The Houston Rockets were eliminated from the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals on May 11. It was disappointing end to a season that saw the team overachieve under the direction of first-year head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Despite finishing with the third best regular season record in the NBA (55-27), the franchise brain trust has not stood pat during the offseason. Their aggressive approach once again underscores their commitment to compete on a championship level.
The biggest offseason move to date was the Rockets’ acquisition of nine-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul in a multi-player trade with the LA Clippers.
“Since winning back-to-back championships [1994, 1995], the pursuit of a third title has remained the ultimate goal for our franchise,” said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander.
“We feel that combining two of the league’s greatest players in James Harden and Chris Paul, operating in Coach D’Antoni’s system, gives us a championship caliber team that will compete at the highest level for years to come.”
With Paul in the fold, the team once again locked up its resident superstar and face of the franchise, James Harden. In a stunning move the Rockets recently signed the MVP runner-up to a four-year contract extension which will run through the 2022-23 season. The four-year extension carries a value of $170 million and is the richest extension in NBA history.
The Rockets have made the playoffs in all five of Harden’s seasons with the team, while posting a winning percentage of .612. He has been named First Team All NBA in three of the past four seasons and finished second in voting for the Most Valuable Player award in both 2014-15 and 2016-17.
“It’s my pleasure to announce we’ve reached agreement with James Harden on a long term contract extension,” Alexander said. “Since he arrived in Houston, James has exhibited the incredible work ethic, desire to win, and passion to be the best that has made him one of the most unique and talented superstars in the history of the game.
“Houston is home for me,” said Harden. “Mr. Alexander has shown he is fully committed to winning and my teammates and I are going to keep putting in the work to get better and compete for the title.”
The Harden contract is a clear indication to other free agent prospects that the Rockets are a franchise that is stable and committed to its future.
After giving up four rotation players from the 2016-17 season, GM Daryl Morey is actively working to add quality depth to the Rockets’ bench. The team re-signed back-up center Nene to a new three-year deal worth an estimated $11 million dollars.
Morey also recently signed former Texas standout P.J. Tucker. A six-year NBA veteran, Tucker is a 6-foot-6 small forward known to be a defensive standout. He also is a close friend of Chris Paul. Reports are that Tucker signed a four-year, $32 million deal.
As the NBA offseason continues the only real question that remains is where will New York Knicks talented small forward Carmelo Anthony wind up?
Reports out of NYC indicate ‘Melo is willing to waive his no-trade clause to come to Houston or Cleveland. Word from the Rockets is they would love to have him. The uncertainty is what the Rockets would be willing to give up versus what would the Knicks accept to move their disgruntled star?
The NBA offseason is hot and the Rockets are smack dab in the middle of it. Stay tuned.