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Gerald Green had long journey to Houston, Conference Finals

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HOUSTON (AP) — Gerald Green was at a crossroads.

Released by Milwaukee in training camp, the career journeyman couldn’t find another NBA team that wanted him.

He contemplated playing internationally and in the G League, but no one had any use for the over-30 player with almost a decade of NBA experience.

“I was honestly contemplating retirement,” he told The Associated Press. “A lot of people don’t know that, but I was done.”

So he contacted his agent to put an expiration date on his basketball career.

“I was like: ‘Look man, when Jan. 1, 2018, hits, if I’m unsigned, I’m putting out a big statement on my Instagram letting everybody know, thank you for the awesome career over all these years but I’m done,'” he said. “‘I ain’t going to play no more.'”

Just four days shy of his self-imposed deadline, Green received the call that would change everything: His hometown Houston Rockets wanted him.

“Basketball was the last thing on my mind until I got that call,” he said. “Then it’s kind of like … ‘Are you serious?'”

By then, the 32-year Green had already “mentally checked out” of basketball. He was spending his days doing work in real estate and teaming with rapper Trae Tha Truth to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The Rockets took a chance on Green, and now he could make it pay off.

Green’s years as an underdog – along with his length and athleticism – could be just what Houston needs Wednesday night when the Rockets try to even up the Western Conference finals after losing Game 1 to the Golden State Warriors.

He knew when he joined the Rockets it was a shot at redemption – on many levels.

He was traded to Houston as a 22-year-old in 2008 but released a little more than two weeks later after appearing in just one game.

When Green came to the Rockets the first time, he acknowledges he had the wrong attitude. The young man who’d had a modest upbringing on the South side of Houston had money after being drafted in the first round in 2005, and was coming off a memorable performance in the dunk contest at the 2008 All-Star Game where he blew out a candle atop a cupcake that was balanced on the back of the rim before throwing down a two-handed slam.

“It was right place at the wrong time,” he said of his mini-stint with the Rockets. “I just wasn’t focused. I still wanted to go out and enjoy my success of getting to the NBA instead of me trying to enjoy the work process of getting better.”

In the years since, he bounced around with six other NBA teams and spent two years playing in Russia and China. When he returned to Houston, he knew from the first day that his second stint was going to be special.

“As soon as I walked in the door I felt like everybody had their arms open to me like: ‘We need a hug. Come on, man. We’ve been waiting on you,'” he said mimicking a hug with his long muscular arms.

And the feeling was certainly mutual.

“To know him is to love him,” Chris Paul said. “He’s one of those people that if you don’t like Gerald Green, you’re telling me a lot about yourself.”

It was a new feeling for Green, who said he felt like some of his previous teammates wondered why he was on the team and never fully embraced him.

“I get judged a lot,” he said. “Maybe because of the way I talk, the way I look, I’m real quick to say a lot of stuff that maybe people don’t understand because that’s just me. I’m not the type of person that’s scripted … but on this team since Day 1, I could say something (crazy) and they ain’t never judged me for that.”

Coach Mike D’Antoni had known of the lanky forward with a knack for 3-pointers for years, but wasn’t sure what to expect when Houston signed him off the street.

He didn’t have to wait long. The day after he signed he scored 18 points, and in his fourth game and Houston’s first of the season without James Harden, who was nursing a hamstring injury, Green put on a show. He scored 27 points and made 7 of 10 3-pointers to help the Rockets to a win over Orlando. The next night he outdid himself, tying a career high with eight 3s and finishing with 29 points as Houston fell to Golden State.

Green, who played high school basketball in Houston, averaged more than 18 points in the seven games Harden was out.

He has continued to bring a spark off the bench, averaging 12.1 points in the regular season – his highest average since 2015. He credits his turnaround to the nurturing environment fostered by D’Antoni, who he calls a “confidence-giver.”

And despite his limited work, he’s become a fan favorite for his almost obsessive love for Houston.

Green arrives to almost every game in a jersey of one of Houston’s teams, and he has three tattoos that pay homage to the city. Running down the entire length of his left forearm is the word “Houston” in graffiti-style block letters. On the front of his left shoulder is ink replicating the sign for Interstate 45, a freeway that runs directly by where he was raised. The last one is a nod to the Houston Oilers, a baby blue oil derrick on the back of the same shoulder almost identical to the ones that once adorned their helmets.

But his representation of Houston doesn’t stop there. Each time he hits a 3-pointer, he contorts both of his hands into “H’s” and holds them high toward the crowd.

Says Harden: “He’s the most Houston person I know.”

Green thrilled fans earlier this season when he first got his hair braided into the “R” from the Rockets’ logo. Since then, he’s also sported braids that formed the star from the Houston Astros’ logo.

For the playoffs, he’s sticking with the Rockets’ logo and discussed his love of the city with the AP as hairstylist Sandra Finn spent almost 90 minutes creating the intricate design. He brags about never getting rid of his phone number with a Houston area code even as he moved around the world. Later he jokes that he might ask Finn to braid the city’s first area code “713” into his hair one day.

“Maybe I am biased, I don’t know, but hell I’d die for this damn city,” he said. “I really would, man. I love this city.”

 

Doc Rivers seemingly blames Steve Ballmer for Clippers losing Joe Ingles

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Entering the 2014-15 season, the Clippers had to waive someone to meet the regular-season roster maximum. Their choice came down to Joe Ingles and Jared Cunningham, neither of whom had guaranteed salaries.

L.A. kept Cunningham and waived Ingles. Cunningham never made a significant NBA impact. The Jazz claimed Ingles on waivers, and he became a quality starter in Utah.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers was also team president at that time.

Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News:

When asked Wednesday if he regrets that decision, Rivers answered, “all the time.”

“I said it the day we released him that this was a bad decision and that we’re going to regret it,” he said. “Unfortunately I was working for someone who said we couldn’t eat a contract. We were begging to eat one contract and they said that will never happen and we had to let him go.”

Did Rivers confuse the timeline and think he was blaming Donald Sterling, the former Clippers owner who was notoriously cheap? Current owner Steve Ballmer bought the team and was announced as the owner before the start of the 2014-15 season, when Ingles was signed for camp and released. Ballmer has talked big about spending, and is Rivers’ boss right now. It’d be strange for Rivers to criticize Ballmer like this, but I also can’t figure out whom else he’d be referring to besides the owner. As team president, Rivers had no other oversight within basketball operations.

Maybe Rivers wanted to keep both Ingles and Cunningham and waive someone with a guaranteed salary – likely Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ekpe Udoh or Glen Davis. But, in hindsight, the obviously right call would have been waiving whichever of those players was necessary to keep Ingles.

The frequent criticism of the Clippers about Ingles is somewhat unfair. They brought Ingles to training camp when other teams didn’t. The only reason they were positioned to waive him is because they were ahead of the curve on him.

But they also had the unique opportunity to evaluate him up close and still decided he wasn’t worth a roster spot.

How did that decision get made? Rivers passing the buck only adds confusion. It seemed as if it were his decision.

Luka Doncic becomes second NBA teenager to record triple-double, Bucks rout Mavs anyway

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Is Luka Doncic an All-Star?

He’s not a starter (in my vote, anyway) but in what is an exhibition designed to give the fans what they want, why not have Doncic in the game? He is what the fans want. I’m not convinced he’ll make the cut — at least in the ridiculously deep West, in the East he probably would — but it’s a legitimate conversation. The kid can flat-out ball.

Case in point, he dropped a triple-double on the Bucks on MLK Day, becoming only the second teenager to record an NBA triple-double. (The other was Markelle Fultz, who was 10-days younger when he got his, also against Milwaukee.) Doncic finished the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Doncic’s play was not enough to keep the Bucks from racking up their fifth straight win, and doing it pretty easily (although Dallas made an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to make it a little interesting). Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe had 21 points, and Brook Lopez finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks (that was Lopez’s first double-double with the Bucks).

Reports: Houston trades Carmelo Anthony to Chicago, who will waive him

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Carmelo Anthony‘s sabbatical is over. Sort of.

Anthony, who has been on the Houston roster but not with the team after that experiment crashed and burned 10 games into the season, will be traded to the Chicago Bulls. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story (and other reports have since confirmed it). However, he’s not going to be putting on a Bulls’ jersey.

He may not be waived until after the Feb. 7 deadline, in case the Bulls find a way to use his salary in a one-for-one trade (his salary cannot be combined with others in a deal because he was just traded). If/when he is waived, at that point there will be more roster shuffling around the league and a landing spot for ‘Melo may open up.

Houston’s trade is much like the trade from Oklahoma City to Atlanta last summer that moved Anthony off the Thunder roster. The Hawks waived him and Anthony signed with the Rockets. For the Rockets, this is about saving money.

The Bulls also make a little under a million in this deal. If another team signs Anthony, it would be a benefit for the Hawks.

It’s unclear where Anthony’s ultimate landing spot will be, although his agent has said there are options.

After his struggles in Houston — where the future Hall of Famer thought he deserved more than a bench role due to his stature, even though because of his declining offensive skills and defense that’s all he warranted — it’s hard to imagine another contender or even playoff team picking him up. Maybe a franchise going all in on the Zion Williamson chase but wants a bump at the gate from the name recognition Anthony brings him in? Although for teams trying to develop young talent why take the ball out of those young guys’ hands to let Anthony jack up contested twos? Most likely it will be a team battling injuries and looking for help.

In 10 games for the Rockets this season coming off the bench, Anthony averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, shot just 40.5 percent overall and 32.8 percent from three. The Rockets’ defense was 10.4 points per 100 possessions better when Anthony sat.

 

Report: Wizards look uninterested in trading Otto Porter for cap flexibility, future assets

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said, “We will never, ever tank.” Washington also put out word it wasn’t looking to trade Otto Porter.

As much as all that sounded like lip service, it appears the Wizards are also conveying similar messages to potential trade partners.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

the Wizards have shown little appetite for dealing Otto Porter anywhere for a return heavy on future assets and cap flexibility, sources say

John Wall‘s massive contract looked barely movable even before he underwent season-ending surgery. Washington seems unwilling to take a step back by trading star Bradley Beal.

So, that leaves unloading Porter – who’s earning $26,011,913 this year and due $55,739,815 over the next two seasons – as the obvious way to create cap flexibility and accumulate future assets. If the Wizards are unwilling to do that, it speaks volumes to their plan.

They don’t want to rebuild. They want to win now. Porter can help them do that.

In many ways, it’s noble Washington is so committed to winning, even at great expense. That’s generally what we want from teams. We don’t want them to give up or cut costs just because they’re a couple games out of playoff position midway through the season.

But the Wizards’ spending has been… uneven. Leonsis greenlit a payroll well into the luxury tax and is apparently willing to keep Porter, which likely keeps that payroll high. Yet, Washington is also holding as many roster spots vacant as allowed, offering small savings rather than adding depth amid multiple injuries.

Maybe the Wizards just don’t believe they could sign minimum-salary players who’d actually help. But insurance never hurts on the court.

So, Washington is left looking content holding its few major contracts, nickeling-and-diming down the roster, winning a barely moderate amount and not gaining better position for the future. I’m unconvinced that’s a worthy vision, but if that’s what the Wizards want, keeping Porter helps stay that course.