The Houston Rockets have to find a way to break the final barriers this summer after another postseason ouster and yet another ending by the Golden State Warriors.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is ready to do whatever it takes to win it all and that includes, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, dealing any player on his roster if he wants — even James Harden and Chris Paul.
Sources: In calls to front offices, Houston GM Daryl Morey is showing an aggressive desire to improve roster with all players and picks available in talks. Hard to imagine James Harden scenario, but the rest under contract - perhaps even Chris Paul - could be moved in right deal.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 29, 2019
The report from Wojarowski follows one by The Athletic that the two superstars had a “verbal back-and-forth” that leaked into the locker room during the Game 6 loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals. The alleged dispute was reportedly over differing offensive styles as Paul reportedly pushed head coach Mike D’Antoni for more ball movement while Harden does best in isolation.
The Rockets have already cleaned house, firing much of the coaching staff over the past weeks.
Harden unlikely to be traded
It’s unlikely the Rockets deal Harden, even though there’s no explicit “everyone but Harden,” per Wojnarowski. Harden is the linchpin the team built around, including signing Paul in 2017 to a four-year max contract, and owner Tilman Fertitta said as much after the final game.
“I can promise you, we’re gonna win some championships with James Harden. OK? Because we’re not gonna sit here. We’re gonna go to battle every year. We’re gonna have a strong offseason, and we’re gonna do whatever we can do to be a better team. OK? We are not gonna sit on our hands. I can promise you that.”
Harden signed with the Rockets in 2012 and signed a $228 million extension last year that runs through the 2022-23 season.
Rockets low on cap space
The Rockets are living on a budget, the one down side to having a solid starting five. It’s why to improve, nearly anyone is on the trading block if the deal is good enough.
The projected salary cap for the 2019-20 season is reportedly around $109 million, an increase of around $7 million. The luxury rate is reportedly at $132 million.
Houston has $120,534,726 locked up in salary for the upcoming season, according to Basketball Reference, with 89 percent of it going to four players: Paul ($38.5 million), Harden ($37.8M), Clint Capela ($16.5M) and Eric Gordon ($14.1M).
Add in P.J. Tucker’s salary and the Rockets have $115,169,773 in salary.
The Rockets will have to make a big splash to get a title in Houston as the window is closing. Harden turns 30 this year and Paul is 34. He joined the Rockets with the intention of winning a championship he hasn’t yet gotten.
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