Houston Rockets

Rockets CEO 'Surprised' Blake Griffin Wasn't Suspended

  • Rockets CEO Tad Brown was surprised that the league didn’t come down on Blake Griffin for allegedly hitting head coach Mike D’Antoni, Sam Amick of USA Today writes. Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza were the only players suspended for their parts in the kerfuffle that unfolded in Los Angeles on Monday night.

Troy Williams Assigned To Rio Grande Valley

Seven Southwest Trade Candidates To Watch

The NBA trade deadline is just three weeks away, and there’s no shortage of players around the league who could change teams. Over the next week, we’re taking a closer look at some of those top trade candidates, breaking them down by division.

While our focus will be primarily on teams expected to be sellers at the deadline, our lists may also include some players on contenders who could be used as trade chips when those teams look to make upgrades.

We’re examining the Southwest Division today, so let’s dive in and identify seven players who could be on the move on or before February 8…

  1. Tyreke Evans verticalTyreke Evans, G (Grizzlies): After posting a career-worst 10.3 PPG and .405 FG% in 2016/17, Evans has bounced back in a major way this season. The former fourth overall pick has looked like a borderline All-Star, particularly since Mike Conley went down. In Conley’s absence, Evans has averaged an impressive 20.2 PPG, 5.7 APG, and 5.3 RPG, with a .445/.387/.773 shooting line. Throw in a very modest $3.29MM cap hit, and Evans is one of the more intriguing trade candidates on the market — even if he’ll just be a rental. The Grizzlies reportedly want a first-round pick in return for Evans, and I don’t think that’s out of the question, especially if the pick falls in the 20s, or if Memphis is willing to accept a less desirable contract in return. Last year, for instance, the Nets landed a first-round pick for Bojan Bogdanovic because they were willing to take on Andrew Nicholson.
  2. Ben McLemore, SG (Grizzlies): Memphis’ signing of McLemore was similar to the team’s move to land Evans. In each case, the Grizzlies were betting that they could get more out of a former top pick than his previous team(s) had. That bet paid off in Evans’ case, but the club hasn’t had as much luck with McLemore, whose 2017/18 debut was delayed after he underwent offseason foot surgery. While the Grizzlies are said to be gauging potential interest in the fifth-year guard, it’s hard to imagine teams clamoring to land him — McLemore has averaged just 6.3 PPG and has shot .411/.317/.789 in 24 games this season. Additionally, his contract, which will pay him $5.2MM this year and $5.46MM in 2018/19, isn’t quite team-friendly enough to be worth the gamble. If the former Kansas star is moved, the return won’t be significant.
  3. Marc Gasol, C (Grizzlies): Barring a second-half run reminiscent of the one made by the 2016/17 Heat, the 15-28 Grizzlies won’t make the playoffs this year. Gasol only has one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season, with a player option for 2019/20, so it would make sense for the Grizzlies to at least gauge the market to see what his value is. Still, Memphis has thus far been reluctant to discuss the possibility of moving Gasol — not only does the team have an eye on contending with its standout center next season, but it hasn’t thrown in the towel on this season. For now, we’ll take their word that Gasol isn’t going anywhere at the deadline, but of all the teams insisting they won’t trade their respective stars, the lottery-bound Grizzlies seem most likely to reconsider their position within the next three weeks.
  4. Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): Initially viewed as a steal, the Mavericks‘ 2017 deadline deal to acquire Noel hasn’t panned out like the team hoped. The former Sixer was good – but not great – down the stretch for the Mavs, then settled for signing his one-year qualifying offer in the summer after turning down a more lucrative multiyear deal. Given his performance and his ongoing health problems this season, it looks like Noel made a major mistake, and he and the Mavs don’t seem likely to make their union a long-term one. Currently sidelined with a thumb injury, Noel may be back in early February, which would give potential suitors a chance to get one more look at him before the February 8 deadline. He’s affordable ($4.19MM) and still very young (23 years old), so a team in need of an athletic frontcourt player may be willing to roll the dice, as long as Noel is willing to OK a trade — he has the ability to veto a move, since he’d lose his Bird rights if he’s dealt.
  5. Devin Harris, G (Mavericks): Harris’ 2017/18 numbers look a lot like the ones he posted in each of the previous five seasons. He’ll give you a little scoring punch off the bench, and a semi-reliable outside shot (his .354 3PT% this season is his best since 2011/12). He’ll never again be the 20-point scorer he was nearly a decade ago in New Jersey, but Harris could be a solid bench addition for teams lacking backcourt depth or battling injuries. He’s also inexpensive ($4.4MM) and will come off the cap this summer. Although there have been no reports linking Harris to other teams, it’s hard to believe the Mavericks wouldn’t move him if offered something of value.
  6. Alexis Ajinca, C (Pelicans): Ajinca is expected to miss the entire 2017/18 season, so he certainly won’t be targeted by any teams looking for immediate upgrades. Instead, he’ll likely be dangled by the Pelicans for salary-matching purposes as they seek out upgrades of their own. With only one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season at a reasonable rate of $5.29MM, Ajinca isn’t the sort of albatross that Omer Asik is, so it’s plausible that the Pelicans could extract a decent player in a deal if they’re willing to attach a pick or two. For instance, if New Orleans liked Devin Harris (noted above), the team could offer Ajinca and a draft pick. Such a move would help the Pels financially both this year and next year, and would give them a useful rotation player; from the Mavericks‘ perspective, Ajinca could be waived and stretched with minimal impact on their cap, so it may be worth it if the draft pick was strong enough.
  7. Ryan Anderson, PF (Rockets): One of the most-discussed trade candidates of the 2017 offseason, Anderson no longer seems as likely to be dealt. Still, there are only six Rockets earning more than $4MM this season, and the other five – James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Trevor Ariza – likely aren’t going anywhere. So if the Rockets look to make a major splash on the trade market and want to acquire another highly-paid player, Anderson would be the logical outgoing piece. The bet here is that Houston hangs onto the veteran sharpshooter and revisits the idea of a major splash in the offseason.

Here are a few more potential Southwest trade candidates to monitor:

  • James Ennis, SF (Grizzlies): Like McLemore, Ennis is reportedly being dangled as the Grizzlies explore their trade options. Of the two, Ennis is having the better season (.500/.351/.884 shooting line) and has the more favorable cap hit ($3.03MM).
  • Omer Asik, C (Pelicans): The Pelicans would prefer to move Asik’s contract over Ajinca’s, but the terms are so unfavorable that New Orleans may simply have to eventually waive and stretch Asik.
  • J.J. Barea, PG (Mavericks): Mark Cuban is fond of Barea, and the veteran has another very affordable ($3.71MM) year on his contract after 2017/18, so I think he may stay put, even though he’d be one of the Mavericks‘ most valuable trade chips.
  • Wesley Matthews, G/F (Mavericks): Matthews has been as reliable as ever from three-point range (38.2%), but his $18.62MM player option for 2018/19 is a roadblock for a deal.
  • Tarik Black, C (Rockets): The Rockets probably need to keep Black around as insurance, given Nene‘s injury history, but if Nene is healthy, Black could become expendable.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kyler’s Latest: Jordan, Kings, Mirotic, Whiteside

The streaky Clippers, who lost nine straight games back in November, have now won a season-high six consecutive contests, re-inserting themselves in the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Even though DeAndre Jordan has been sidelined with an ankle injury for the Clips’ last three wins, the streak seems to bode well for his chances of sticking in Los Angeles through the trade deadline.

As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes, Clippers ownership and management doesn’t seem at all eager to blow up the roster. For now, the club is focused on seeing if it’s capable of competing in the West, preferring to wait until a bit closer to the deadline to evaluate all of its options.

If the Clippers do change course by February 8, the Bucks and Rockets figure to be among the teams with interest in Jordan, whose contract situation is worth monitoring. According to Kyler, there’s a belief that the veteran center won’t be able to top his $24.12MM player option as a free agent, meaning it’s possible he could decide to opt in for 2018/19. That possibility may affect how the Clippers and potential trade partners view Jordan at the deadline.

Here’s more from Kyler:

  • The Kings‘ veteran players are all potential trade candidates at the deadline, though some are more likely to be moved than others. George Hill, for example, won’t have much value, given his contract situation, his injury history, and his underwhelming play this season. Sources close to the situation tell Kyler that Sacramento seems to be trying to help its veterans find better situations as those players fall out of the team’s regular rotation.
  • Kyler hears that Nikola Mirotic‘s camp is pushing for the Bulls to pick up the forward’s $12.5MM team option for 2018/19. Until that team option is exercised, Mirotic has the ability to block a trade, giving him some leverage if Chicago wants to complete a deal. League sources tell Kyler that the Bulls have “gotten pretty far down the road” in talks with the Jazz and Pistons about Mirotic.
  • There’s “growing talk” around the NBA that the Heat would be open to the idea of moving Hassan Whiteside for the right mix of contracts and young players, Kyler writes. The Bucks and Cavaliers, both on the lookout for a center, would be obvious suitors, but it would tough for either team to make a deal, given Whiteside’s large cap hit ($23.78MM). John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert are among the players whose contracts might have to be included for Milwaukee or Cleveland to make a deal work, which doesn’t sound overly appealing for Miami.
  • The Mavericks are “dangling” some expiring contracts and appear to be seeking a promising prospect on a rookie scale deal, along with future picks, says Kyler. Dallas also has cap flexibility to take on a contract or two.

Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green Suspended Two Games Each

The NBA is suspending Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green for “aggressively entering” the Clippers’ locker room earlier this week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link).

Chris Paul and James Harden will face no discipline. Wojnarowski (Twitter links) adds that interviews with 20 people from the locker room incident were conducted. It was determined that Paul and Harden tried to be “peacemakers,” attempting to defuse the situation. The scribe also adds that Blake Griffin will not be suspended.

The pair of Rockets wings will miss the team’s games against the Wolves and Warriors this week. Golden State is the only team ahead of the Rockets in the Western Conference standings, while the Wolves own the fourth spot in the conference, sitting just three games behind Houston.

Ariza will lose approximately $103K as a result of the two-game suspension, while Green will lose roughly $19.K. The Rockets will receive a credit of slightly under $61K against the luxury tax, Bobby Marks of ESPN.com explains (Twitter link). The team now sits roughly $2.56MM below the luxury tax threshold.

James Harden, Derrick Rose On Track To Return Thursday

A former MVP and a former MVP runner-up are on track to return to their respective teams’ lineups on Thursday, according to reports.

The Rockets are planning to have James Harden, who has yet to appear in a game since the calendar turned to 2018, back on the court on Thursday, league sources tell Tim MacMahon of ESPN. While Harden is still listed as questionable for that contest against Minnesota, he’s expected to play as long as he doesn’t have any hamstring-related setbacks in practice before then, MacMahon says.

Of course, in order to play for the Rockets on Thursday night, Harden will also have to avoid a suspension stemming from a postgame incident in Los Angeles on Monday night. The NBA will likely announce disciplinary measures today or tomorrow for multiple players involved in that situation. The league’s investigation is said to be focusing on Trevor Ariza as an instigator, but Harden and other Rockets could also be penalized.

Meanwhile, point guard Derrick Rose is expected to return for the Cavaliers on Thursday night against the Magic, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Rose participated in practice and a scrimmage today, and said he believes he’ll be “a go” vs. the Magic.

A left ankle injury has sidelined Rose for most of his first season in Cleveland, keeping him out of action for longer than initially anticipated — he hasn’t played since November 7. The latest injury in a long line of health problems for Rose had the former MVP evaluating his NBA future away from the Cavs in the fall. However, he ultimately decided to report back to the team and continue his career.

With Isaiah Thomas back for Cleveland, it’s not clear yet how Rose will fit into the team’s rotation.

NBA’s Clippers/Rockets Probe Focusing On Ariza

The NBA’s investigation into the postgame incident between the Rockets and Clippers in Los Angeles on Monday night is focused on Trevor Ariza, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, Ariza has been “isolated as the person most responsible” for the Rockets’ attempt to get into the Clippers’ locker room.

Ariza, who got into it with Blake Griffin during the game, resulting in ejections for both players, was waiting on Griffin after the game, a Rockets source told Lee Jenkins of SI.com. A source also told Jenkins that teammates James Harden, Chris Paul, and Gerald Green were holding Ariza back when he attempted to get into the Clippers’ locker room to confront Griffin and Austin Rivers.

Wojnarowski hears similar rumblings, writing that Paul and Harden are “increasingly described” as having attempted to cool down Ariza. However, Woj does note that some sources on the Clippers’ side insist that Paul “eagerly entered” the home locker room through the back entrance, as we detailed on Tuesday.

The NBA interviewed several executives, coaches, players, and security personnel during the 24 hours following the incident, and those discussions are expected to continue today, league sources tell Wojnarowski. It remains to be seen whether fines and/or suspensions will be announced before the Clippers host Denver on Wednesday night. The Rockets’ next game takes place on Thursday night in Houston.

NBA Investigating Rockets/Clippers Incident

10:09am: There will be “no shortage of punished individuals” as a result of the NBA’s investigation into last night’s incident in Los Angeles, tweets Wojnarowski. That investigation began late last night and continues into today.

8:26am: Chris Paul‘s return to Los Angeles took an unexpected turn on Monday night after the Clippers beat the Rockets in a testy contest that featured multiple ejections. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, tensions boiled over after game, with a handful of Rockets players looking to confront Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin in the Clippers’ locker room.

According to Wojnarowski, Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green walked through a back hallway to reach the Clippers’ locker room, where several L.A. players “dared the Rockets to come farther into the room.” However, security and team officials quickly stepped in and pushed the Rockets back toward their locker room, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that the Rockets were upset with Rivers, who was described as “especially belligerent” during the late stages of the Clippers’ win, despite standing on the sideline in street clothes (he’s still recovering from an ankle injury). Griffin was also involved in confrontations with Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and Ariza during the game, leading to his ejection.

While the details of Wojnarowski’s report are bizarre and fascinating, it appears the locker-room incident didn’t escalate beyond some shouting. “It was classic NBA,” one Clipper witness told Woj. “None of these guys were going to fight.”

Nonetheless, the NBA intends to investigate the matter and will begin to gather information on Tuesday, Wojnarowski writes. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the league announces fines and/or suspensions at some point this week, with the Rockets seemingly likely to be hit with harsher penalties.

Rockets Sign Markel Brown To Two-Way Contract

10:15pm: The Rockets officially signed Brown to a two-way deal and cut Weber, the team announced tonight in a press release.

5:51pm: The Rockets plan to sign Markel Brown to a two-way contract and release guard Briante Weber, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

Brown has been playing for the Thunder’s G League team, the Oklahoma City Blue, after getting waived by the Thunder during training camp. Brown appeared in 22 games with the Blue, averaging 17.4 PPG in 31.4 MPG. Brown hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2015/16 season. He saw extensive action for two seasons with the Nets, appearing in 109 games and averaging 5.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG and 1.2 APG in 16.2 MPG.

Brown will give Houston a little more depth at the two-guard spot.

Weber had used up a good portion of his 45-day limit of NBA service. Houston decided to bring in another player with NBA experience who could restart the clock in terms of service time. Weber appeared in 13 games with the Rockets, averaging 2.0 PPG in 9.1 MPG. All but four of those appearances came over the last 11 games after James Harden was sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Sixers Sign Demetrius Jackson To Two-Way Deal

4:58pm: The signing is official, per team release.

4:42pm: The Sixers will sign guard Demetrius Jackson to a two-way contract and release forward James Michael McAdoo, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

Jackson signed a two-way deal with the Rockets during the offseason after the Celtics waived him. Houston terminated Jackson’s contract and then signed him to a 10-day deal earlier this month. However, he did not figure in the Rockets’ plans and the 10-day deal bought him and his representatives time to find a better situation.

The 6’1” point guard made 12 cameo appearances with the Rockets, playing an average of 5.3 MPG. The Notre Dame product played five games for Boston last season after being selected in the second round as the No. 45 overall pick in 2016.

He’ll provide depth behind T.J. McConnell, Jerryd Bayless and top pick Markelle Fultz, who has been plagued by shoulder woes in his rookie campaign.

McAdoo signed a two-way contract with Philadelphia in late August but appeared in just three games.

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