July 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Rockets to bring back Trevor Ariza on a four-year, $32 million deal

Trevor Ariza signs back with the Houston Rockets

Look who’s back.

The Rockets have agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with small forward Trevor Ariza, according to Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. Yahoo! Sports reports that the contract is on a declining scale to increase the team’s flexibility moving forward — $8.6 million in 2014-15, $8.2 million in 2015-16, $7.8 million in 2016-17 and $7.4 million in 2017-18.

It’s unclear what this means for Chandler Parsons, the team’s current starting small forward. The Rockets must decide by Sunday night whether to match Parsons’ offer sheet from Dallas (three years at $46 million) or let him go to the Mavericks. It does not change their ability to match.

This is Ariza’s second tour of duty with Houston. The Rockets signed Ariza in 2009 to replace Ron Artest, dealing him to New Orleans a year later in a three-team trade that brought Courtney Lee to the Rockets.

However, this is a much different situation for Ariza and the Rockets. In 2009-10, the 6-foot-8 forward was asked to be more of a primary option while he would be a complement to superstars James Harden and Dwight Howard this time around.

Ariza, who just turned 29 years old, fits the 3-and-D template the Rockets are looking for. He had a career year in Washington last season, averaging 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He provides strong perimeter defense and three-point shooting.

The Rockets are trying to shore up their defense, particularly on the perimeter. Ariza helps here — he’s not quite a lockdown defender, but he has no problem taking the assignment to guard the opponent’s best wing player. With a 7-foot-2 wingspan, he can make it difficult on many guards and forwards in the league.

Ariza also hit a blistering 40.7% from long range on 442 attempts last season. If that success rate from downtown continues, he could be the team’s best three-point option next season — he both shot more threes and made more than Parsons last year. In particular, catch-and-shoot threes are important in Houston’s system for complementary players spreading the floor. Parsons, for example, shot the 7th most catch-and-shoot threes per game in the league last year, taking 4.3 attempts per game at 38.5%. Ariza was even higher volume from there (5th in the league at 4.5 attempts) and hit 44.9% on catch-and-shoot threes.

It was a contract year, but if that kind of success is no fluke, the Rockets picked up a terrific fit here for their system.

Here are some highlights from his career-high 40-point game in March.

  • Trevor Ariza past highlights with Rockets

  • Posted in Houston Rockets |
    July 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Life after Bosh: Why matching Parsons and focusing on 2014-15 should remain a priority

    chris bosh chandler parsons 2 Life after Bosh: Why matching Parsons and focusing on 2014 15 should remain a priority

    Was Friday disappointing to the Rockets? Yes. But franchise-altering, as some suggest?

    It shouldn’t be.

    Losing out on Chris Bosh at the 11th hour was an offseason gut punch that Houston fans know all too well. But unlike the infamous “basketball reasons” saga that nixed the Pau Gasol trade in 2011 followed by the failed Dwight Howard pursuit in 2012, it must be remembered that Daryl Morey and these Rockets are no longer playing from a weak hand.

    In Howard and James Harden, the Rockets arguably have two of the NBA’s top 10 players. In the duo’s first year together, they won 54 games in a brutal Western Conference and showed significant improvement as the season went along. And after trading Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, the team has financial flexibility to upgrade its bench and return as an even more talented group in 2014-15.

    There’s one wild card in the mix, though, and it’s that pesky 3-year, $46-million offer sheet that Chandler Parsons signed with Dallas. The Rockets have until 10:59 p.m. on Sunday night to decide whether to match, and after missing out on their expected addition of Bosh, it’s unclear what Morey will decide to do in their “Plan B” scenario.

    In short, it boils down to one root issue: Is the current Houston roster worth going all-in for? By matching Parsons and his roughly $15 million/year salary, it would all but eliminate the possibility of the Rockets having maximum cap room for foreseeable free-agency periods. It would, however, secure Howard, Harden and Parsons as the team’s core and allow the Rockets to fully commit to finding the best role players to optimize their success, starting immediately.

    It’s not as sexy as the planned All-Star roster with Bosh. But after letting the initial sting wear off, it’s time to remember that the gap between these Rockets and true contention is not “max player” wide.

    In these eyes, the Rockets are too close to turn back. Here’s why:

    Organic growth is coming

    It’s easy to forget, but the Rockets were already poised to improve in 2014-15 simply from within. They went 54-28 (65.9%) in the first year of the Howard era, a mark that included a 21-13 (61.8%) transition period of November and December as the Rockets adjusted to having the league’s best center on both ends of the floor. Their 33-15 (68.8%) pace in 2014 would extrapolate to 56 or 57 wins over a full schedule – in other words, putting them right in the standings mix with Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers and closer to the 2/3-seed range than the 4/5/6-seed level.

    Even the LeBron James-era Heat, likely the most talented free agency or trade-built team in the modern era, didn’t hit their full stride until Year 2 and Year 3. The Year 1 Heat (2010-11), even playing in the weak East, lost 24 games and weren’t a No. 1 seed. It took until 2012-13, the team that went 66-16 and reeled off 27 consecutive wins, for Miami to reach maximum efficiency.

    So the idea that the current Rockets aren’t a contender because they went 54-28 in Year 1 and lost one playoff series isn’t something I’m willing to accept. Improvements in team chemistry and individual growth from young players including Harden (24), Parsons (25), Terrence Jones (22) and Pat Beverley (26) were already going to make the 2014-15 Rockets better than the 2013-14 group, regardless of any new additions. They did lose Lin and Asik from the bench, but…

    Financial flexibility to improve depth

    Yes, losing Lin and Asik, if looked at in a vacuum, would weaken the rotation. But the roughly $17 million in cap room they have for the next 36 hours (or staying above the cap and using the trade exceptions and other exceptions beyond that), along with a probable lottery pick from New Orleans to use as trade bait, gives the Rockets ample opportunity to actually upgrade.

    Think of it this way: if Lin and Asik were on the free-agent market now, and the Rockets had $17 million to spend to upgrade their current roster, would those be your first two calls? My guess is no. Asik, for all his strengths, was limited to being a 15-to-20-minute player most nights because of the presence of Howard. Lin was an average-at-best (and wildly inconsistent) three-point shooter and turnover prone, not ideal traits for a complementary backcourt mate to Harden.

    Versatile forwards and guards with legitimate three-point range and defensive skills on the perimeter are better fits for the Houston rotation than Lin and Asik, and there are several such candidates available in free agency as well as the trade market that can fit into $17 million of space.

    Where Parsons fits in

    It all comes back to the Parsons decision, of course. Even with $17 million in space, it would be unreasonable to expect the Rockets to fully replace the contributions of Lin, Asik and Parsons. That team would take a step back, with an organizational focus of looking ahead to 2015 free agency.

    In terms of title contention, the 2014-15 season would be over before it even started, and a year of Howard’s prime would be squandered. (Think Howard would remember that in 2016 free agency?)

    To me, that scenario is unacceptable, unless the Rockets believe the only realistic route to winning a championship involves acquiring a third All-Star. While it would be nice, I don’t see it as necessary. Assuming Parsons is retained, the combination of organic growth from a young core of players and bench upgrades to Lin/Asik could easily bridge the gap between the mid-50s win total the Rockets had a season ago and the upper 50s-to-60 range of legit West contenders.

    Bosh may have been the perfect fit, but he’s not the only fit. The Rockets are already playing with a strong hand, and folding for the outside shot of pocket aces down the road doesn’t seem practical.

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    July 11, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Rockets trade Jeremy Lin to Lakers

    jeremy lin traded Rockets trade Jeremy Lin to Lakers

    Jeremy Lin’s Houston Rocket career is over.

    The Rockets unloaded Lin and his $15 million salary for 2014-15 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. To get the Lakers to absorb Lin’s contract, the Rockets sent their first round pick in 2015 plus an additional second round pick (2015 pick from the LA Clippers, only conveyed by LAC if between 51-55) to the Lakers. The Rockets also received the rights to Sergei Lishchuk.

    It’s clear that Daryl Morey and the Rockets are full steam ahead in their cap room pursuit to sign Chris Bosh and sending out Lin was always a necessary step.

    The move could be good for Lin, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in California (Palo Alto). The Lakers, who fell short in free agency this summer, can now try their cap room plan again in 2015.

    As for the Rockets signing of Lin in 2012, it was ill-fated from nearly the beginning and one of the bigger mistakes of the Daryl Morey era. He never quite meshed with James Harden and moved to the 6th man role last season.

    The bigger goal is Bosh, who the Rockets hope to sign this weekend before having to match Chandler Parsons’ offer sheet from Dallas. The Rockets still need to execute the Omer Asik trade and it’s likely they are looking into moving Donatas Motiejunas and/or Terrence Jones as well.

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    July 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Chandler Parsons won’t be getting a free pass any longer

    Chandler Parsons

    The NBA is a business.

    That much we know and it was confirmed again on Thursday when Rocket restricted free agent Chandler Parsons agreed to a three-year, $46 million deal with the rival Dallas Mavericks. The offer sheet was signed by Parsons at an Orlando nightclub with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban grinning by his side.
    Read More

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    July 3, 2014 at 12:55 am

    The Jeremy Lin-Carmelo Anthony jersey controversy is ridiculously overblown

    carmelo anthony locker room The Jeremy Lin Carmelo Anthony jersey controversy is ridiculously overblown

    No doubt by now you’ve heard about the uproar being caused by Jeremy Lin’s fans on Wednesday after the Rockets, in their pitch to Carmelo Anthony, displayed artwork at the Toyota Center showing the superstar free agent in a Houston jersey wearing the number 7.

    Only one problem — that’s Jeremy Lin’s number, and he’s still with the Rockets. Lin himself turned to Twitter to express that he felt disrespected.

    Lin’s tweets sparked a controversy (even PTI got in on the act) when, in reality, this is business as usual in the NBA. Are the Rockets supposed to not depict a superstar free agent in the number he wants because their backup point guard currently has that number? Did the Dallas Mavericks refuse to display Melo in a Mavericks number 7 jersey because it might hurt Ricky Ledo‘s feelings?

    Rockets general manager Daryl Morey spoke very candidly about it on Wednesday.

    “It’s always a challenging situation during free agency,” Morey said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports outside the Toyota Center. “You are always having to recruit players and there might be current players at current positions, might be people with the current numbers. It’s unfortunate that it’s often hard to handle.

    “Reality is it’s standard practice. When we went after Chris Bosh a few years ago, we had him in (Luis) Scola’s number. When we went after Dwight Howard he had (Pat) Beverley’s number. I get the sensitivity and I hate that it creates some hurt feelings. I don’t like that, but that’s obviously Carmelo Anthony’s number, that’s the number he wants. He told us that.”

    Our Rockets forum (and my twitter timeline) filled up, with many of the Jeremy Lin crazies rallying around images like this one, claiming that the organization is lying and that the Rockets never used Beverley’s number 12 on Howard artwork.

    Of course, this image was after Dwight signed with the Rockets and his number was established. There was no pitch at the Toyota Center (it was in Los Angeles) and Morey is telling the truth. How do I know? Because I saw the actual pitch that was made to Howard last summer, and it used Beverley’s number 12.

    rockets dwight howard pitch 2 The Jeremy Lin Carmelo Anthony jersey controversy is ridiculously overblown

    rockets dwight howard pitch 1 The Jeremy Lin Carmelo Anthony jersey controversy is ridiculously overblown

    You would have to be living under a rock these past few months to not know that Jeremy Lin is going to be traded. We wrote about it as soon as the season ended and hammered it home again three weeks ago. The Rockets don’t have cap room and need to move Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to create it.

    “Bottom line, if Carmelo comes, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have to be traded,” said Morey. “It’s just math. It’s not personal. My job is every day figure out how to win. Sometimes it creates challenging situations.”

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    July 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Podcast: Carmelo, Love, Lowry and Houston’s options as free agency arrives

    Kyle Lowry Houston Rockets free agency

    Cap guru David Weiner, aka BimaThug, joins Dave Hardisty to discuss all the options the Houston Rockets have and the cap implications as NBA free agency officially opens. Here are the major topics discussed:

    • 2:30 — What has to happen to make Carmelo Anthony an interesting offer
    • 4:15 — The Kevin Love trade possibility
    • 7:15 — The Omer Asik trade and the draft pick received from New Orleans
    • 14:45 — Kyle Lowry
    • 20:00 — Why has Jeremy Lin not yet been traded?
    • 24:45 — Fallback options for the Rockets
    • 30:30 — Chandler Parsons contract and his restricted free agency
    • 36:45 — Houston’s Draft landing Clint Capela, Nick Johnson and Alessandro Gentile
    • 41:45 — The Rockets’ stash of international prospects

    Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
    June 30, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    As they enter free agency, Rockets keeping all options open

    Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love

    While saying nothing, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey seemed to say just about everything about the Rockets right now.

    “It’s very hard to predict what will happen when things happen tonight,” said Morey.

    Because of that unpredictability, the Rockets are preparing for numerous scenarios when the NBA free agency market officially opens tonight at midnight Eastern time.

    The Rockets will make their pitch to the agent of LeBron James, though it looks like a near certainty that he will return to Miami. They will have Carmelo Anthony in Houston on Wednesday and are preparing to make a Dwight Howard-style presentation to him. They have made offers to Minnesota for Kevin Love and will continue to be in that mix. They also have been mentioned in reports as having interest in Pau Gasol and Luol Deng and some former Rockets as well — Trevor Ariza, Jordan Hill and Kyle Lowry (In fact, Morey and Kevin McHale met with Lowry in Philadelphia as free agency opened, according to Yahoo! Sports).

    But the Rockets are trying to remain as flexible as possible until they have to commit to a certain direction.

    They haven’t traded Jeremy Lin yet, likely knowing that they need to be more certain of the need for cap room since that deal will cost them additional assets. If they strike out in free agency, Lin’s contract would represent the one salary large enough to be used in a major trade. The pick they received in the Omer Asik trade could be a major trade asset.

    That’s why I wouldn’t panic if the Rockets don’t land one of the Big Three (LeBron, Carmelo, Love) this summer. This was a very strong team last year that will keep their core intact and they are in a good enough position to make a quality trade and one or more signings as well.

    Notes

    • The Omer Asik trade was simply beautiful.

      Dave Hardisty Sports Talk 790 guest appearance with Lance Zierlein and Adam Clanton to discuss the Asik trade.

      Not only will the Rockets completely clear off Asik’s salary, but they reel in a very good draft pick in the process, one that is similar to the pick received from Toronto in 2012. When the Rockets traded Lowry for that pick, I compared it to swapping a gift card for cash. This is what the Rockets do over and over and over again — they flip a rigid asset that would be attractive to a small handful of teams for a more flexible one that would draw the interest of just about every team.

      Now holding that pick, the Rockets will be in the conversation with just about any rebuilding team looking to move a win-now asset for future considerations.

      Asik is a strong defensive center. He’s going to form a wall in New Orleans as the starting five next to Anthony Davis. But while Asik was a key defensive big for the Rockets, the team was 34-20 (.629 winning percentage) in games (including playoffs) where Asik played last season and 22-12 (.647) when he was out. He will be missed, but the role he played simply wasn’t big enough to move the needle that much.

      That trade was a big win on all three fronts (trade, draft and free agency) moving forward.

    • Morey was asked multiple times in the Rockets press conference on Monday if he was confident that Alessandro Gentile, acquired by the Rockets on draft night, would be on Houston’s roster next season. I can assure you that, given the Rockets’ state right now, not even they know the answer to that question yet… and not just because they don’t have a commitment from Gentile.

      The Rockets are about to go through a big month of change and every player in their impressive stash of international prospects is a trade asset right now, according to a source with the team. I feel confident one of Sergio Llull, Kostas Papanikolau, Clint Capela and Gentile — the four best in the crop — will be dealt this offseason and I wouldn’t be surprised if two of them are moved.

      As to their view of the prospects, the team feels Llull, Papanikolaou and Gentile are all ready to contribute in the NBA right now. All three are too significant of players overseas to be able to join the Summer League squad.

    • I’ve been encouraged by the Kevin Love possibility.

      Reports that Love shot down the possibility of re-signing with the likes of Cleveland and Phoenix seem to suggest some pickiness on his part, which could be to Houston’s advantage. The shorter his list, the better the chance Houston has of getting Minnesota to accept a deal.

      I originally wrote that to get Love it would at least take Parsons, and Yahoo! Sports reported this week that the Timberwolves have an interest in a sign-and-trade for Parsons if they can’t strike a deal with Golden State. But the word right now is that the Rockets plan on keeping Parsons and haven’t offered him in a Love swap. They’re likely trying to package every rebuilding asset they have to get Minny to bite, and the pick received in the Asik deal certainly helps in that regard.

      But is Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, the New Orleans pick, one or more of Houston’s picks, their choice of Houston’s international prospects and Jeremy Lin (salary) enough to beat out what Golden State can put together?

    • I love the pick of Nick Johnson in the second round.

      There’s no telling how well a rookie will do in the NBA, especially out of the gate, but this kid looks like a gamer. His primary weakness — being a two-guard with a point guard’s body — is minimized in a lineup next to James Harden, a two who plays the de facto point guard for the Rockets.

      Meanwhile, his strengths fit perfectly. The Pac-12 Player of the Year is a tough, hard-nosed defender with excellent athleticism and a solid outside shot. He’s no stranger to big games, as Morey called him the “most productive player on the best team in the country.”

    • The Houston Chronicle cited a team source last week saying that the “Rockets likely will receive only a future second-round pick for Lin, not a first-rounder like the got for Asik.”

      That seemed way off at the time and almost looked like the Rockets were fishing for a better deal through the media.

      Consider the market. Since then, the Atlanta Hawks traded Lou Williams, who like Lin has just one year left on his deal. The Hawks had to give up top prospect and 2013 first round pick Lucas Nogueira to Toronto to unload that salary and the Hawks didn’t completely clear the books. They got back John Salmons, who has $1 million guaranteed for the next season.

      Williams will make $5.45 million next season. Lin has a cap hit of $8.4 million and will actually be paid $15 million in salary next season.

      Lin’s marketability makes his situation a little more unique, but if the Rockets are able to trade Lin with no sweeteners for pure cap room and net a second-round pick in the deal, Les Alexander needs to erect a Daryl Morey statue in front of the Toyota Center.

      Toronto (if they lose Lowry), Orlando and Philly seem like possible destinations for Lin.

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    June 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Draft Interviews with Clint Capela, Nick Johnson and Daryl Morey

    Despite the fact that “cap room” was the major theme for the Rockets Thursday night, they still grabbed three players in the 2014 NBA Draft, selecting Swiss big man prospect Clint Capela with the 25th pick, Arizona guard Nick Johnson with the 42nd pick and adding the 53rd pick from Minnesota (for cash) to select Alessandro Gentile, a 22-year old scoring guard/forward out of Italy.

    We got the chance to talk with Capela, Johnson and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after last night’s draft. Here are the interviews:

    Clint Capela Interview

    Nick Johnson Interview

    Daryl Morey Press Conference

    Posted in Houston Rockets, NBA Draft |