It’s been a rough offseason for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
His plan to decline Chandler Parsons’ team option veered off track when the Mavericks gave Parsons a whopping offer sheet.
Still, Morey still had 72 hours to salvage his cap space before matching – if he could create room in the first place.
He traded Jeremy Lin to the Lakers, sending out a first-round pick to dump the productive backup point guard. But his prearranged trade of Omer Asik to the Pelicans seems to have hit an unexpected snag (though New Orleans might be positioning itself to fix the issue).
Still, Houston surely wants cap room to spend on other free agents before the deadline to match on Parsons.
And that’s where Morey has found even more trouble.
I, like many, assumed the Rockets drafted Clint Capela with the No. 25 pick, at least in part, because he wouldn’t join the NBA this year. If Capela signed a letter agreeing to defer signing for a season, the Rockets could immediately clear Capela from the cap. These arrangements are frequently negotiated before the draft so teams like the Rockets know whom they can draft and stash and whom won’t agree.
Currently, Capela counts against the cap at his rookie-scale amount.
The NBA and the players association, as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, previously negotiated a payment structure for all first-round picks depending on year and pick. The scale amount for the No. 25 pick signed in 2014 is $991,000. Teams can offer between 80 percent and 120 percent of scale, but with rare exception, players get 120 percent.
By design, there’s little room to negotiate. The NBA doesn’t want rookies holding out for monster contracts, which once happened regularly. The league has effectively made signing first-round picks a seamless process.
But occasionally there are snags.
The Houston Rockets and their 2014 NBA first round draft pick Clint Capela are in a contract dispute following the team’s failed attempt to lure Chris Bosh from Miami, league sources informed CSNNW.com.
According to one source, for cap space, the Rockets requested that Capela spend another season in France, believing they would land Bosh in free agency. Capela’s representatives were strongly against that idea and that still stands. Friction amongst the two sides is ongoing, sources say.
There’s a $500,000 buyout to free the 6-11 forward from his French team.
I’m very surprised the Rockets didn’t know Capela’s intent when drafting him. Maybe they thought they did – but there was a clear communication breakdown, which has led to the current impasse.
The Rockets must give Capela a required tender – a standing offer worth at least 80 percent of scale – by Wednesday.
However, Houston’s real deadline is probably Sunday, when Parsons’ offer sheet becomes binding. As soon as the Rockets match, they run out of cap room unless they make other salary-clearing moves.
The Rockets could cover Capela’s full buyout without the spent money counting toward team salary. However, if they don’t want him to sign this year, why would they offer to contribute any money toward his buyout?
Houston could refuse to make Capela a required tender, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Only once – the Bulls with Travis Knight in 1996 – has a team let its first-round pick go rather than offering the scale amount. I can’t believe Morey would squander an asset in that manner, though.
The Rockets could low-ball Capela, offering only 80 percent of scale and refusing to pay any of his buyout. Maybe Capela accepts that, paying his buyout out of his own pocket. If he does, his cap number would be lowered from 100 percent to 80 percent of scale, though Houston wouldn’t get it down to $0 as it would prefer.
If the Rockets toy with Capela in that way, he might not sign this year. And if he does, he could toy right back by delaying an official signature. Either way, he’d remain on the books at his current 100 percent of scale while the Rockets pursue free agents.
Unless the Rockets really need to free an extra $483,664 in cap room (Capela’s scale amount minus a minimum-salary roster charge of $507,336), they will submit the required tender. Then, they can test just how desperate Capela is to join the NBA. Houston could offer 80 percent of scale and none of his buyout this year while promising to pay 120 percent of scale and cover all of his buyout next year.*
*The scale amount, which increases annually, is determined by the year a player signs, not the year he’s drafted.
The difference for Capela would be $2,233,029 over four years if the third-year and fourth-year team options of his contract are exercised ($4,041,792 if signed this year vs.
Both sides have leverage here, which makes this somewhat-minor dispute all the more compelling.
Within hours of the Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons going down with a foot injury that might derail his rookie season, the rumors about it being weight related started. Simmons needed to add weight coming it of LSU and had reportedly put on more than 30 pounds since the draft. Was that too much too quickly? Kendall Marshall was out in front of this:
The Sixers have moved to shoot this down, saying this was an acute fracture — something that happened suddenly, like from him stepping on another player’s foot — and was not stress related, as would happen with weight issues. More importantly, that also means surgery, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
Surgery will mean Simmons will miss a majority — if not all — of the coming season, and you can be sure the Sixers will be cautious bringing him back (we saw that with Joel Embiid).
This is just deflating to a Sixers franchise that has had terrible luck with injuries the past couple of years. And yes, some around the league quietly see this as karma for all the tanking.
There is a pecking order in the Celtics backcourt: Isaiah Thomas is the scoring/playmaking point guard, with Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart playing the more defensive backcourt teammate role next to him at different times.
Still, there are minutes to be had — Evan Turner is no longer in camp and the secondary playmaker. He is on another coast trying to become the other playmaker Portland needs.
Second-year player Terry Rozier wants those minutes.
Good. Celtics fans should like that their young player is saying this.
More importantly, reports out of Celtics training camp say Rozier is playing very well, using his speed to create shots for himself and others. It’s been a great change of pace for the Celtics, one Brad Stevens could put to use this season.
Rozier is going to be coming off the bench, but if he can do that and bring this energy and shot creation, he’s going to get plenty of run this season. And be another part of a strong young core in Boston that just keeps getting better.
We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season. Today:
Will a few veterans actually make the 76ers good enough to justify ousting Sam Hinkie?
The Philadelphia 76ers are going to lose a lot of games this season. They will be one of the worst teams in the NBA. Again.
Now that reality feels even worse. The loss of No. 1 pick Ben Simmons to a broken foot for at least part of the season was a punch to the gut for Sixers fans who finally had hope “the process” was about to start to pay off with wins and promise.
Take a step back from this latest in an entirely too long list of setbacks, and a key question remains:
Are the Sixers now on the right track?
As a corollary to that, would the Sixers be just as good if Sam Hinkie were still the man in charge? Or has the father/son combination of Jerry and Bryan Colangelo steered the ship in the right direction? Did this team need established veterans to both guide the young players and create a better locker room culture?
We know where Bryan Colangelo stands, look at what he said on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski:
Really, factually, there was a losing culture. There was a losing mindset….
And I think more than anything the mindset needed to shift. The mindset needed to change. And that’s why we’ve been talking about winning and doing everything to promote winning, promote a culture of excellence, to promote better thought process in everything.
Apparently, that means bring in more veterans. This season Jerryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, and Elton Brand will be part of the mix with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric, and, eventually, Simmons. Those veterans are there to change the mindset and make sure the team wins more than the 10 games it did last season.
What Colangelo now preaches is what a lot of executives around the league said while Hinkie was the guy with the hammer in Philly. Those other execs understood the tanking — every franchise is willing to suffer a bad season or two in order to get a high draft pick — but it was the sustained level and intensity of the tanking that disturbed people. It was the cold turning over of the back end of the roster searching for a diamond in the rough rather than bringing in guys to help win a few games. Where was the Kevin Garnett in Minnesota leader of a young core? If a team is that bad for that long, doesn’t it seep into the culture, the DNA of a franchise?
One could make the case that happened in Philadelphia. That’s why Okafor was getting in fights, why Embiid wasn’t listening to staff and on down the line. Young players were developing bad habits, and while Brett Brown did all anyone could ask of a coach to turn that around, it takes a player or players to set the tone. Veterans can do that, although it takes the right veterans (ask the Lakers how it goes when Nick Young is the only veteran actually hanging out with a young core of players while better examples keep mostly to themselves).
The question remains, would things be that much different in Philly if Hinkie were in charge? In terms of perception, maybe, but in terms of wins? In terms of direction?
Any success the Colangelos have will be built on the foundation of Hinkie and his process. They may not think of him as a “basketball guy” but the Colangelos owe Hinkie — he took the slings and arrows while compiling a treasure chest of picks other teams covet. The Colangelos are certainly more transparent, or at least give that impression by meeting more with the media and selling their vision. The Colangelos certainly have better relationships with agents and other teams than Hinkie, who was not beloved. It was certainly Joshua Harris and the Philadelphia owners — likely with a push from Adam Silver (although he denies it) — who grew weary of the losing and wanted to make the change.
But all of that is very different from saying this year’s Sixers will win a lot more games because Hinkie was pushed out the door.
Hinkie is now living the good life in Palo Alto, California, with his family. He’s relaxing (as much as he relaxes). At some point he will get another shot, he will be brought in as an assistant GM somewhere if he wants it. And like anyone who does any job, he likely learned a lot about how to do it better through his struggles.
Do the veterans and maybe a couple of wins justify ousting Hinkie? The question is largely moot — the deed is done. Hinkie is gone in Philly.
But he shouldn’t be forgotten — this is his roster as much as anyone’s. Whether you like how it was put together or not.
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.