Report: Rockets in contract dispute with No. 25 pick Clint Capela

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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).

All while Morey is sorting this out, his top free agent target – Chris Bosh – decided to re-sign with the Heat on a max contract.

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.

Chris Haynes of CSN Northwest:

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. $6,274,822 if signed next year PLUS the amount of his buyout. Since buyouts typically fall or remain constant during the life of a contract, I figure Houston can fit the 2015-16 amount into its $625,000 allotment for international buyouts next season.

Both sides have leverage here, which makes this somewhat-minor dispute all the more compelling.

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.

Watch Paul George lose JR Smith, put Cavaliers guard on skates with crossover

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Game 4 between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was hotly-contested in the first half. The Cavaliers led, 58-52, after two quarters.

But one special play came when Indiana’s Paul George put JR Smith on his heels, with the Cavaliers guard reeling back some 10 feet after a pull-back crossover left George alone at the 3-point line.

Via Twitter:

You might say George pushed off with his left hand, but you could also point out that Smith then turned a flop-like head kick into an actual blown defensive assignment.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Kobe Bryant’s new Canvas video is brought to you by the letter O (for Obsession)

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Kobe Bryant’s Canvas series returned to our television screen on Saturday. The Sesame Street-like videos center around finding a place to draw motivation from in order to, as the most recent video says, dominate the will of your opponent.

They’re … weird.

They are also extremely Kobe-ish in that they stay true to the former Los Angeles Lakers great’s internal vision of how to play basketball.

The last one we saw was all about finding a musecage, and using your dark thoughts to propel you to win. This one is all about obsession, and how that emotion separates those who like to win from true competitors.

I’m personally all for these videos. They are maybe a little cheesy, or single-minded, but that’s sort of the point. It accurately reflects Kobe, which is something you don’t often see from retired players trying to transition their brand from player to former player.

Isaiah Thomas scores 33, Celtics beat Bulls 104-95 to tie series

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CHICAGO (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.

Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead.

Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, helping the top-seeded Celtics return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists. Nikola Mirotic and seldom-used Isaiah Canaan each scored 13 points, but Dwyane Wade finished with just 11.

Canaan made his first appearance since April 10, with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg searching for help at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his second straight game because of a broken right thumb.

The Celtics led by 20 in the second quarter and were still up 10 in the third when Chicago scored 12 straight. The Bulls went ahead 65-63 on Robin Lopez‘s hook shot with 4:35 left in the quarter.

Thomas answered with back-to-back layups and scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead, and they withstood a push by the Bulls early in the fourth.

With Thomas and Green each scoring 16 in the first half, the Celtics carried a 57-46 lead into the break.

Butler led the Bulls with 17 in the half. But the offense struggled in a big way with Rondo unavailable. Jerian Grant started and went to the bench after about five ineffective minutes. Michael Carter-Williams then picked up two quick fouls, forcing the Bulls to go with Canaan in the first quarter.

The Celtics, meanwhile, led 41-21 early in the second quarter. But things started to turn after Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and scored on a layup.

Smart feigned throwing the ball at Butler. The two came nose to nose, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to shoot their way back into it.

Mirotic hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight in the quarter. Bobby Portis cut it to 52-42 with his basket late in the half, and Butler hit two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 57-46.

RONDO FINED

The NBA fined Rondo for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder from the bench in Game 3. Crowder jawed at the Bulls’ bench after hitting a jumper and Rondo extended his leg as Crowder walked by.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Thomas was just 1 of 9 on 3-pointers but made 12 of 13 free throws.

Bulls: Butler made 19 of 23 foul shots after failing to get to the line in Game 3. … Canaan was inactive for the first three games.