September 19, 2015 at 5:22 pm

So the Rockets are Hard-Capped… Now What?

Montrezl Harrell Houston Rocket rookie

With the recent signing of Montrezl Harrell to a three-year, $3.1 million deal using a portion of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (MLE), the Houston Rockets finally answered a key question many have been asking over the past two months, ever since they agreed to a three-year, $10 million deal with K.J. McDaniels using a significant portion of the MLE.

That question:  Are the Rockets willing to subject themselves to a hard cap at the “apron” level ($88.74 million) by using the Non-Taxpayer MLE?

The answer:  Apparently, yes.

The Rockets now sit approximately $1.56 million below the apron level.

I addressed many of the factors surrounding Harrell’s situation in my last cap update.  Take a look at that piece for more context.  This article will focus on what the Rockets did to set up the Harrell signing and how Houston will attempt to navigate the hard cap this season.

Setting Up the Harrell Signing

Before signing Harrell, the Rockets needed to make a few moves to create a sufficient amount of room below the resulting hard cap.  This helps explain why Houston and Chuck Hayes decided not to proceed with a partially-guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal.  It may also explain why the Philadelphia 76ers ended up signing Christian Wood, who had previously agreed to a partially-guaranteed deal with the Rockets after going undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft.  With Hayes and Wood on the Rockets’ books, it would have been difficult to give Harrell the deal he wanted.

Exhibit 9s . . . Lots of Exhibit 9s

During all this time, the Rockets still needed to fill out their training camp roster.  But in order to maximize room under a hard cap, Houston preferred to sign their training camp invitees — none of whom has a terrific shot at making the regular season roster — to a particular type of contract containing what is called an “Exhibit 9.”

Regular player contracts, even non-guaranteed contracts, still protect players from injuries suffered while playing for their teams.  A player signed to a (regular) non-guaranteed contract who gets injured in training camp continues to count against his team’s cap until he returns from injury.  An extended injury to such a player could have potentially disastrous consequences for a team right up against a hard cap.

By contrast, player contracts containing an Exhibit 9 (while still providing players with a per diem, lodging expenses and medical insurance) limit a player’s compensation to $6,000 if he gets injured.

However, in order for a team to sign players to Exhibit 9 contracts, it must have at least 14 regular contracts on its books.  But with Harrell unsigned, the Rockets only had 13 contracts once they re-signed Jason Terry.  This is where Daryl Morey and his staff got a little creative.

The Rockets apparently signed Remi Yusuf to a regular non-guaranteed contract, then followed that signing up by signing each of Will Cummings, Denzel Livingston, Chris Walker and Josh(ua) Smith to Exhibit 9 contracts.  Once Harrell signed his contract (giving the team a 15th “regular” contract), the Rockets waived Yusuf.  Had Yusuf not been waived but later gotten a season-ending injury in training camp, he could have counted as much as $947,276 towards the luxury tax and the hard cap determination, as opposed to only $6,000 under an Exhibit 9 contract.  (For what it’s worth, I have a feeling that Yusuf may be the recipient of an Exhibit 9 contract from the Rockets once he clears waivers.)

Impact on Signing Free Agents

Even hard-capped, the Rockets should still have room to add to the roster beyond just “Exhibit 9 guys.”  However, expect Morey & company to be more judicious in their signings than in years past.

The Rockets can sign a player to the veteran’s minimum, either now (for the full two-year veteran’s minimum amount) or later in the season (during which that amount prorates downward based on the number of days remaining in the regular season).

Houston still has about $1.27 million left of its Non-Taxpayer MLE it can use.  Unlike the veteran’s minimum salary, the MLE does not begin to prorate downward until January 10, making the MLE an even more attractive alternative to the minimum after the trade deadline, when several key older veterans negotiate buyouts with their former teams in hopes of latching on with a contender.

The Rockets also have a few small trade exceptions (described in my last cap update) they could use to claim a player off waivers.

With 14 guaranteed contracts spread fairly evenly across all five positions, don’t expect the Rockets to be eager to sign another player to a guaranteed deal.  They will probably bide their time and see if a good enough player “shakes loose” in free agency.

Impact on Trades

Trades are where the hard cap may have its most profound impact on the Rockets.

Even before the hard cap was imposed, Houston was subject to the more restrictive salary-matching rules for taxpaying teams, which limit incoming salary to 125% (plus $100,000) of outgoing salary.  The hard cap adds another layer of restrictions on top of that.

For instance, let’s say the Rockets have the opportunity to trade three players in exchange for one significant player.  Even if such a trade would work under salary-matching rules, the Rockets would still need to fill out their roster to meet the league’s minimum roster requirement of 13 players.  Even signing 1-2 players to veteran’s minimum salaries could push the team above the apron level and could therefore make the trade illegal.


The signing of Harrell has created a hard cap for the Rockets.  While this hard cap has already cost Houston guys like Hayes and Wood, it does not completely cut off any ongoing salary cap flexibility.  Trades and signings can still be made, albeit to a limited extent.  Meanwhile, Houston has locked up a first round-caliber talent to a long-term deal that will likely be a bargain in as little as one year.  This was apparently a trade-off that Morey and his staff felt was worth making.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
September 15, 2015 at 6:38 pm

FINALLY! Rockets unveil black alternate jersey for 2016-17 season

2015-09-15 19.44.46

The long-awaited black jersey for the Houston Rockets is finally here.

“We’ve seen it on ClutchFans, we’ve read the threads,” said Rockets vice president of marketing Ken Sheirr. “Fans have been clamoring for a black jersey. We heard it, loud and clear.”

The road alternate jersey, which will not be worn by the team until the 2016-17 season, looks terrific — it’s all black with red trim around the shoulder. No sleeves. It says simply “HOUSTON” on the front. I think it looks outstanding. Rockets rookie Sam Dekker wore the jersey in a reveal event by the team Tuesday night.

Though the team won’t wear them until next year, I’m told the Rockets are working to get them on sale to the fans later this season.

The Rockets also revealed two new alternates that they will wear this season.

The first is the “Pride” jersey, a sleeved red uniform sporting “Clutch City” on the front. The Rockets will first wear that jersey on 11/14 against Dallas.

The second is their new home alternate jersey, a silver, black and red sleeved jersey that they will first wear on 11/25 against Memphis, the day before Thanksgiving.


Both jerseys can be pre-ordered now on and will be available to purchase the night they are first worn by the team.

The Rockets also will wear a league-designed jersey on Christmas Day when they face the San Antonio Spurs.

That’s not all. The Chinese jersey the Rockets wore last season for Lunar New Year will also return this season, but this year’s version will not be sleeved.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
September 10, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Houston Rockets 2015-16 Season Teaser Video

Dwight Howard Houston Rockets 2015-16 Season

Believe it or not, Houston Rockets training camp opens this month.

It’s been a long spell without basketball, but it’s just about over — Rockets Media Day is scheduled for Monday, September 28th, with training camp opening the very next day here in Houston.

With Ty Lawson on board joining James Harden, Dwight Howard and a deep cast, this year could be a special one for the Rockets. I put together a teaser video for the Rockets 2015-16 season. Hope you enjoy it.



Posted in Houston Rockets |
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


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

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 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 |