Clint Capela

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Report: Rockets expect to trade either Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, or P.J. Tucker

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The Houston Rockets could look significantly different next season. We already know there has been drama around the lack of an extension for head coach Mike D’Antoni. Rumors surfaced that the team was willing to part with everyone outside of James Harden, and now we have some names that could be on their way out of Texas.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Houston is internally assuming that they will be without at least one of their most prominent role players next year.

Via The New York Times:

The Rockets are indeed shopping everyone on the roster not named Harden. The complexities involved in moving Chris Paul, who at age 34 has three years and nearly $125 million left on his contract, have Houston officials actively exploring the trade market for Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker.

As one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said, they are operating under the belief that at least one of those three mainstays will not be a Rocket next season.

It’s not clear whether the Rockets view these players as potential sweeteners to get rid of Chris Paul’s contract, or if they think it’s simply time for a change.

What summer of 2019 was already slated to be wild with an excellent free agent class coming up, but if the second-best team in the Western Conference is trying to drastically reshape its roster, we might need to alter our expectation for what “wild” can be this July.

Capella, Gordon, and Tucker were some of the best role players this season in the NBA, with Houston’s wings being of particular note. There’s no way the Rockets could find their way to the second round against the Golden State Warriors without the defense of Tucker, and Gordon’s shooting was crucial all season long next to Harden.

Don’t put it past Daryl Morey to take drastic measures to rebuild quickly around Harden. The Rockets look hamstrung from a salary cap perspective right now, but if there is somebody who can pull a rabbit out of the hat by taking a big risk on paper, it’s the Houston general manager.

Report: Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey aggressive in offering anyone but Harden in trades

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Daryl Morey gets painted by some as the calculating analytics guy.

In reality, he’s a gambler. It may be a calculated risk — like trading for James Harden with the belief he could be the focal point of the Houston offense, or thinking Chris Paul could play next to him — but Morey is not afraid to pull the trigger on big deals.

After another frustrating loss to the Warriors in the playoffs, and with no cap room to make significant additions to the roster, Morey is being ultra aggressive on the trade market heading into free agency, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Morey, like everyone in the NBA, sees the door to a title potentially swinging open if Kevin Durant leaves Golden State (as most expect). The Rockets’ window would be right now, with Harden at his peak, and Morey wants to take advantage of it.

There is next to zero chance he moves Harden, not in the real world where he could not get equal value back.

Paul, who was still very good but showed signs of age on his game last season, is the guy the Rockets likely want to trade. He certainly has value and could help a lot of teams, he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game, is a borderline All-Star level player and remains the best floor general in the game. He’s also owed $124 million over three fully guaranteed seasons after this one, and he just turned 34. Not a lot of GMs will want to take on that contract without a sweetener thrown in.

That’s why Clint Capela — a big who better fits the modern game — is the guy more likely to be on the move.

Morey, however, has to get someone who makes the team better for whomever he trades, and that will not be easy. This is still a Rockets team on the cusp of a title, they are legit contenders. They cannot take a step back.

Houston is just another team to watch in what will be a wild summer in the NBA.

 

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta: ‘Our time is going to come’

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This past summer (and during the season), Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta’s front office made some money-saving moves that kept the team from paying the luxury tax. The most prominent of those was not bringing back Trevor Ariza and replacing him with James Ennis (who didn’t fit for Houston but has blossomed these playoffs in Philly), plus taking a flier on Carmelo Anthony. Fertitta himself said the team needed to be careful with the league’s luxury tax, which he called a horrible hindrance. The moves worked, the Rockets shed payroll and will not be taxpayers this year.

The impact of those moves on the court was felt in the six games it took the Warriors to eliminate the Rockets from the playoffs this season.

After Houston’s punch-to-the-gut loss to Golden State Friday night, Fertitta sounded fired up and said the Rockets will be back.

“I’m upset right now. They kicked our ass on our home court. They beat us by 10 points in the fourth quarter. It’s unacceptable, OK? We just have to be better. I know that we’re going to rise to the occasion and our time is going to come. You know James [Harden] is 30 years old [Note: He will be in August]. Michael [Jordan] didn’t win his first championship until 30 [Note: Actually, 28]. Hakeem [Olajuwon] didn’t win his first championship until 30 [actually 31]. I can promise you, we’re going to win some championships with James Harden, because we are not going to sit here. We will go to battle every year. We’re going to have a strong offseason, and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to be a better team. We are not going to sit on our hands, I can promise you that.”

Fertitta added this, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I’m a fighter,” said Fertitta, who has owned the franchise for two seasons. “That’s my culture, and I think the longer that I own this team, they’re going to pick up more of my culture. We had [the Warriors]. We should have stepped on their throat the other night and cut their throat. It’s not, ‘Let’s make a few shots and win.’ It’s step on their throat and let’s take it back to Houston and end it in six. We’ll pick up a few Tilman-isms along the way in the next few years.”

That sounds good, it’s what Rockets fans wanted to hear, but actions will speak louder than words.

The Rockets don’t have much cap space to work with this summer, basically just the mid-level exception. The reason is Harden and Chris Paul are maxed out, while Clint Capela will make $16.4 million and Eric Gordon will make $14 million. Rockets GM Daryl Morey will need to get creative, and he is one of the best in the league at that. But can he spend into the tax?

There have been some Rockets fans calling for the team to move Chris Paul, who at age 34 seemed half a step slower this season. The problem is CP3 is owed about $124 million over the next three seasons (the last season a player option at $44 million you can bet now he will pick up), and not many teams would be willing to take on that salary. The Rockets might have to throw in a sweetener.

James Harden’s 41 bests Kevin Durant’s 46 because he had help, Rockets win Game 3

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Kevin Durant once again reminded us he is the best player on the face of the earth.

In a hostile environment, Durant had 46 points, hit 6-of-10 from three, dished out six assists, and also played impressive defense all night. It was a virtuoso performance.

However, KD didn’t get much help. Stephen Curry was 0-of-6 in the fourth quarter and overtime, with four fouls. And he had this embarrassing play in a clutch moment, capping off a night Curry was 2-of-9 at the rim.

Meanwhile, James Harden got to 41 points in the game by sticking the dagger in the Warriors.

“That’s James, that’s what he does…” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said, but then listed contributions of bench players like Nene and Austin Rivers. “Everybody kinda gave us something and we won the game.”

That was the difference — Harden got help. Eric Gordon had 30, Nene and Clint Capela made plays, Chris Paul was not at his best but still finished with 14 points and seven assists. The Rockets as a team grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, giving themselves second chances.

It was enough. Barely. The Rockets hung on to win 126-121 in overtime, getting their first win in the series to make it 2-1. Game 4 is Monday night in Houston.

Durant has been otherworldly all players — this was his third 40-point game of these playoffs. In this series, Durant has 110 points, and Curry and Thompson have combined for just 105. Worse yet, the Rockets targeted Curry late in the game, having his man attack him off the dribble.

This Rockets win did not feel like a series changer — there was not some critical adjustment, some great change that elevated their game or gave them a massive advantage. The Rockets were just grittier, and their stars stepped up in the moment.

The Rockets came out with an appropriate sense of desperation to start Game 3 and the Warriors shooting struggles came early, which led to a 58-49 halftime lead for Houston. Golden State’s big three — Curry, Durant, and Thompson — combined to shoot 11-of-32 in the first half, and as a team the Warriors were just 3-of-16 from three. Kerr tried to change the momentum in the final five minutes by going to his Hamptons’ Five lineup, and that didn’t change the lead (it was nine when they entered and at half).

Meanwhile, the Rockets got 20 points from Eric Gordon in the first half, he was 4-of-9 from three before the break.

Whenever the Warriors would go on a run in the third, the Rockets answered (and often the Warriors shot themselves in the foot). At one point Golden State cut the lead to 7, but then Curry missed a layup and Harden answered on the other end with a three. Next possession, Thompson missed a layup and CP3 responded with a three. At the end of three, it was still Rockets by 7.

Then the Warriors made an early fourth quarter run, fueled by Durant, that made it close down the stretch. At the end of the fourth, nobody could buy a bucket — the Rockets and Warriors combined to go 1-of-10 in the final minutes of regulation — which led to overtime. That’s where the lid stayed on the Warriors basket — for three straight possessions Durant did not touch the ball for reasons nobody can explain — and the Rockets got just enough for the win.

Now Houston needs to do it again Monday, but it got the win, got back in the series and gave itself a chance.

Clint Capela stones Andre Iguodala dunk attempt (VIDEO)

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Denied.

Houston’s Clint Capela with as impressive a block as you are going to see, the two-handed rejection of Andre Iguodala who was flying in for the thunderous dunk.

There’s a long list of Rockets’ big men who owned people with blocks at the rim. This can hang with the best of them.