October 30, 2015 at 9:05 am

Houston Rockets 2015-16 Arena Intro Video

The Houston Rockets laid an egg in their 2015-16 season opener, but they did reveal their new arena intro video for the 2015-16 season.

The Rockets usually go with two (maximum three) different intro videos throughout the season, usually switching it up in January or February before coming out with a playoff intro video at the end of the year. Here’s my recording of their initial offering from Wednesday night’s opener.

Version with Full Player Intros

Houston Rockets 2015-16 Arena Introduction Video

Posted in Houston Rockets |
October 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Houston Rockets: What’s gone right and wrong this preseason

Clint Capela Houston Rockets

Let’s be honest — this preseason has been hard to watch.

Much in the same way they treated Summer League, the Rockets have pulled numerous key players from games, making it difficult for the fans to get a good look at what’s new. This was highlighted best by a nationally-televised game against the Warriors where the Rockets sent eight of their top players home, rolling out Joshua Smith and Jeremy Tyler in the first quarter against last year’s title team.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed there were bigger questions for the Rockets to answer this preseason than ‘How does Will Cummings look?’, but that doesn’t mean we were completely in the dark. October 28th can’t come soon enough, but here’s what we’ve seen so far this preseason:

Now This Is New

Clint Capela
I don’t like to make projections very often based on preseason play — after all, Kelvin Cato is Scrooge McDucking over a sea of coins right now because of such a miscalculation — but one thing I can say with certainty: Clint Capela has progressed rapidly. He is a far better player than he was this time last year and looks bigger and more comfortable than he did just five months ago when he was making a surprise impact in the playoffs. Give it up for Daryl Morey and company here. The Rockets appear to have succeeded in filling a key rotation spot (backup center) and in adding an extremely valuable young player with a late first round pick — no easy task. Hands down, the biggest story of the preseason for me is Capela’s growth.

Ty Lawson, The Player
Though he has only played in four games with the Rockets, Ty Lawson looks sharp. The point guard is averaging 11.8 points on 53.1% shooting and 38.5% from three-point range in just over 24 minutes a night. If Lawson is hitting threes efficiently, this team has made a big jump with his addition.

Montrezl Harrell
A rookie big taken with the 32nd pick this past summer, Montrezl Harrell has a lot of learning still to do about the NBA game. Defensively he has been late to read, cover and rotate and hopefully this tightens up significantly as he adapts to this level of competition. But for some strange reason, this guy’s energy and in-your-face style gives me more hope for positive change at the power forward spot than anything else right now. The Rockets simply don’t get that gritty style of play from any other player at the position. He’s got long arms, a constant thirst to dunk the ball and likes to get out and run. By season’s end, Lawson may think he never left Kenneth Faried.

Ready To Roll

James Harden
Just give him the damn ball. James Harden hasn’t shot it well this preseason (37% FG, 29.7% 3P), but this isn’t the first time that’s happened for him. Harden reported to camp in strong physical condition and is moving and passing very well. He looks confident and ready to go.

Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer
It’s hard to separate these two. Both Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer appear to be in midseason form, knocking down shots, attacking the basket and doing what they do best — bullrushing the passing lanes. Combined, the Rocket small forwards averaged over 30 points a contest with Ariza hitting over 55% from the field. The wing spot is set.

Need More Data

Ty Lawson, The Team Impact
I think this image posted on our forums summed it up best. We did not get a good idea at all of what this team will look like with Lawson, Harden and Dwight Howard. We know that Lawson won’t really move the needle on the defensive side of the ball, so where is his impact most felt on offense? Does he make Howard more efficient? Does he create more open three-point shots for teammates? Does he take defensive pressure off Harden, or is his presence most felt when Harden is resting? We haven’t got a clear vision just yet.

Terrence Jones
I came out of Media Day believing that Terrence Jones was ready for a breakout. He looked very solid last season before a couple of fluke injuries and he will have the starting job back with Donatas Motiejunas beginning the season on the shelf. He talked about working on his outside shot this summer, and he hit 4-11 (36.4%) from three in the preseason, but all it took was one stretch of watching him get manhandled again by Draymond Green for me to take a step back. Jones will do well this season — I have no doubt about that — but if you saw him at all in the playoffs last year, you know he needs to step up against the big boys. That remains to be seen.

K.J. McDaniels
I’m not buying K.J. McDaniels just yet. The second-year wing has put up some plays for the highlight reel, unleashing chasedown blocks (like this and this) and throwdowns (like these) that get Vine spinning, but there’s only one problem — we already knew he could do all that from his stint with Philly. The question with K.J. is can he make outside shots? Can he make passes and keep the offense flowing? Can he make defensive rotations? I don’t think the preseason has given us anything new there and I struggle to see where McHale finds playing time for him right now, especially with a superior shooter and veteran in Marcus Thornton also available for those minutes. For me, McDaniels is more trade asset at the moment.


Sam Dekker
Rookie wing Sam Dekker has sucked… and that’s not my word choice. I watched Dekker every day in shooting drills for the first week of camp, clanging three after wide open three, and at one point he finally threw up his hands in frustration and yelled to himself, “You suck!” He has not impressed in preseason. Granted, that’s normal for a young player, but given his outside shot struggles, I think it might take awhile. I thought the Wisconsin product might have a chance to stick on the roster without a stay in the Valley, ala Chandler Parsons, but now I think he’s destined for some good time with the Vipers.

Dwight Howard
I’m a little troubled by the fact that the Rockets played Howard in only one game as there are plenty of reasons the team needs to get him spot minutes in the preseason after adding a key component like Lawson. It also appeared McHale wanted to experiment with a Twin Towers lineup (Howard-Capela) in the first game and we never got to see more of that. Yes, Howard looked springy in his short stint but this does raise a red flag for me in hoping that he will remain healthy all season. It’s more troubling when you consider that D-Mo, who filled in admirably with Dwight out last year, is still recovering from a back injury.

Patrick Beverley
Frankly, Patrick Beverley probably belongs in the “Need More Data” section, but I’m concerned. His defense waned last year and some of that could be attributed to injuries, but he hasn’t looked particularly sharp in the preseason and is shooting just 32.5% from the field and 31% from three-point range. It appears Lawson has won the starting job and I believe Bev will be fine, especially with reduced minutes potentially leading to increased intensity, but this is something to keep an eye on.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
October 11, 2015 at 8:27 pm

James Harden injures right knee in preseason game

James Harden knee injury

The NBA preseason. Yes, the meaningless games can serve a purpose for getting some run for lineups and a look at young players, but there’s a risk playing your big guns in games that don’t matter.

Sunday night, we saw that first hand. After accumulating 12 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block in 13 minutes, James Harden left the Rockets game against the Orlando Magic late in the first half after a collision with Evan Fournier on a fast break. The video shows Harden got hit on the right knee.

Harden was able to walk off on his own, but didn’t look happy at all. The team is calling it a “right knee contusion” and you just hope it’s nothing serious. We’ll know more soon enough.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
September 29, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Houston Rockets Training Camp Day 1

Ty Lawson Houston Rockets Training Camp

We did not get to see much practice — we were let in as the Rockets were shooting free throws to end it — but we did get to see Ty Lawson, James Harden and the rest of the Rockets go through some three-point shooting drills, which provided some entertainment.

Here are some videos from Day 1 of Houston Rockets 2015-16 Training Camp:

Rockets end practice with free throw game

Ty Lawson – Shooting Drills

Ty Lawson Interview

James Harden Interview

James Harden, Pat Beverley go head-to-head in three-point shooting drills

Posted in Houston Rockets |
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 Rockets.com 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 |