however, appears much further away, with no resolution on the horizon.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
November 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm

New Dwight Howard documentary is worth the watch

Dwight Howard In The Moment

I had the pleasure of attending the premiere Sunday night of the new Epix documentary “Dwight Howard: In the moment” at the Wortham Center in downtown Houston. The documentary will debut this Wednesday, November 12th, on Epix.

It was a fun night — I got to say it was pretty wild being in this movie theater. It felt like the Houston Rockets were a comic book and I was in their universe. Daryl Morey was in the row behind me, Dwight Howard was a few rows ahead of me and Les Alexander came in and sat down about six seats to my right. I immediately regretted not getting some popcorn sooner as there was no way I was going to make the team owner stand up for me to get by.

Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas and Clint Capela were a few of the Rocket teammates I saw there, and James Harden made his entrance wearing a straw hat, making me question everything I know about fashion.

James Harden straw hat

Enough about that though — the documentary was quite good. I thought I knew a lot about Dwight, but I still learned quite a bit in this film, especially about his childhood and high school days in Atlanta.

There is also a raw honesty about the film. Dwight doesn’t hold back in confessing that he did go to management in Orlando asking for coach Stan Van Gundy to be fired, which led up to the classic interview where Van Gundy outed Dwight for doing it only to have Dwight show up. Even though I’ve seen it several times, the film does a great job of still making you cringe at this moment.

Dwight also admits that he and Kobe Bryant did not have the right chemistry in Los Angeles. Given some of Kobe’s public comments that are presented in the film, he felt there was no way he could win with the fans there. These were two negatives I thought Dwight would want to avoid, but he tackles them head-on in the film and I have to give him credit for that.

The clear high-point of Dwight’s career, which is focused on in the film, is the 2008-09 Orlando team that Dwight led to the NBA Finals. Dwight talks about how close everyone on the team was, and how they had a great chemistry and a lot of fun together. It then talks about how Dwight got a rude awakening to the business side of the league when they traded away Courtney Lee and then Hedo Turkoglu that very summer. They come full circle to Houston in saying that Dwight is finally back with a team that is close-knit and like a family as that Orlando squad was… of course, only a Rocket fan would catch the irony of this as they pan to a photo of Dwight in a huddle with Marcus Camby, Aaron Brooks, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons as they’re making this claim.

One more thing — I’m very familiar with Dwight’s sense of humor so I usually see it coming, but I must say there was a moment early on in the film where Dwight was talking to a nine-year old boy that had me laughing out loud. It’s a great exchange.

The only criticism I would have is that the film felt a little unfinished simply because Howard’s story is unfinished — significant success in the playoffs with the destination he ultimately chose (Houston) would make this a terrific feel-good story, but that’s unwritten as of yet. But whether you’re a Rocket fan or not, you’re going to enjoy this in-depth look at Dwight’s journey.

Interviews from the Premiere:

Posted in Houston Rockets |
November 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

The red-hot 6-0 start for the Houston Rockets

James Harden poster slam

Off to their best start in 18 years, the Houston Rockets are simply rolling right now.

MK Bower of CultureMap joins me on the podcast to talk about the impressive 6-0 start and how this team has changed this season — from the defensive improvement to Trevor Ariza’s impact to James Harden’s commitment on both ends of the floor.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
October 28, 2014 at 11:13 am

Houston Rockets Salary Cap Update

Since striking out swinging for a super-team (a risk that, in this author’s opinion, was well worth taking), the Houston Rockets have been waiting for their next chance to get that significant hit.  So far, there has been a single or two for Rockets GM Daryl Morey; but that situational at-bat has not yet presented itself for the next big swing to be taken.

With the Rockets closing the book on training camp and ready to enter the regular season, it’s time to once again take a look at the team’s current salary cap situation and where the Rockets can go from here.

Player Salary, Exceptions and Available Cap Room

(Salaries and contract information courtesy of ShamSports.com and some good old-fashioned digging.)

Daryl Morey

Daryl Morey is positioning the Rockets to be able to make a significant trade this season

The Houston Rockets currently have the following player salary commitments, cap holds and salary cap exceptions available for the 2014-15 season:

Player salary commitments:

Dwight Howard ($21.44 million), James Harden ($14.73 million), Trevor Ariza ($8.58 million), Jason Terry ($5.85 million), Kostas Papanikolaou ($4.8 million), Terrence Jones ($1.62 million), Donatas Motiejunas ($1.48 million), Clint Capela ($1.19 million), Joey Dorsey ($948,163),  Patrick Beverley ($915,243, non-guaranteed), Francisco Garcia ($915,243), Isaiah Canaan ($816,482), Troy Daniels ($816,482), Nick Johnson ($507,336) and Tarik Black ($507,336, partially guaranteed for $50,000), along with guaranteed money owed to Jeff Adrien ($915,243), Ish Smith ($915,243), Robert Covington ($150,000) and Akil Mitchell ($150,000).

Cap holds:  None.

Exceptions:

(1) a trade exception from the Jeremy Lin trade that allows Houston to absorb one or more contracts totaling not more than $8.47 million (and which CANNOT be combined with other salaries for matching purposes in trades); and

(2) the Biannual Exception (BAE), which allows Houston to sign one or more players to contracts with starting salaries totaling $2.077 million for up to two years in length.

Given Houston’s current salary situation, the Rockets can no longer waive enough cap exceptions and salary to drop below the cap.  Barring another big trade in which meaningful salary is sent out for little/nothing in return, do not expect the Rockets to have any cap room this season.

The Rockets are about $9.6 million shy of the luxury tax threshold and about $13.6 million shy of the “apron” level that also acts as a hard cap for Houston this season.  That should be enough room for the Rockets to utilize most of the Lin trade exception, possibly the BAE, and still use salary matching rules to take on additional salary.  If there is a move to be made for a third star player, don’t expect the luxury tax to be a significant deterrent for Rockets owner Leslie Alexander.

What Are They Doing?

As expected, Houston elected to operate over the salary cap this season, most notably because the combined value of their cap exceptions far exceeded the amount of cap room the Rockets would have had to make player acquisitions.

Instead, the Rockets have been attempting to fill out their bench with shooting (Garcia, Daniels) and defense/toughness (Dorsey, Black), all with league minimum signings.  In fact, other than signing the very raw Capela to his first round rookie scale contract, Houston has only made two additions making more than the league minimum salary since trading for Ariza in mid-July.

Jason Terry Houston Rockets

Jason Terry could be the key salary piece of a trade later this season

Papanikolaou — the 24-year-old Greek small forward whose draft rights Houston held — was lured away from Europe with an eye-popping two-year deal paying him most of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (other than the rookie minimum-sized portion used to sign Johnson to a three-year deal).  Even with the second year being both a team option and fully non-guaranteed until early October 2015 (making his contract a potentially valuable trade asset next summer), a $4.8 million starting salary is far more than players of Papanikolaou’s caliber normally receive when first coming to the NBA.

Terry — the 37-year-old veteran guard whose best days are behind him — was acquired from Sacramento in what was obviously a salary dump for the Kings.  The Rockets received Terry and two potentially valuable future second round picks in exchange for the non-guaranteed contracts of Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson, two players who were never part of the Rockets’ future on-court plans.  (Quick tangent: With the trade of Gee and Hopson, Houston’s total haul from the Omer Asik trade this past July is now Ariza, Terry, a potential lottery pick and two second rounders, making it one of the most underrated deals of the 2014 offseason.)

The Rockets also made some tough final cuts to bring their roster down to the league-mandated 15-man maximum.  The most controversial of the cuts were Adrien and Smith.  Many had felt that Adrien had out-played Dorsey for a backup big man spot; and coach Kevin McHale had been using Smith as his primary backup point guard throughout much of the preseason.

So why take on Terry’s contract (even for the second rounders)?  Why pay Papanikolaou so much?  Why keep Dorsey over Adrien?  And why get rid of Smith?

Why Are They Doing That?

As I mentioned on the podcast with Dave Hardisty back on July 1, the trades of Asik and Jeremy Lin threatened to leave the Rockets devoid of contracts large enough to match salaries in major trades to add talent to the core of Howard, Harden and (now) Ariza.

By acquiring the mid-sized contracts of Terry and Papanikolaou, Morey has put himself in position to at least be able to make trades for players in just about any salary range.

While CBA rules dictate that Terry’s salary cannot be aggregated with other salaries in trades for a period of two months after he was officially acquired (that period expires on November 16), he is immediately eligible to be traded by himself for one or more players making up to nearly $8.9 million.  Even if salary aggregation is required, Terry will be trade eligible long before the next mini-trade season begins in mid-December.

As a signed draft pick (rather than an outside free agent), Papanikolaou became trade-eligible only 30 days after his signing.

The most important part about Terry’s and Papanikolaou’s contracts, however, is their expiration date.  Terry’s contract expires after this season; and Papanikolaou’s has a team option that will most likely be picked up but that won’t remain guaranteed unless he greatly outperforms initial expectations or a major trade is made without using his contract (it being quite likely that Papanikolaou ends up being traded or waived instead).

With both salaries cleared off the books next summer, combined with a potentially huge increase in the salary cap, the Rockets could open up a significant amount of cap room.  Even if both players are waived/renounced, there is still a chance that one or both could be back on next year’s team at a reduced salary.

Joey Dorsey Houston Rockets

The length of Joey Dorsey’s guaranteed contract likely played a role in his making the final roster over Jeff Adrien

None of this is to say that Terry and/or Papanikolaou are not viewed as potential contributors to this Houston team.  But the presence of their mid-sized contracts (versus the bevy of rookie scale and veteran’s minimum contracts currently filling Houston’s roster) will facilitate a variety of trade options that otherwise would not be available to the Rockets, all while still allowing for material cap room next summer.

Dorsey — who had been battling a foot injury for much of training camp — was signed to a two year, $2 million contract this summer, which includes a fully guaranteed salary in 2015-16.  Unlike Adrien (whose contract — while fully guaranteed — would have expired after this season), Dorsey could not be cut without negatively impacting the Rockets’ available cap room in 2015.  That was never really an option for Houston.  This, combined with Capela’s decision not to play overseas this season, resulted in Adrien (who himself battled an ankle injury throughout training camp) being the unlucky “odd man out” among the bigs.

As for Smith (who also had a fully guaranteed one-year deal), his lack of a reliable outside shot — combined with the increasingly impressive preseason performance of Canaan and the growing belief within the organization that Terry can be passable as a backup point guard playing alongside Harden — spelled his doom.  And with the Rockets otherwise lacking in depth at the small forward position behind Ariza and the rookie Papanikolaou, roster balance dictated that Garcia should claim a roster spot over Smith.

Conclusion

Morey has done an admirable (albeit not sensational) job of picking the team up off the canvass after a major swing-and-miss for a super-team.  The resulting supporting group of players is expected to provide the Rockets with both added perimeter defense and improved three-point shooting — two areas that sorely hurt the Rockets last season — while still offering the flexibility to make in-season trades of significance and/or to open up significant cap room next summer.

While the scoring and play-making ability of Chandler Parsons and Lin, as well as the post defense and rebounding of Asik, will be missed in Houston, there have been improvements made in other areas.  The end result, the Rockets hope, is a team better prepared for the NBA Playoffs.  And maybe for a big trade, too.  All while preserving flexibility to make a major addition next summer.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
October 8, 2014 at 10:52 am

Four Knee-Jerk Reactions From Houston’s Preseason Opener

James Harden and Chandler Parsons

The preseason is almost meaningless and it’s ridiculous to draw any real conclusions after just one worthless contest.

So hey, let’s give it a shot!

Ariza is going to fit nicely

Trevor Ariza looked very good in his first game back with the Rockets. His shot looked strong (5-7 from the field) and he didn’t force the action. We know he’s a defensive upgrade to Chandler Parsons, but if he can knock down the three-point shot at a high clip (and he hit 41% last year), he may fit just as well if not better all the way around.

People need to remember — this is not about who is the better player, which can be debated. It’s about fit and their respective roles. Ariza replaced a role player in Chandler Parsons in Houston and he will be a role player in Houston. Chandler Parsons was paid like a superstar in Dallas and will be expected to play like a superstar in Dallas.

Big difference. We’ll see how Chandler manages expectations in Dallas, but for half the price, the Rockets got a good fit for their starting lineup.

Harden is going to have a career year

It was humbling to hear James Harden admit that he loses focus at times on the defensive end. That’s very rare to see from a superstar — it’s like the Homecoming King admitting he doesn’t know what to say around girls — but I still take it with a grain of salt. After all, Harden talked about wanting to be a lockdown defender in 2013′s training camp.

But offensively? He’s going to explode this year. Harden scored 17 points in under 24 minutes and got to the line for nine free throws Tuesday night. The Rockets let go of Parsons, who took the second-most shot attempts on the squad last season at nearly 14 per game, so the team will rely more than ever on Harden to carry the load. On top of that, the experience as one of Team USA’s leaders seemed to be a very positive one for Harden.

Assuming good health, I expect Beard to be a scoring machine for the Rockets this year.

The Rockets will need power forward help

Terrence Jones had a bad game Tuesday night. No big deal. There are nights he looks like Tarzan and nights he looks like Jane.

But this is the position where the Rockets really could make a big jump with an upgrade. Kevin McHale is on record as saying this team didn’t rebound the ball very well last year (1:35 mark) and if they had rebounded better, they would have been a top 10 defense. Jones has strengths — he’s athletic, he can block shots, handle the ball and run the floor — but the Rockets don’t have enough weapons to just outscore teams every night. If he (and Donatas Motiejunas) don’t grow quickly to the point of being able to handle pick-and-roll defense, defend strong fours and rebound the basketball when Dwight Howard goes for blocks, there’s going to be change here.

David West probably wants out of Indiana, but if I’m Daryl Morey right now, I’m checking in with the Hawks twice a day on Paul Millsap.

Houston’s bench is going to need time or change

There are question marks all over the Rockets’ bench.

Motiejunas looked very good Tuesday night (team-high 18 points), but he was posting up stiff Charlie Villanueva much of the time. My two favorite players for the bench — rookies Kostas Papanikolaou and Nick Johnson — may be more seasoned and experienced in the leagues they are coming from (EuroLeague and NCAA), but it always takes time to adjust to the NBA. My money was on Troy Daniels playing a significant role this year, and that may be the case, but he didn’t see action until late in this game. It remains to be seen on Jason Terry, who is 37 years old and has not had much of an impact the last two years. The team has been happy with Ish Smith in camp, but he can not shoot. Jeff Adrien stepped up in the final minutes, but are the Rockets counting on him to play a role?

When the Rockets take Harden out of the game, who is going to score? The team is fortunate to have unloaded Jeremy Lin, who they paid a lot of money to gobble up these minutes with average play, but it will take some time for roles to be carved out here.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
September 29, 2014 at 8:55 am

Rockets will wear Chinese jersey this season, plan to unveil new alternates in 2015-16

Houston Rockets Chinese Jersey worn by Dwight Howard

The first look at the Chinese jersey, worn here by Dwight Howard, that the Houston Rockets will wear

When will the Houston Rockets change their jersey or add new ones?

That’s a question that we get asked often here, so after some digging, here’s the latest news we can pass on about what’s coming on the Rockets jersey front.

Rockets Will Wear Chinese Jersey This Season

It is not true that the Rockets will get a brand new official alternate jersey this season, but they will unveil a new jersey just the same. The Rockets will wear a Chinese jersey this season to celebrate Lunar New Year, a source confirmed.

The team will wear the jersey for three straight home games, starting with the February 21st contest against Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors.

The jersey is sleeved with four (correction: two) Mandarin characters on the front replacing the word “Rockets”. I’m told it looks very sharp.

Rockets Getting New Alternates in 2015-16

Though the Rockets will not release a new alternate this season, the team will unveil two new alternates for 2015-16, a source confirmed to ClutchFans, and might add a third alternate jersey for the 2016-17 campaign.

Not too much is known about the jerseys, but here’s what we can tell you.

The first alternate jersey, which is finalized, will not use the throwback color scheme (yellows) and is “radically different” than the current alternates, we’re told. It will use the current Rockets scheme, but will not be a black jersey (… that we’ve been wanting now for a decade). So that leaves red and gray as your two strong possibilities, with white also possible. The jersey will be sleeved.

The second alternate jersey, which is in the concepts stage, will be a “Clutch City” jersey, a source confirmed. You will likely see the words “CLUTCH CITY” replacing “ROCKETS” on the front of the jersey, a concept similar to the Clutch City shirts the Rockets handed out to fans for Game 5 of the playoffs last season.

Colors are not finalized, but you can bet that the jersey will use the throwback colors like the current alternates.

Primary Uniforms Will Change… Slightly

There are also two small changes coming to the Rockets primary jerseys (home, road) starting next season (2015-16).

For starters, the cut of the jersey on the shoulders will be more narrow starting that year. This will be more like an older jersey cut where there is less fabric on the shoulder.

This is best illustrated by showing the previous road jersey next to the current alternate jersey, which uses the more narrow cut on the shoulder. You can see a noticeable difference.

Houston Rockets Jersey Change

Secondly, the Rockets have slightly altered the font used throughout the jersey, on the word “Rockets”, the player’s name and the numbers. I’m told you can see the change but it’s “subtle.”

Posted in Houston Rockets |
September 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

Rockets honored Dwight agreement with agent in letting Parsons out of his contract

Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard

The Houston Rockets made one — and only one — mistake this offseason, and it was a big one.

There’s no shame in coming up short on Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. The Rockets should be praised for consistently aiming high. I also don’t think it was an error to decline to match the almost-max offer sheet that Chandler Parsons signed with Dallas. He’s simply not worth that money.

Their mistake was letting Chandler out of his contract in the first place.

That’s not hindsight talking. Remember, the Rockets could have simply picked up his 2014-15 option and had him on the roster at a mere $964,750. Knowing now what the Rockets knew then — that they had a significantly different value placed on Chandler than Chandler placed on himself — combined with the team’s need to add a significant player before committing long-term to him, it becomes pretty clear that letting Parsons out of his contract a year early was not a good idea.

There were benefits to going the restricted free agency route, but they were nullified if the Rockets didn’t make big salary moves before that. While the decision at the time seemed strange, we, as fans, were lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that one (or both) of these things was true: 1) The Rockets had a comfort level for adding someone of significance this offseason before re-signing Chandler, and 2) Chandler was fully on board with the plan (possibly even having a verbal agreement in place), willing to wait since the Rockets were doing him a solid by letting him out early.

Neither was true and it blew up in their face.

The problem is this — the Rockets were well aware of everything I just outlined in making their choice. They just had no choice. By letting Parsons out of his contract, the Rockets were simply honoring an agreement they made with his agent in 2013 when they signed Dwight Howard.

As I’ve been told, Howard’s agent Dan Fegan did not want Dwight in Houston, preferring instead to steer him to another team. Reportedly, that team was Dallas as the agent has a relationship and comfort level with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Dwight preferred Houston. To seal the deal for the premier free agent, Fegan provided the Rockets a list of needs/demands to bring him here and one of them was to let Chandler Parsons, who also was represented by Fegan, out of his contract this summer rather than wait until 2015.

(It should be noted that though I have no idea what other items would be on that list, there were two “interesting” things that happened around that time — the Rockets hired Howard’s former trainer with the Orlando Magic and they later added Dwight’s brother to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, though it was largely believed that he wasn’t a good enough prospect to make that jump. See JR Smith-Chris Smith for how nepotism package deals can work.)

Parsons has since publicly denied that the decision by the Rockets had anything to do with Howard, but I’ve been told by multiple sources that it’s true.

All kinds of smoke

Let’s put the “sources” aside for a minute and just look at the circumstantial evidence.

  • It was well-known that the Rockets had a heavy interest in Dwight Howard and would be pursuing him as a free agent in the summer of 2013. The team tried to trade for him on multiple occasions over the previous 18 months. Just weeks before Howard became a free agent, Parsons fired his agent Mark Bartelstein to align himself with Fegan. That’s a pretty big coincidence. It’s a very good bet (if not outright safe to say) that Fegan leveraged that unique situation to land Parsons as a client, knowing he was likely the only agent in a position to get the Rockets to give up Chandler’s bargain option and get him a big haul one year earlier.

  • By not picking up the team option on Chandler, the Rockets lost about $2 million in cap room in a summer in which pursuing max free agents was their highest priority. Teams routinely unload valuable first round picks for less cap room than that, yet the Rockets willingly sacrificed a valuable chunk to make Chandler a restricted free agent. The Rockets had to be working with Chandler and/or supremely confident in their chances to land a top free agent to do that, or… something else. Looking back, this was extremely illogical.

  • In the summer of 2013, Chandler Parsons suddenly became the greatest star free agent recruiter of all-time. According to Forbes magazine citing a source, Chandler was “relentless” in pursuing Dwight as he “called and texted [Dwight] every day” despite barely knowing him at the beginning of the pursuit. Does it make more sense that Chandler was doing this for the team, city and championship pursuit or because his own big payday was on the line? When you consider that Chandler knew that an $8-$15 million bonus and increased long-term security sooner hung in the balance on whether Dwight said yes to Houston, the Herculean effort may not have been quite as altruistic as we all thought.

  • News that the Rockets would decline the team option and make Chandler a restricted free agent leaked nearly a month before the deadline the Rockets had to make that decision. This may not seem excessive, but when you consider that the NBA Draft — the hotbed time of player movement throughout the league — was still to occur and could impact the decision, it seemed silly that the front office would be able to say it with certainty at that point. I’ve since talked to people who were told by Chandler himself during the 2013-14 season that the plan was to make him a restricted free agent. No mention of why, but he apparently knew even then that the team option was not going to be picked up.

  • In an interview with local sports radio 610am after deciding not to match Parsons’ offer sheet with the Mavericks, Rockets GM Daryl Morey was asked if he had to do it all over again if he would let Chandler out of his deal. He closed his answer with something fairly cryptic, saying, “A lot goes into those decisions, way more than people might realize.”

  • Just plain common sense. If the Rockets and Parsons weren’t aligned on a figure and the team didn’t view him as the third-best player on a championship team, it made no sense to sign him long-term until they had the core of their team set. Many say, “But it almost worked and they nearly had both Bosh and Parsons!” But play it all the way out. Had the Rockets not done this and signed Bosh with cap room, they’d still have Bosh and Parsons. Houston would have had their superstar trio and Parsons, as an unrestricted free agent in 2015, would have had to make a tough choice to walk away from that championship core. But more importantly, the Rockets could have traded him. Both the situations with Kevin Love (a lame duck contract that still fetched a big haul on the trade market) and Klay Thompson (young player who could have reeled in Love in return) are strong indicators that the 25-year old small forward’s trade value, on a one-year, $1 million deal, would have been good.

    Having said all this, no party involved thought Chandler was going to be leaving Houston. The Rockets wanted him back. Chandler wanted to be here and the Rockets consistently told him they would match any offer. That might explain some of why he was “offended” after the process. He expected to remain in Houston.

    Will the Rockets be better off?

    Overall, the Rockets lost a valuable trade asset at a minimum, but they could be better off with Trevor Ariza. As much as I liked Parsons, he was playing a position where you would traditionally like to have a good (if not lockdown) defender. That becomes even more of a need for this team given how the other position where you would generally see a wing stopper (shooting guard) is a major defensive concern for the Rockets. I think this will depend on who the Rockets are able to eventually acquire as their “third” guy. As a #3, I’d give the edge to Parsons. As a #4, I prefer Ariza.

    While time will tell if they are better off on the court, the reasoning behind the offseason’s biggest “blunder” is at least now explained. The Rockets weren’t a team that made a late decision to take an ill-advised and costly risk. They were a team desperate to contend and land the big fish a year ago, and they did what it took to make that happen — even if they knew they might have to fall on their sword a year later.

  • Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |
    September 17, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    TMZ doesn’t get a critical fact straight on Dwight Howard story

    Dwight Howard Houston Rockets

    TMZ reported on Tuesday that Dwight Howard’s driver’s license has been suspended after he was caught running a red light for the 10th time in the last two and a half years and didn’t resolve it.

    Dwight Howard might be color blind — ’cause officials in Florida say he ran 10 RED LIGHTS in 2-and-a-half years — and now his license has been suspended … TMZ Sports has learned.

    According to official records, the NBA superstar was captured by those red light cameras in Orange County, FL over and over again … starting in 2012, when he was busted 9 times in 10 months.

    Then, after a year-and-a-half without a violation, Howard struck again in 2014 — blowing through another red light on July 1st … his 10th overall infraction.

    There’s only one problem — Dwight Howard wasn’t driving the car.

    TMZ said the 10th infraction, which went unresolved and caused his license to be suspended, occurred on July 1st, but they read the court record incorrectly. The infraction was filed on July 1st but actually happened on April 14th at 9:17pm via red light camera in Winter Park, Florida.

    I’m pretty sure Dwight has an airtight alibi on this one. The superstar center was oh, about 1000 miles away at the Toyota Center at the time, scoring 20 points on 9-11 shooting and grabbing 17 rebounds in helping the Rockets finish off a regular season sweep of the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.

    So how did this happen? According to a source, the vehicle is registered to Howard but was given to his brother to drive. The other nine tickets from the past (all of which were resolved previously) were also the same kind of ticket (caught by a red light camera).

    It looks like the big guy may need to get some affairs in order, but it doesn’t look like Dwight himself was the reckless driver.

    Posted in Houston Rockets |