This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
The Rockets looked like the big winners in the James Harden deal after opening night, where Harden poured in 37 points and 12 assists in leading Houston to a win over the Pistons.
But let’s not get too carried away just yet. Harden definitely had something to prove in his first career opening night start, and beyond that, he did all his damage against a Pistons team that once again appears headed for a season which will land them in the draft lottery yet again.
Houston was obviously happy with Harden’t initial performance, but over the course of the season, can Houston’s new acquisition be consistent enough to take them to the playoffs?
Check out the video above as Erik Kuselias and Chris Mannix discuss Houston’s chances during a recent segment on NBC SportsTalk.
Kyrie Irving, according to a report, has ghosted the Celtics as free agency approaches.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Whoever leaked the initial information wanted to make Irving look bad. Whoever leaked this wanted to make Irving look good. Who’s telling the truth?
Maybe Irving’s and Boston staffers have differing definitions “communicative and forthright.” They could each be telling their own truths. But neither side is above spreading inaccurate rumors to sully someone else’s reputation.
Breakups get messy, and it appears this one is already there.
Beyond all the noise about how Irving is leaving, the most important detail: This is yet another report he’s leaving for the Nets.
The Hornets’ last hope for super-maxing out Kemba Walker and avoiding the luxury tax without trading or stretching anyone has been extinguished.
With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s $13 million salary locked in for next season, Charlotte faces hard choices.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
If the Hornets re-sign Walker to the super-max, sign their draft picks (Nos. 12, 36 and 52) and add no other free agents, they’d project to be about $9 million over the tax line.
Would Walker take that large of a discount? That $9 million below the super-max would be for just next season. Over a five-year contract with max raises, he’d be leaving about $54 million on the table. And that’s all to maintain a lottery team that’s not really upgrading.
Would Michael Jordan pay the tax? He never has, and I doubt this mediocre team sways him.
The most likely outcome if Walker re-signs: Charlotte trades an undesirable contract – Kidd-Gilchrist’s, Nicolas Batum‘s, Marvin Williams‘, Cody Zeller‘s) – or stretches Bismack Biyombo. Trading those rotation players would probably require a sweetener. Stretching Biyombo would create a cap hit through 2022.
So, the Hornets get even more depleted in the long-term, maybe also the short-term.
That’s the cost of overpaying so many players – including Kidd-Gilchrist, who plays hard and defends well but hasn’t developed enough of an offensive game.
R.J. Barrett is the consensus No. 3 prospect in this draft. The Knicks have the No. 3 pick.
A potential snag – New York working out Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland today – apparently won’t keep Barrett from his desired Knicks.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The top of the draft looks clear:
1. Pelicans: Zion Williamson
2. Grizzlies: Ja Morant
3. Knicks: R.J. Barrett
New Orleans has the No. 4 pick but is looking into trading it. I rate Garland as the top available prospect, but the Pelicans already have Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt. They could still take Garland, but the fit would be tricky.
Will New Orleans pick Garland? Take someone else? Trade the pick?
The draft will get interesting at No. 4.
Predicting what the Wizards will do this off-season — from the No. 9 pick in the draft on Thursday through what to do with Jabari Parker‘s $20 million team option — is difficult because they do not have a permanent general manager. The Wizards have made a run at Toronto’s Masai Ujiri (something sources told me is true despite owner Ted Leonsis’ denials), but for now in-house candidate Tommy Sheppard is running the show (and will for a while longer).
The biggest question: What will the Wizards do with Bradley Beal?
While every team in the league has called to try and feel out trade possibilities, the Wizards are leaning toward offering him a three-year, $111 million extension to his current contract, something reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
“He’s eligible for a three-year, $111 million extension. I’m told it’s the team’s intention to offer that up to him and try and move forward.”
The Wizards should offer it up.
It would be a surprise if Beal accepted it.
In part because he will want to see who is in charge and what direction this person takes the franchise before he commits to it, but also in part because it doesn’t hurt him financially. Beal can get a larger-year four-year extension in the summer of 2020, or become a free agent and sign a max five-year contract in 2021 (or, he could bolt them to another team that summer). Beal is just 25 years old and has not had the kind of injury issues that would make him think he needs to take the security now (he has played 82 games the last two seasons).
This little dance will go on in our nation’s capital, but it signifies nothing. Meanwhile, Beal will gear up for next season, another without John Wall where Beal will once again be the focal point of the office.