Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons

Rockets decline team options on Troy Daniels, Chandler Parsons; Francisco Garcia opts out

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The Rockets’ offseason will be a series of small moves that may or may not culminate in Houston adding a third star to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden.

Opportunities to increase cap space and landmines that could destroy it are tied to so many players on Houston’s roster. Even how a few marginal Rockets are handled could make the difference.

Three of those moves, including the expected decline of Chandler Parsons’ option, have broken.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

The Rockets are showing a lot of trust in Parsons, and to a lesser degree, Daniels.

Parsons could nuke Houston’s cap space any time once free agency begins by signing an offer sheet with another team. The Rockets would likely match and keep Parsons, but his cap hit would immediately jump to his 2014-15 salary (likely around $10 million per year). Right now, he counts just $2,875,130 against the cap.

Daniels could accept his qualifying offer – a one-year contract worth $1,016,482 – at any time. Had Houston simply exercised his team option, he would have made just $816,482. Unless the Rockets are gung-ho about securing such a marginal player on a multi-year deal, they’ll likely pull his qualifying offer and maybe renounce him just before signing a quality free agent. In the meantime, the qualifying offer serves to cool other interested teams. In exchange for waiting to sign, I bet Daniels will get a larger salary – either through the room exception or non-bird exception.

Garcia is doing Houston a favor. He was slated to make a minimum salary, so his only risk in opting out is not getting a new contract. If he plays next year, his salary can be no lower than what he would have made by opting in. The Rockets, who could use his salary off the books while they pursue bigger fish, likely promised him a roster spot next season if he opts out. They can always go over the cap later to give him a minimum deal.

Essentially, Houston is placing some value in keeping Parsons and Daniels beyond next season. That might hinder the Rockets’ attempts to sign a star, but if they trust Parsons and Daniels, it won’t. It’s really in the players’ hands whether, and to what degree, this backfires.

With these moves, if the Rockets renounce Garcia and Jordan Hamilton, waive Omri Casspi, Robert Covington and Josh Powell (each on fully unguaranteed contracts) and take back no guaranteed salary in the Omer Asik trade, they’d fall $7,928,630 below the projected salary cap.

Pulling Daniels’ qualifying offer when the time comes would add

$509,146 in cap room. Houston could do the same with Parsons, though that’s riskier given the demand for his services, and get an extra $2,367,794 in cap room.

Really, the Rockets are inching away from maximizing their cap space, though Garcia at least helped the situation from flowing completely negative. Houston still has a lot of flexibility, though, and a Jeremy Lin trade could be the next shoe to drop. If that happens, maybe that means the Rockets are willing to lose Parsons and/or Daniels.

They’re on the clock to figure that out – essentially what it would take to land a star – before Parsons and Daniels are ready to get paid.

 

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star Spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants bask in the All-Star spotlight one last time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.

Zach LaVine wins MVP, Kristaps Porzingis puts on show in Rising Stars Challenge

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TORONTO — Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins was the rock star of the night. “An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few dunks) leading a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few huge dunks), sparking a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

His Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns was going to have none of that.

“I gotta see Andrew Wiggins for a long time and I want to rub this in,” Towns said.

He got his wish, the USA beat the World Team 157-154.

It was a glorified pickup game for three quarters, and the level of defensive intensity will make Sunday’s All-Star game look like Tom Thibodeau teams are playing. That led to a lot of high scorers.

Zach LaVine — the other teammate of Wiggins and Towns — led the USA with 30 points and was named the game’s MVP, and said he wanted to steal Wiggins’ thunder at home.

“That’s what I was going for,” LaVine said.

Also from the USA, Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) had 25, Devon Booker (Suns) had 23 and was 5-of-8 from three, D'Angelo Russell (Lakers) had 22, and Towns chipped in 18 points and 7 boards.

Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the building, and he had 30 for the World team.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess,” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Also for the World Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) had 30 points, Wiggins had 29, and Mario Hezonja (Magic) had 19.

The intensity and defense did pick up in the end, although one wouldn’t call it a thing of beauty. What matters is the crowd in the Air Canada Centre enjoyed it, even if their team didn’t win. It’s an exhibition, and they got a show.

Report: Celtics, Cavaliers talking Kevin Love trade; could include Knicks, ‘Melo

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love holds the ball away from Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson during the second quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are looking for an elite player to improve their deep cast of role players. The Cavaliers are looking for depth. And Carmelo Anthony may just be looking to win.

All of that has talks between the Cavaliers and Celtics on a potential Love deal progressing, with the possibility of the Knicks as a third team also in the mix, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

The Daily News has learned that the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a blockbuster trade centered around Kevin Love. There were very preliminary discussions about expanding the deal to include the Knicks and Anthony, who would have to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a deal to the Cavs.

The Knicks would receive draft picks and players in return. One of those players is believed to be Timofey Mozgov, who five years ago was traded by the Knicks to Denver in the Anthony deal.

This is a longshot, but the report has some legs.

It’s not clear how far along these talks are. The trade deadline is Feb. 18 (next Thursday) and conversations tend to move past the theoretical/value judging phase and get real come All-Star Weekend, when many GMs and decision makers are in one place (and nobody can go outside because it is too cold in Toronto). This trade works for the Cavaliers if they get a quality stretch four in return — Kelly Olynyk? — plus some depth and a quality pick. The question for the Cavs is simply how much can they get back — this is a win-now team and Love helps that, so how does a trade make them better?

Would Danny Ainge move the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick to get Love? Jae Crowder? How much would Boston surrender to get an elite star, especially one under a reasonable, long contract?

Carmelo Anthony wants a ring, if he could end up playing with LeBron and be much closer to it than he is now, he would waive his no-trade clause.

That said, this trade sounds like a longshot. At least at the deadline. Next Summer… who knows?

Watch Kevin Hart be Kevin Hart at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

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Kevin Hart has a movie to promote decided to come out of retirement to play in the NBA All-Star Friday Night Celebrity Game.

And, he did what Kevin Hart does.

Well, except win MVP of the game, that went to Win Butler (the Canadian lead singer of Arcade Fire). Butler led Canada to a 74-63 win over Hart and the USA.