Rockets GM Daryl Morey: Clint Capela ‘couldn’t price himself out’ of Houston

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Clint Capela is a Most Improved Player candidate.

The Rockets center has advanced his defensive awareness, and he’s crashing the glass harder and showing more touch inside. Importantly, he has also improved his conditioning so he can handle more playing time.

He’s in line to get paid in restricted free agency next summer after Houston didn’t sign him to a rookie-scale contract extension.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We’ll have him here as long as he’ll have us,” Morey said. “He couldn’t price himself out.”

“The only way [to overcome the Warriors] is to develop near-elite two-way players,” Morey said. “I think Clint has that potential. He’s on the way. He took a big step forward last year. It’s a lot to put on one guy, but we need one more step, at least.”

Did Morey run that by Tilman Fertitta? The new Rockets owner has said he’ll pay the luxury tax only to reach the Finals, and that’s a high bar to clear with Golden State around.

Houston already has nearly $76 million in 2018-19 and more than $85 million in 2019-20 committed to just five players (James Harden, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Nene). Three starters – Capela, Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza – will be free agents next summer.

Maybe Morey is just trying to scare off other Capela suitors. It’ll already be a tight market, and centers have been especially squeezed. It might not take much to convince other teams to look elsewhere, allowing Houston to re-sign Capela at a discount.

Paul is probably the priority. If Houston is as invested in Capela as Morey indicates, that could leave Ariza as the odd man out.

Or the Rockets could make the Finals or at least convince Fertitta it’s likely next season, and he could greenlight enough spending to keep this core together.

Supermax for Brown? Bring back Mazzulla? Expect patience from Celtics this summer

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This was supposed to be the season these Celtics took one final step forward and hang banner 18. Last June, Boston reached the NBA Finals, only to fall to a more disciplined and relentless team. In the wake of that loss, all the right words came out of the Boston locker room about lessons learned.

This season, the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to a more disciplined and relentless team.

Boston’s Game 7 elimination on their home court is the kind of loss that makes a franchise re-evaluate itself. It’s also a loss that summed up much of the Celtics’ season: Inconsistent play, struggles when their 3-point shots didn’t fall, and a defense that was strong in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs.

Now the Celtics head into the offseason with big questions about what is required to take that finals step.

The answers will be likely to essentially run it back. For now.

Those questions start with Jaylen Brown, who was second-team All-NBA during the regular season but against the Heat, to use his own words, “We failed. I failed.” Because of his All-NBA status, Brown is eligible for a five-year, $295 million supermax contract. Some of his public comments this season could be read as him telling the Celtics he expects that max.

Expect the Celtics to pay it.

While the book may still be out on the ceiling for the Brown and Jayson Tatum pairing, the fact remains the Celtics have the kind of elite wing duo around which a championship roster can be built. Or so it would seem. Some of the concerns about this team’s inconsistency have to fall to its stars, but having those stars entering their prime gives this team a chance for growth.

There have been calls from corners of the fan base to trade Brown, and his name did come up in trade rumors — for Kevin Durant. If the Celtics can land an all-time great still playing at a high level they have to consider the trade, but if it’s not KD or someone of that stature, who is Boston getting back in a trade that is better than Brown?

The smart move by Boston is to re-sign Brown, try to win, and if in a couple of years it doesn’t work consider their options.

This leads to the next big question: Is Joe Mazzulla the coach who can lead this team to a title?

Expect the Celtics to be patient and give him time to prove he can.

That said, also expect changes in his staff, something now reported out of Boston. Mazzulla was thrown into this hot seat after the unexpected suspension (and later release) of Ime Udoka days before the start of the season, there was no time to remake his staff. It makes sense to put an experienced head coach by his side to help smooth some rough edges. The Celtics are a patient organization, one more likely to support a young coach and help him grow rather than cut him off too young. That’s how you end up with Erik Spoelstra one day.

Also, expect changes in the role players on the roster. Some of that is financial — with 12 people on the roster next season (assuming Danilo Gallinari picks up his $6.8 million option), the Celtics are already more than $4 million into the luxury tax (that is this season, with the extension for Brown kicking in next season and a future max extension for Tatum looming). The repeater tax and the second “lead apron” in the new CBA could hit this team hard in the coming seasons without some spending reduction.

Expect one of the team’s three rotation guards to be traded: Marcus Smart, Derrick White or Malcolm Brogdon. While the Celtics might want to move on from Brogdon and his $22.5 million next season, finding another team willing to take that on without a pick as a sweetener would be difficult.

Can Boston afford to re-sign restricted free agent Grant Williams? That may depend on what happens with the guards above, but if a guard is traded the Celtics could free up enough money to offer Williams something in the $10-12 million a year range. The risk is that another team that sees him as a good fit — San Antonio next to Victor Wembanyama? — might come in with a higher offer.

Boston is looking for size in a backup center who can give them solid minutes and take on a larger role when needed to keep Robert Williams III healthy. They may want a more traditional, play-making point guard to help unlock Tatum and Brown. But these are role players, Boston can’t afford a third star.

The Celtics are largely going to run it back.

Whether they can take that final step forward next season will depend more on internal growth — can Tatum and Brown finally find that consistency this team needs — than tweaks around the edges of the roster.

USA Basketball to host to Puerto Rico in World Cup tuneup in Las Vegas

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USA Basketball has finalized its schedule of exhibition games leading into this summer’s FIBA World Cup, announcing Tuesday that it will open the five-game slate against Puerto Rico in Las Vegas on Aug. 7.

It will be the only World Cup warmup game in the U.S. for the Americans, a team that will be coached by Golden State’s Steve Kerr. His assistants are Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Tyronn Lue and Gonzaga’s Mark Few.

The roster of NBA players is still being assembled.

“Puerto Rico, obviously, we’re familiar with them,” said Grant Hill, managing director of USA Basketball’s men’s national team. “We’ve competed in the World Cup qualifiers, although neither team had their full heavy roster, if you will, its strongest roster. But it’s an opportunity to throw our guys into the fire. The games, the exhibition games, the lead-up, we’re going to get a lot of basketball in us before we play for real. And that’s good.”

After the Puerto Rico game, the U.S. will leave for Malaga, Spain, and games there against Slovenia on Aug. 12 and Spain on Aug. 13. The final two pre-World Cup games for the Americans will be held in Abu Dhabi, against Greece on Aug. 18 and Germany on Aug. 20.

From there, the Americans head to Manila, Philippines, where they will remain for the entirety of the World Cup. Half of the 32-team World Cup field will have group-stage games in Indonesia or Japan; the Americans are among the 16 that will open the tournament in the Philippines, which will also play host to the medal rounds.

The game against Puerto Rico will coincide with the end of the U.S. team’s training camp in Las Vegas.

“Our preparations for the 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup begin in Las Vegas and we are excited to return to a city that regularly and graciously welcomes USA Basketball,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball’s CEO.

The men’s national team played four exhibitions in Las Vegas in 2021 before the Tokyo Olympics, going 2-2 in those games. The Americans opened with losses to Nigeria and Australia before beating Argentina and Spain prior to departing for Tokyo.

“The Nigeria game was important,” Hill said. “It let everybody know that we can’t just show up.”

In Japan, the U.S. won its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

The U.S. opens World Cup play against New Zealand on Aug. 26, followed by group games against Greece on Aug. 28 and Jordan on Aug. 30. The tournament – one of the major qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics – runs through Sept. 10.

Bob Myers stepping down as Warriors president, GM

2022 Golden State Warriors Victory Parade & Rally
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The architect of the four-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors, the former agent turned two-time Executive of the Year Bob Myers is stepping away from the franchise.

This had been rumored all season and Myers confirmed it to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN prior to Myers’ formal press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s just time,” Myers told ESPN.

Warriors ownership wanted to keep Myers on board and reportedly made generous contract offers to retain him, but Myers just wanted to back away from the job.

Myers took over a Warriors franchise in 2012 that had already drafted Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but was still being led on the court by Monta Ellis and David Lee. Myers drafted Draymond Green (in the second round), eventually traded for Andre Iguodala, built out the roster, fired Mark Jackson and replaced him with Steve Kerr, and generally built a championship team. When that team fell short in 2016 — and boosted by a one-time spike in the salary cap due to a new television deal — Myers brought in Kevin Durant to form one of the best, most dominant teams the NBA had seen, and they won two more titles. After Durant left and due to some brutal injuries, the Warriors stumbled for a few years, but in 2022 found their footing again and won a fourth ring. Myers helped guild all of that.

It is expected Mike Dunleavy Jr. — the No. 2 man in a Warriors front office that values a lot of input from different voices and isn’t classically hierarchical — will take over as the man in charge. Wojnarowski reports that Kirk Lacob, son of owner Joe Lacob, also is expected to have an expanded role.

This changeover comes at a critical time for the Warriors (and adds to the end-of-an-era feeling), heading into an important offseason for the franchise. Green is expected to opt out of his $27.5 million contract for next season and is looking for the security of more years — and this past season showed the Warriors cannot win at a high level without him. However, the Warriors will want him back at a lower figure than that $27.5 million per year. Klay Thompson is set to make $43.2 million next season and is extension eligible, but he is not a max player anymore and the Warriors will want those future years at a much lower price. Then there is Jordan Poole‘s extension kicking in — at $28.7 million — after a down season. The tension following Green punching Poole tainted the entire Warriors’ season, and there is a lot of speculation around the league Poole could be traded.

Myers built strong relationships with the Warriors’ players, and he would have been better positioned to talk to Green and Thompson about sacrifice to keep the team together. That is a tougher sell for Dunleavy.

Don’t expect Myers to jump straight into another NBA job — although offers will come to him fast — he is expected to take a year or more and step back from the game before deciding his next move.

Heat’s Tyler Herro reportedly targeting Game 3 return during Finals

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Tyler Herro fractured his hand just before halftime of Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and following his ensuing surgery the target timeline was he could be back for the NBA Finals. That led to a lot of “good luck with that” comments on social media (not to mention comments about his sideline fits).

The No. 8 seed Miami Heat are on to the NBA Finals, and Herro hopes to return to the court when Miami returns home for Game 3, reports Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT.

Maybe he returns, perhaps that is optimistic (Game 3 is Wednesday, June 7). Herro is still feeling pain in his right hand, he told reporters after the game.

Herro averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game for the Heat this season, shooting 37.8% from 3. He was the team’s secondary shot creator after Jimmy Butler, a guy counted on to jumpstart the offense at points.

If he returns, Erik Spoelstra has to return him to the sixth-man role where he thrived a season ago. The starting lineup without him was better defensively, and with the emergence of Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent, the Heat don’t need the offensive spark with that first group (less Herro has meant more Jimmy Butler with the ball, and that’s a good thing). The second unit could use the offensive spark Herro brings.

It’s something to watch as the Heat return to the NBA Finals for the first time since the bubble, this time facing the formidable Denver Nuggets.