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.

Report: Clippers owner Ballmer will spend “whatever it takes” to keep Blake Griffin, Chris Paul

Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, center, responds to reporters while Chris Paul, left, and DeAndre Jordan laugh during the team's NBA basketball media day, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Playa Vista, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
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Is this the season the Clippers break through? They have been one of the eight best teams — usually one of the top five — for several years now, but that has not been enough to get them past the second round of the playoffs. A combination of injuries and running into superior teams has gotten in their way.

This season they will start as the fourth-best team in the league according to most NBA power rankings (including ProBasketballTalk’s), but they will still be third best in the West. If things play out according to that script, it would mean another second-round exit.

The difference is next summer Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can be — and almost certainly will be — free agents (both have early termination options). If there is another second-round flame-out, can the Clippers keep them?

Owner Steve Ballmer is committed to spend whatever it takes to keep them in Clipper red, white, and blue, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Most importantly, according to Clippers insiders, is his commitment to keeping both Griffin and Paul long term no matter what it costs.

Do both want to stay? That’s impossible to predict nine months out. But it’s hard to imagine either finding as good of a set up as they have in Los Angeles. Both have firmly planted roots in L.A., with deep ties to the business and entertainment worlds.

Take a moment to step back and realize just how much Ballmer has changed the Clippers’ culture in three years from what Donald Sterling would have done. If Sterling still owned the team we’d be asking if he would open his pocketbook to spend to keep his two big stars in the same summer, and even if he was would that be enough or would both players be looking just to get away.

Now it’s harder to make a case that either wants out — and that includes the idea that Griffin will bolt to go home to Oklahoma City and play for the Thunder next to Russell Westbrook. Few players have taken advantage of the Los Angeles lifestyle and opportunities as Griffin, who is an executive producer of one television show making a pilot and has worked on a career as a comic.

As for the inevitable Griffin/CP3 trade rumors, take them with a whole box of kosher salt.

As for the idea that they’d make a blockbuster trade, consider this: The only way the Clippers get a decent return is if Paul and/or Griffin agreed to waive their player option for next season, or guaranteed they’d re-sign long term in the city they were traded. There’s no compelling reason for either of them to do that after the infusion of television rights’ money spikes the salary cap up more than $100 million next summer.

Griffin and Paul will be free agents next summer. Whether they stay in Los Angeles or leave will depend in part on how this season goes and the prospects for them and the Clippers after this season. It’s possible they leave.

But with Ballmer willing to open up his bloated checkbook, it’s much easier to make the case they both stay put.

Matt Barnes says he’s been warned for chewing gum, using bathroom during national anthem

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 19:  NBA players Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick attend the David Yurman in-store shopping event to celebrate the launch of Men's Faceted Metal Collection at David Yurman Boutique on March 19, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for David Yurman)
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The NBA has long taken a hard stance on the national anthem.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was infamously suspended for sitting during the national anthem 1996. The league has a specific rule  – which it doesn’t plan to change – that states, “Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.”

That makes it more difficult for the NBA and union to compromise on national-anthem protests – especially because precedent has set a strict tone on the rule.

Kings forward Matt Barnes on The Vertical Podcast with JJ Redick:

They don’t want you chewing gum. They told me, take the gum out of your mouth.

I was using the bathroom. They said you can’t miss the anthem. I’m like, “Man, I had to pee.” “Next time you’ll be fined.” I said, “Ohh, OK.”

I doubt NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to punish players for demonstrating on behalf of important social issues. But he’s also behold to the team owners and corporate sponsors, and he must enforce the league’s rules.

It’s a fine line, one that the NBA’s prior warnings on national-anthem conduction make even more difficult for Silver to walk.

Maybe the solution is raised fists? Kneeling, like Colin Kaepernick, would seem to violate the “stand” requirement. But if players are on their feet and in place, would the league really deem a raised fist an undignified posture?

Joel Embiid to start in Sixers first preseason game

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Here’s a little bit of good news for beleaguered Sixers fans:

Joel Embiid will start the Sixers first preseason game next Tuesday. Embiid was the No. 3 pick and a very highly rated prospect coming out of Kansas, but foot injuries sidelined him the entirety of his first two seasons. Now he’s healthy and going to get a start next Tuesday, according to coach Brett Brown.

This will be a process. It will be two steps up and one step back all season for Embiid, but at least he’s healthy enough to take those steps now.

Now the focus shifts to when Ben Simmons will be able to take his first steps.

Another report Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets nowhere near deal as deadline approaches

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is fouled as he shoots by Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on December 17, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Donatas Motiejunas and his agent had given the Rockets a Saturday deadline to make a contract extension offer they liked.

But the sides aren’t even talking in a serious way.

That was reported early on Friday, and now comes another report — this was from Calvin Watkins of ESPN — that the two sides are nowhere close to a deal.

With the deadline to sign a qualifying offer approaching, restricted free-agent power forward Donatas Motiejunas and the Houston Rockets have exchanged contract proposals but remain far apart on an agreement, multiple sources told ESPN.

Motiejunas is seeking a larger financial deal from the Rockets, but the two sides haven’t had serious contract discussions in a month, the sources said.

Motiejuas, a restricted free agent, has a $4.4 million qualifying offer on the table that expires Sunday. He likely will sign it — if so he will have the ability to veto trades during the season then would be a free agent next summer.  Motiejuas could let the deal expire then sign a new one-year deal with the Rockets, but he would make less money.

Last season the Rockets agreed to trade Motiejunas to the Pistons. However, Pistons voided the deal after he failed his physical. Motiejunas hammered Detroit for how it went down. That left Motiejunas a restricted free agent this summer, but he didn’t land any offers from other squads (many thought the Rockets would just match).

That gets us to where we are today, where Motiejunas appears headed to signing the qualifying offer, then testing the market next summer as an unrestricted free agent.