June 25, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Rockets agree to trade Omer Asik to Pelicans

Omer Asik Traded

The Rockets took the first step Wednesday in their quest to create significant offseason cap space by agreeing to trade backup center Omer Asik to the division rival New Orleans Pelicans.

The Rockets will get a protected 2015 first-round draft pick in return for Asik, as first reported by USA Today reporter Sam Amick.

The Rockets will receive the pick from the Pelicans if it falls anywhere between picks 4 and 19, a source confirms to ClutchFans.

Asik averaged 5.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Rockets in 2013-14 in 48 games played, mostly off the bench. As a starter in 2012-13, Asik scored 10.1 points and grabbed 11.7 rebounds per game and was widely considered as one of the best defensive big men in the NBA.

Trading Asik for a future pick will clear about $8.4 million in cap room for Houston. They will also need to move Jeremy Lin, who has an identical salary, in a similar cap-clearing move in order to become realistic players for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony when free agency opens on July 1.

Amick reports that a Lin trade is unlikely to happen unless a major free agent commits to Houston.

“But as I’ve reported, they have deals teed up [for Lin],” Amick wrote.

The trade is not official and is not expected to be finalized until later. Because New Orleans owes their 2014 first-round pick to Philadelphia, the Pelicans can not trade their pick until after the draft. League rules do not allow teams to trade future first-round picks in consecutive years, so the Pelicans must wait until the 2014 draft passes in order to trade their 2015 pick.

Amick notes that the deal may not become official until after the July moratorium, because New Orleans may send players with non-guaranteed money in the trade in order to match Asik’s $8.4 million cap charge. At the moment, the Pelicans do not have that much in cap room.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged |
June 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Patrick Beverley makes his pitch for LeBron James to join the Houston Rockets

Patrick Beverley and LeBron James

The circus started on Tuesday as the news came out that LeBron James will opt out of his contract to become a free agent. While we’ve discussed the slim LeBron to Houston possibility for awhile, the speculation will only continue to increase as we head into the NBA Draft this week and free agency period in July.

While the Rockets can’t make their pitch until then, that didn’t stop point guard Patrick Beverley from putting his thoughts out there Tuesday night. The second-team All-NBA Defensive guard was on Fox Sports Radio with Jay Mohr and was asked what he would say to his former teammate about joining the Rockets.

“We would definitely love (for) LeBron to come to Houston. That would be phenomenal,” said Beverley, who played with James in Miami in 2010. “If we can make it work, we would definitely love for Carmelo (Anthony) and him to come here. That’s not up to me, but in an ideal situation… in Patrick Beverley’s world, that would be great for the Houston Rockets.”

Beverley, who admitted he has LeBron’s cell number, called the Rockets one of the “youngest, hottest teams” out there with two superstars and a “superstar in the making” in Chandler Parsons.

Here was the exchange and you can listen to the audio.

“Let’s say you’re on the phone with LeBron James. What would your sales pitch be for him to come to Houston? Why should he choose Houston over Chicago, the Lakers, or go back to the Miami Heat? Let’s do it. I’m LeBron. Sell me.”

Beverley: “You’ve got to understand, ‘Bron, we one of the youngest, hottest teams out there. We’ve got two superstars, and a superstar in the making in Chandler (Parsons). We’re the youngest, hottest team right now. That’s an easy question bro. Come on now. We’ve got one of the best coaches and one of the best, smartest GMs in the league, in my opinion.”

“Do you think (GM) Daryl Morey will let me play ping pong with him?”

Beverley: “If you come here, you can play anything you want with him.”

“Will I be able to travel with all my headbands?”

Beverley: “(Laughs) Yeah, no problem, bro. Anything you want, bro!”

“If I play for the Rockets, will I be the first option or is Harden going to be the first option? Who’s the first, second, and third option on offense?”

Beverley: “There are no options. We’re all about getting stops.”

“Guess what… I’m going to sign with the Houston Rockets!!”

Beverley: “Hey, I wish it was that easy man!!”

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

Potential Rocket Profile: Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets This will be Houston’s second go at pursuing Anthony in the past four years and our second Photoshop of Carmelo as a Houston Rocket

Player Overview

From the moment Dwight Howard arrived, the “stretch four” concept has both tantalized and eluded the Rockets. Despite elite defense from Omer Asik, the Rockets never found a consistent way to make their offense run at peak efficiency without a power forward with mobility and perimeter skills. That’s why Terrence Jones quickly played his way into the starting lineup, and why other players such as Ryan Anderson in New Orleans have been popular potential trade targets.

Along those lines, it would seem that probable free agent Carmelo Anthony — yes, the seven-time All-Star and 2013 scoring champion – has all the “stretch four” qualities the Rockets are searching for and then some.

In short, Anthony is a bonafide scorer who commands respect all over the floor and makes the game easier on offense for everyone around him. Though he turned 30 in May, his game doesn’t seem to be overly dependent on athleticism. Judging by PER and Win Shares, the Knicks forward turned in the two finest seasons of his entire career during the past two years. If anything, he seems to be making further improvements, including the highest 3-point percentage (40.2%) of his career in 2013-14.

By all indications, Anthony is likely to opt out of his contract by June 23 and become a free agent. The Rockets have reportedly gained “significant momentum” as Anthony’s preferred destination, now resting alongside Chicago on the top line.

Rocket Perspective

Before we delve too far into the fit, let’s start with the obvious: the Rockets are chasing a player who can be the “third-best player on a championship team”. Anthony, who averaged 27.4 points/game and 8.1 rebounds/game in 2013-14 for the New York Knicks, is clearly someone of that caliber.

For two consecutive postseasons against Oklahoma City and Portland, we’ve seen what Kevin McHale chooses to do when Houston’s back is against the wall. They go small, believing it’s the best way to maximize spacing and give James Harden room to operate. That’s the reason Harden and Chandler Parsons each spent considerable time guarding LaMarcus Aldridge this year, and why Parsons frequently picked up Serge Ibaka a season ago.

The main problem, of course, is that neither Harden nor Parsons is thick enough to hold his ground in the post and offer much resistance. Enter Anthony, who at 6-foot-8, 236 pounds and built like a bull, has actually proven to be a very capable post defender. He won’t remind anyone of Tim Duncan on that end, but he could mesh perfectly with how these Rockets want to play – especially with Howard available behind him for help. And on offense, especially in a half-court setting, his presence would lift them from being one of the best to a potential juggernaut.

While many discount Anthony as a ball-stopping scorer, take a look at how he has played in Olympic action and All-Star games when surrounded by top talent. In the 2012 Olympics in London, he set the all-time US record for points in an Olympic game (37), doing it in just 14 minutes (what?), and ultimately guided the team to a gold medal. Flanked by a similarly-talented roster in the 2014 All-Star Game, he hit eight threes to set an All-Star Game record. Those performances suggest Anthony would have the potential to thrive playing alongside an elite scorer such as Harden.

While it’s believed that the majority of his time in Houston would come at power forward, Anthony’s versatility with the forward spots could allow the Rockets to manage Parsons’ minutes more closely as well. Parsons averaged nearly 38 minutes/game during the season and 42 minutes/game in the playoffs – numbers that likely compromised his energy on the defensive end of the floor.

Conclusion

The Rockets do not have major cap room at the moment, but continue to operate as if trading Asik and Jeremy Lin for that space is a mere formality. They may not quite reach the level of space needed for Anthony’s full-max deal (almost $23 million), but Anthony is reportedly willing to make some financial sacrifices if it can be shown to him that it enables his new team to have a better supporting cast.

Anthony and his wife are said to love New York City as a home, and the Knicks can offer him a 5th year on his contract that other teams cannot. But Anthony’s rumored top priority is to win titles, and there’s little Phil Jackson can say this summer to prove the Knicks’ status as a near-term contender. Because of that, the perception in league circles is that Anthony is likely to depart, just as Howard did from Los Angeles a summer ago.

If the decision comes down to the Bulls and Rockets, the selling points for each will be evident. The Bulls will offer a slightly more glamorous city, a proven coach in Tom Thibodeau and a potentially easier path to the NBA Finals. The drawback, of course, is that much of Chicago’s plan depends on the health of Derrick Rose and his knees.

Meanwhile, the Rockets will offer a team with two superstars already in place, both healthy and close to the prime of their careers. Neither play Anthony’s position. And in Howard’s case, Anthony already signaled an interest in prior years to playing alongside him.

If Anthony’s top priority is truly winning titles – not merely advancing to the Finals courtesy of a weak Eastern Conference, or winding up in a glamour market – the Rockets have to like their chances.


 Clutch also contributed to this profile.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 18, 2014 at 10:51 am

Potential Rocket Profile: Kevin Love

Kevin Love Houston Rockets

Player Overview

You could see this coming.

With Dwight Howard in tow, a need to upgrade at power forward and projected cap space in 2015, the Rockets could survey the NBA landscape last summer to see two elite power forwards in Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge (both free agents in 2015) in precarious situations. Both had the potential to sour on their current teams, with Houston in a good position to catch their eye.

While Aldridge and the Blazers took a step forward this past season, Love and the Timberwolves took a step back, and sure enough — Love wants out. Several reports suggest we could see a Kevin Love trade as early as next week’s NBA Draft.

A three-time All-Star who is just entering his prime at 25 years of age, Love averaged 26.1 points per game (#4 in the NBA) last season to go with 12.5 rebounds (#3 in the NBA), hitting nearly 38% from long range. The Wolves’ big man has averaged nearly 14 rebounds a game over the last four seasons.

So will this be the Summer of Love in Houston?

Rocket Perspective

Think about this: This is a player that scored more points per game than James Harden and grabbed more rebounds per game than Dwight Howard last season. From an offensive view, there is not a better match out there for Houston’s current needs than Kevin Love.

A legitimate power forward with terrific size (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) for the position, Love is an elite rebounder and a strong outside shooter for a big. He may be able to help fill some minutes as a backup center as well given that, in much the same way that Chandler Parsons can play the four, Love can play the five in smallball lineups.

A trio of Dwight-Harden-Love would be deadly dangerous on offense. The Rockets would immediately improve in a critical area where they took a step back last season — three-point shooting. Opponents would not be able to double Howard easily when he’s flanked by Kevin Love and opposing power forwards wouldn’t be able to consistently sag off their man and pack the paint against Harden drives, as Serge Ibaka does so effectively. Love would be the ultimate fit as Houston’s stretch four.

Defensively, well… they’d have a really good offense.

But even if Love fails to significantly upgrade the team’s man defense himself, his rebounding prowess could enable more shot-blocking and position help from Dwight Howard.

There is some history here that would make one think Houston has a chance at catching Love’s interest. Rockets coach Kevin McHale drafted and coached Love in Minnesota and they have a good relationship. Harden and Love also have a history of playing together, as Harden acknowledged here (1:00 mark of the video).

Conclusion

This is the one possibility out there that I think would cost the Rockets Chandler Parsons in a trade… as well as Terrence Jones and multiple draft picks. And even then, this looks like a long shot.

As it stands, it doesn’t appear that “winning big” is the only draw for the 25-year old as there haven’t been any reports of him balking at teams like Phoenix, Cleveland, New York, Boston and Los Angeles (Lakers), all teams that missed the playoffs last season just as Love has missed the postseason in all six of his NBA seasons. While it’s difficult to say with certainty, it appears that his minimum requirement is playing basketball in May rather than June.

While the Rockets would have to satisfy Minnesota with a trade, it is primarily Love himself that has the most control here. If he had Houston on a short list (and the shorter the better) of teams he would be willing to sign an extension with beyond 2015, the trade market would be smaller, giving Houston a better chance of satisfying Minnesota in a deal. Right now, the Rockets can’t compete in a broad trade market where top draft considerations and young players are king. Also, the heavy salary assets that the Rockets have to move in a trade (Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik) are overlap on a Minnesota roster that includes Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic.

Kevin Love is the ideal fit on one side of the ball for the Rockets, but unless they get very creative and move up in this draft — likely into the top 10, at a minimum — they may not be able to pull this off.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 18, 2014 at 8:10 am

Rockets returning to Valley for training camp, will face Warriors there in preseason action

Houston Rockets Golden State Warriors

Rockets will take on Warriors on October 19th

The Rockets are going back to the Valley for training camp for the 2014-15 NBA season.

After Media Day, Houston will open training camp at the Rio Grande Valley Vipers’ new training facility in Edinburg, TX, a source confirmed to ClutchFans.

The Rockets will also play a preseason game there, taking on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors on October 19th at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo.

The Rockets last held training camp in McAllen for the 2012-13 season (known as the Royce White “no show” camp) but chose to stay home in Houston for camp this past year.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

Potential Rocket Profile: LeBron James

LeBron James Houston Rockets

Player Overview

I’m reminded of the movie Hoosiers when coach Norman Dale tells his team before the semifinals, “I’m sure going to the state finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there.”

The Houston Rockets landing LeBron James seems just that — beyond our wildest dreams. It would be a daunting, near-impossible task to land the best player in the league in his prime, so it could be better off left unsaid.

However, the current scenario demands that the subject has to at least be broached.

James can opt out of his contract by the end of the month to become a free agent. Miami was soundly thrashed in the NBA Finals. Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski says, “One more team to watch in this with Lebron is Houston because … they can create the salary cap space. Would it appeal to LeBron to go play with James Harden, Dwight Howard? I don’t know that it would, but I think Houston will certainly try to get in that mix.”

So here we go.

Rocket Perspective

LeBron James is a two-time champion, four-time MVP and five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team. This is the one player that doesn’t just provide answers for Houston but actually changes the questions: “Does Player X fit with Harden and Howard?” becomes “Do Harden and Howard fit with LeBron James?”

The Rockets can offer LeBron a roster with two superstars – one inside, one out – in the prime of their careers and several role players (Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones) who appear to be substantial upgrades on their counterparts in Miami. A starting lineup of LeBron-Harden-Howard-Beverley-Jones would be ridiculous, one that would be a giant leap forward on both ends of the ball for the Rockets. Houston would instantly become the favorites to win not just the West but the 2014-15 NBA crown.

While it’s unclear if James would have interest in combining forces with Howard and Harden specifically, he is not a stranger to being a teammate to either player. LeBron played with Howard on the 2008 Olympic squad and with Harden on the 2012 team. He has spoken highly of Harden before, calling him his “little bro” after the trade that sent him to the Rockets and noting that Harden had “made superstar status” after a Rockets-Heat game in February 2013.

No matter how crazy, the Rockets would do whatever they could if it meant reeling in James. Need every penny to sign him? Scrap the Chandler Parsons-restricted free agency plan and contracts they’d like to keep become cut bait. LeBron would come if he could play here with Carmelo Anthony? Suddenly you consider putting Harden on the trading block.

That’s how absurd you would get to land the world’s top player.

Conclusion

LeBron currently has just about everything he could want: A glamour location, top dollar on his contract, an easy path to the Finals in a creampuff conference, a coach he’s comfortable with, star friends by his side and multiple championships. It’s hard to see him leaving all that, especially with the possibility of simply “opting in” for one more year in Miami and giving Pat Riley 12 more months to retool.

But LeBron has made a controversial decision for the purpose of immediately winning titles before. If he senses the future isn’t as bright in Miami (a big “if”), Houston would have to be high on that list of ready-made situations where he could continue to win and compete at a high level. The Rockets also could make an interesting pitch in that with one stroke of the pen, LeBron could turn the San Antonio Spurs from NBA champions to second-best team in their own state, relegating the Dallas Mavericks, another team LeBron lost to in the Finals, to a distant third.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey will definitely do his due diligence on this possibility, but in the event the Rockets do make some ground with LeBron, it seems unlikely that Miami would play ball on a sign-and-trade. The Rockets would have to go the cap room route and unload Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

But while the Rockets do offer a great situation for LeBron, all of us are in the dark about his plans. Until he decides to actually opt out and there is any evidence of interest in Houston from him, this is just a guessing game.


 Ben DuBose also contributed to this profile.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

Rockets gain “significant momentum” as preferred destination for Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls have emerged as the “clear frontrunners” to acquire Carmelo Anthony, according to a story published on Saturday by Yahoo! Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

“Anthony, 30, has been intrigued with [joining] the Bulls for several months, but Houston has gathered significant momentum as a preferred destination for him,” Wojnarowski wrote, citing league sources.

“Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden prepared to recruit Anthony as the third star in a championship chase,” he added.

Both Houston and Chicago front-office executives are said to be “working diligently” on scenarios to clear the cap space to sign Anthony outright, or engage New York on sign-and-trade scenarios, according to the report. In Houston’s case, that would mean shedding the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, at a minimum. But with both of those players entering the final year of their contracts, Wojnarowski writes that a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Anthony is indeed possible.

“Because those players are moving into the expiring year of their contracts, they could potentially appeal to New York in sign-and-trade scenarios that would deliver Anthony his full max contract of four years, $90 million-plus,” Wojnarowski wrote.

“In trade talks, New York has told teams it doesn’t want to take on contracts beyond the summer of 2015 although Asik, a center, could ultimately be a player the Knicks would want to sign long-term,” he added. “There’s a market for Asik to be traded into salary-cap space elsewhere for draft considerations, but Houston may have to package a draft pick to move Lin.”

The full max for Anthony would involve a contract starting at over $22 million per year, but citing league sources, Wojnarowski writes that Anthony would take less than that if “he can be shown how his financial concessions can result in the immediate acquisition or retention of talent”.

In Houston’s case, Wojnarowski writes that most scenarios that would hold the Rockets’ nucleus together — including Chandler ParsonsPatrick Beverley and Terrence Jones – would involve Anthony getting a starting salary near $19 million.

Meanwhile, should Chicago amnesty the contract of Carlos Boozer and trade the contract of Taj Gibson and at least one other player, the Bulls as an Eastern Conference team could offer Anthony a theoretically easier route to the NBA Finals than the Rockets. Additionally, Anthony is said to “have an affinity” for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Wojnarowski writes, before cautioning that Anthony must also weigh the future health of Derrick Rose in his decision.

The Knicks, of course, can still offer the most money to Anthony and have still expressed interest in retaining him. To that end, a delegation consisting of Phil Jackson and new Knicks coach Derek Fisher met Anthony on Friday night in Los Angeles. However, the option of re-signing with the Knicks appears to be becoming less likely.

“Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender,” Wojnarowski wrote.

Wojnarowski also noted that Jackson has “turned off” Anthony with public proclamations of wanting Anthony to take less money to stay with the Knicks.

“Jackson has been somewhat cavalier in his public declarations of wanting Anthony to stay, and it’s been noticed,” the report says.

The next significant development in the Anthony sweepstakes should come within the next 10 days. The New York forward, who averaged 27.4 points per game on 45% shooting last season, has until June 23 to notify the Knicks if he plans to opt in or out of the final year of his current contract.

If Anthony opts out and becomes a free agent, as several reports indicate he is likely to do, outside teams such as Houston and Chicago could begin courting him on July 1.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 9, 2014 at 10:33 am

Hey, Remember when Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik were on the Rockets?

Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik

No doubt by now you’ve heard the Yahoo! Sports report that the Rockets plan to decline the option on Chandler Parsons‘ contract by the end of this month, which would make Houston’s starting small forward a restricted free agent this summer.

David Weiner has been breaking down the details of this fascinating contract over the past year. In a nutshell, by the Rockets declining their team option, Parsons will be able to sign with any team — but the Rockets will have the ability to match the offer sheet he signs. If the Rockets pick up the option, then they get Chandler at a bargain rate (less than a million dollars) for one more year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

While I don’t think it’s 100% that the Rockets will do this (too much can happen between now and June 30), there are plenty of positives to taking this route: The Rockets have more control. They play the restricted free agency game very well. It forces the player to prove their market value. It’s possible to get Chandler at a better salary. It gets Parsons the big bucks one year sooner. It opens the possibility of sign-and-trades involving Parsons.

Sports Radio 610 guest appearance with Sean Pendergast, Rich Lord and Ted Johnson to discuss Parsons’ contract.

But for me, the big takeaway from this is not that the Rockets will decline Parsons’ option but rather how absolutely brazen the Rockets have been about their ability to trade Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.

It’s almost as if they’re already gone.

It started shortly after the Rockets’ exit from the playoffs when team owner Les Alexander said about this summer, “We’re going to have cap room to bring in a terrific free agent.”

Only one problem: The Rockets don’t have cap room. They need to trade Asik and Lin to create it.

Next, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was asked on Twitter what kind of free agent the team could acquire this summer, and Morey responded that the Rockets “can create max [cap] room.”

Unless he’s talking about trading away James Harden or Dwight Howard, Morey isn’t even hiding it. He’s saying: ‘We can unload Lin and Asik.’

And now this report surfaces about how they will handle Parsons. This too is another indication that Lin and Asik are toast.

The Rockets do not want to sign anyone long-term before acquiring their third-best player, expected to be a significant contract. If the Rockets were to sign Parsons for say $10 million a season, their cap room possibilities would be stung and their fallback plan (2015 cap room) would be wiped out. So if the Rockets really are going to make Chandler a restricted free agent with the intent to match any offer, then the clock is clearly ticking on Lin and Asik trades. The Rockets would get no real benefit by allowing those two to come “off the books” in 2015, if Parsons already has his new deal.

Another thing to consider with this news is that the Rockets might not clear cap room at all. To pursue a major free agent like Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets would need to pinch every penny, but by making this move, Chandler’s cap hit would increase by $2 million before he is signed. This would seem to make trade, not free agency, the more likely avenue to improve.

I would not be surprised if the Rockets are looking to make a complicated three- or four-team deal that sends out Lin and Asik, along with a treasure trove, that nets them their player. By doing it in one fell swoop, the Rockets would remain above the cap and keep their mid-level exception ($5.3 million) to sign a better free agent or try to bring over a player like guard Sergio Llull or forward Kostas Papanikolaou.

But the bottom line with this news is that the Rockets are either extremely confident in their ability to dump off Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin — or, by putting this info out there, they want the NBA to think they are.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |