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.

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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.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but they made enough defensive and hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.