James Harden has the green light 100 percent of the time in his new role with the Houston Rockets, although this possession midway through the fourth quarter during a tight game with the Cavaliers probably wasn’t what his coaching staff had in mind when gifting him with that responsibility.
Harden receives the ball with about 13 seconds left on the shot clock, with his team clinging to a three-point lead and Dion Waiters defending. He initiates the drive, before being cut off by Waiters, whose expert defensive effort here should not go unnoticed.
Harden retreats, and too much dribbling becomes problematic, as the ball gets away from him and nearly rolls out of bounds. Harden not only saves it, but manages to get around Waiters and launch an awkward 30-foot three-point attempt as the shot clock expires.
Of course, it goes down.
Harden finished with 29 points and seven steals in 38 minutes, and the Rockets got the 112-104 win over the Cavaliers.
Rumor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope demanding more than $20 million annually to sign contract extension with Pistons
There was gossip over the summer that it would take a deal worth north of $20 million per year to get Caldwell-Pope’s signature.
That’s not an unreasonable demand. It’s up to Caldwell-Pope whether he’d accept less in exchange for more security, but I think he’d get even more as a restricted free agent next summer – maybe even a max contract, which projects to start at more than $24 million.
Caldwell-Pope is a good shooting guard in a league with a dearth of quality wings and a greater need for them as teams go smaller. He’ll be just 24 next offseason, so his next deal should last through his prime.
His preseason didn’t foreshadow a breakout year. He remains a good defender and streaky 3-point shooter. But it’s possible Caldwell-Pope steadies his outside stroke and/or becomes an even more impactful defender. He could also improve his off-the-dribble skills, though his bread is buttered as a 3-and-D player.
Still, it won’t take massive improvements for Caldwell-Pope to hold value. To some degree, the Pistons could view every dollar under the max on a Caldwell-Pope extension as savings.
If his demands remain high, the Pistons could always take another year to evaluate the fourth-year guard. With matching rights, they can always re-sign him in the offseason.
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But Dallas didn’t make a stronger push to keep Parsons due to his knees. We could look back on this and chastise the Grizzlies for signing someone to a max contract who wasn’t even ready to play in the first place. They have big plans for Parsons, but he must play for those to work.