Miami Heat v Houston Rockets

Report: Rockets to decline team option on Chandler Parsons in pursuit of bigger star

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If they desire, the Rockets will keep Chandler Parsons next season. That was always the case.

It will just cost them a little more now – by their choice.

The Rockets hold a $964,750 team option on Parsons for next season. If they exercise it, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in 2015. If they decline it, he’ll become a restricted free agent this summer – i.e., getting a raise sooner but one Houston can match.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Houston Rockets plan to decline the fourth-year option on forward Chandler Parsons’ contract, freeing him to become a restricted free agent this summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Houston is determined to clear the necessary salary cap space this summer to chase a third maximum contract free agent to join Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

Houston plans to pursue the major stars who could be available upon opting out of deals, including Miami’s LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and New York’s Carmelo Anthony, league sources said. Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki is expected to be a target too.

We already knew the Rockets were interested in Kevin Love, an attainable target. But why not also put LeBron, Bosh, Melo and Nowitzki on the radar? Who wouldn’t want one of those players?

However, if the Rockets were intent on maximizing cap room, they would have just picked up Parsons’ option to ensure he’d count against the cap at $964,750.

[MORE: PBT Podcast — Finals preview, Heat vs. Spurs]

By Houston declining it and then extending a qualifying offer, Parsons will count against the cap at $2,875,130* until he signs either a contract or offer sheet. Then, he’ll count against the cap at his 2014-15 salary, which will surely be much higher.

*He earned a higher qualifying offer by meeting the starter criteria. That puts his qualifying offer equal to the rookie-scale amount for the No. 21 pick in the 2010 draft (not 2011, as previously noted). Though Parsons was drafted in 2011, the 2010 draft is used because players drafted in the first round in 2010 are finishing their contracts this season.

So, it seems the Rockets are more interested in a sign-and-trade.

I’d think a player of Parsons’ quality making less than $1 million, even if on an expiring contract and due a big raise the following year, would have high trade value. But to add salary in a trade – LeBron, Bosh, Melo, Nowitzki or Love wouldn’t come cheap – the Rockets would have to send out a comparable amount of salary. In that sense, a higher-paid Parsons could be more helpful.

This decision might say something about the low trade value of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who will each count $8,374,646 against the cap next season while owed $14,898,938 in real money. Though that cap number could facilitate a sign-and-trade, teams might balk about actually paying so much in actual dollars.

Hence, Parsons – a better player than Asik and Lin – could become the preferred sign-and-trade option.

Of course, Parsons would have to go along with a sign-and-trade. He’s clearly fond of Houston, and he might not accommodate a deal that sends him elsewhere.

[MORE: The curious case of Chandler Parsons]

That said, he should welcome making around $10 million rather than less than $1 million next season. Wherever Parsons plays in 2014-15, Houston is doing him a huge favor.

Personally, I would have exercised Parsons’ option and enjoyed the advantages of a good starter making so little money for an extra year. Then, once the contracts of Asik and Lin expire next summer, I would have tried to leverage Parsons’ tiny free agent amount into huge cap space and then gone over the cap to re-sign Parsons.

But Morey should know the Rockets’ current options better than I do. This could be the first step to something very big.

And if that backfires, Houston will at least safely lock up Parsons for several more years, though at a higher cost.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: