Daryl Morey says Rockets more likely to re-sign their own free agents than land a big name

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In the last two offseasons, the Rockets have been major players in free agency. All indications from Daryl Morey are that that’s not going to be the case this year. In 2013, Houston landed the biggest free agent of the summer in Dwight Howard. Last year, they made a pitch to Carmelo Anthony and came close to luring Chris Bosh away from Miami, before the Heat came through with a max contract offer. Now, even with such names as Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge on the market, Morey seems more focused on re-signing the Rockets’ own players who are due for new deals than adding another star.

From Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

The Rockets are “probably likely” to stick with their plan to remain above the salary cap and spend the free-agency period putting the band back together by signing many, if not all, of their five free agents.

Morey did say there are “possible opportunities we have to explore that are bigger. But I think they’re unlikely.”

Those unlikely “possible opportunities” are enough for the Rockets to do some big-game hunting when free-agent season opens Wednesday, but without the confidence of the past two summers.

This summer’s top free-agent targets – big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love – are considered much greater long shots than the top players of the past two offseasons that had the Rockets in the middle of the annual free-agent frenzy.

The Rockets will have five players to make decisions on this summer: restricted free agents Patrick Beverley and K.J. McDaniels, and unrestricted free agents Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Jason Terry. Beverley and Smith are the two most likely players to be priorities. Beverley missed the last two weeks of the regular season and the entire postseason with torn ligaments in his left wrist, but he should be healthy by training camp and he’s been a defensive pest for Houston the last three years. He should be due for a significant raise over the $915,000 he made this season — probably something north of $10 million annually.

Smith resurrected his career in Houston after a catastrophic year-plus in Detroit, learning to play to his strengths as a solid defender and around-the-basket finisher and complimenting Howard well in the frontcourt. Brewer found a perfect role as an energy guy off the bench in Houston after being traded from Minnesota in December. Terry was surprisingly solid in the backup point guard role, stepping in as a starter after Beverley went down. McDaniels didn’t play much after being traded to Houston from Philadelphia at the deadline, but he’s still a promising young talent.

Unless something unforeseen happens, Morey’s plan seems to be to keep this group together and add new draftees Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. And why not? The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals despite injuries to Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas. If the opportunity is there to get a star like Love or Aldridge, Morey will obviously go for it, but it’s understandable that he sees potential for this core to make yet another leap after a successful season and playoff run.

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!