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.
Charlotte and Miami are among the teams that could be interested in Paul. Phoenix is weighing its options at point guard, but there is an outside chance they'd get involved. And keep an eye on the Lakers or Knicks - it's likely that one of them will strike out in free agency and need a face-saving trade to rescue the summer. Paul is a face-saving trade target.
“Whatever it takes to get over that final hump to get a championship, that’s what we’re going to do. On the coaching front, I … recommended we make some changes. If there’s a trade out there that helps us, great, we’ll do that as well. “Our starting five this year I would put up there with anyone. If there’s a trade out there that helps, we’ll do that. We’re going to keep all of our key people.” Fertitta said there will always be “noise” about the Rockets looking to make moves because “I’m a deal guy and he’s a deal guy.”
Paul is the Rockets star who hit the trade block with a thud this week when ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets were looking to clean house this offseason coming out of a disappointing conference semifinal loss to the Warriors. According to one front-office executive, a trade for Paul would be "something where if I am taking back your dead wood, you've got to take back some of mine."
"As a player, of course you would take him on," one general manager told Sporting News. "He is experienced. He is a smart guy. He can be good for young point guards to be around the way he sees the floor. But he lost a step. At the same time, he is gaining a big, big contract." Losing the step can be seen in his play in the pick-and-roll, always a staple of his game. In 2015-16, he put up 0.94 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball hander, which was in the 89th percentile. In 2016-17, it was 0.96 points per possession, good the 83rd percentile. Last year, his first season in Houston, was one of his most efficient ever in the PNR: 1.02 points per possession, the 91st percentile.
"It will have to be a salary dump," the front-office executive said. "You might get back a decent player and a draft pick. But mostly, it is getting that contract off your books for the next three years. Chris can't stay healthy. He has not been the same player. It's hard to imagine him going back to the way he was. "If you're Houston, you're happy just to move him along and let someone else pay him. But you're going to have to take back a bad contract in the bargain."
John Gambadoro: I despise this time of year for these reasons - stupid rumors. NO the Suns will not trade for Chris Paul. Any thought of such a possibility is ridiculous. It will not happen. Not sure there is a team in the league dumb enough to trade for a 34 year old with 124 mill left on deal.
Wojnarowski reports that all players under contract, besides James Harden, could be moved in the right deal. That leaves players such as aging point guard Chris Paul, the star who is reportedly in conflict with Harden. And it leaves a player like Capela, who an NBA source tells DBcom the Mavs surely envision as a fine front-court partner alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
Paul's remaining contract (three years, $124 million) and advancing age (34) does make deal possibilities somewhat prohibitive. The Harden-Paul dynamic wasn't without its challenges this year for the Rockets, league sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: 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.
Kevin Durant the Rockets trading for Chris Paul: "I'm not surprised by anything, but it was kind of like 'Hmm. Damn, that's a smart move. I wouldn't think anybody would be that smart to pull that off.' I think it was a great move. You put two guys together that are crafty with the ball, they're going to get everybody shots and they going to get each other shots. It was a ballsy move to pull off by [Rockets GM Daryl] Morey. I don't think anybody would have thought to do that."
Michael Gallagher: Daryl Morey on ESPN: "We're obviously chasing a juggernaut." Added the CP3 trade with the Clips took only about 2 days to come together.
Lob City is over. Chris Paul is a Houston Rocket, and LA Clippers president and head coach Doc Rivers is ready to move on. "That part is over. And that bugs me," Rivers said in an interview with ESPN. "But we're not done trying to reach our goal. Sometimes you gotta do it a different way. Because the way we tried to do it didn't work."
As for Paul's departure, Rivers said he resented the idea that personal issues with his son, Austin Rivers, or Griffin and Jordan played a key role in it. "Let's not make this story about Blake and DJ and Austin. This story is about Chris leaving. He is the one that decided to leave," Rivers said. "That doesn't make him a villain. He had the right to do that. And I have no problem with that. That's what free agency is.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Paul shared his decision with the Clippers on Tuesday during a 90-minute meeting. He had spoken extensively with his brother, C.J., to other family members, his closest friends and his agent, Leon Rose of CAA.
He had heard the vision from the Clippers’ front office, with president of basketball operations Doc Rivers and general manager Lawrence Frank sharing their view on the future. Owner Steve Ballmer took part as well. And then, in a move that gave the Clippers a chance to avoid losing him for nothing while also setting him up for a massive payday in 2018, he informed them of their options: Either trade him to Houston after he picked up the $24.2 million option for next season, or watch him opt out and sign with the Rockets in free agency. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
If Eaves is correct, the Clippers had a chance to acquire Carmelo Anthony for Rivers and Jamal Crawford. This would have been a coup for L.A., but Doc Rivers turned down the deal, enraging Paul. In this rare case, both GMs involved look like morons here, Phil Jackson for proposing it and Rivers for refusing it. But what really solidified Paul’s dissatisfaction with Doc was a proposed trade involving Carmelo Anthony last season. New York offered Carmelo and Sasha Vujacic to the Clippers in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers, a deal to which Rivers ultimately said no. That event led Paul to feel that keeping his son on the roster was more important to Doc than improving the team. So, ultimately, Paul lost both trust and faith in Doc. As one league executive put it, “Chris despises Doc.”
Doc Rivers spoke to the media and commented on the trade. He spoke at length about why Paul left, his relationship with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers. He defended his players saying that Paul left to go play with Harden because he wanted to. This was most likely in response to reports Wednesday that Paul left due to issues with teammates and the coaching staff. "At the end of the day, when you lose a CP, it's a big loss. I thank him for the years he was here. He left because he wanted to be with James Harden. Let's not get that twisted. I wish him well. I have no problem with that. Do I disagree? Yeah, I think he would have been better served here. But that's not for me. That's CP to decide and he decided against that. We've heard all the stories about Blake and DJ and Austin. I can't comment just on Austin because it's just not right. We've heard he left because of all three today. He left because of DJ, he left because of Blake and now he left because of Austin. We know he didn't leave because of that. There is a lot of speculation on why he left. The one thing I know is he didn't leave because of any of those three guys. He left because he felt like he would have a better chance to win somewhere else."
The salary filler probably can't be Trevor Ariza, by the way. Ariza and Paul are close after years together in New Orleans, and playing with Ariza factored at least a little into Paul's decision, per league sources. The Clippers had tried to trade for him in prior seasons, sources say.
In addition, sources told ESPN's Michael Eaves that the relationship between Paul and Doc Rivers, the coach and president of basketball operations, had deteriorated rapidly since the Clippers acquired Austin Rivers -- Doc's son -- during the 2015-16 season. Paul met with the Clippers on Tuesday and didn't like what he heard from the team, sources told ESPN. He informed them Tuesday night that he planned to leave in free agency if he declined his option.
The Clippers were determined get something for Paul rather than lose him for nothing, sources told ESPN, so Paul instead agreed to opt in for the final year of his contract (worth $24.2 million) to facilitate the trade.
Bobby Marks: Chris Paul reduced his trade bonus from $3.6m to $661k to make the trade work. Cap hit for Houston in 17-18 is $24.6m.
Jonathan Feigen: FWIW, Chris Paul's twitter account @Chris Paul now lists location of the account as Houston, TX.
Chris Paul: Unbelievable amount of emotions right now- I don't even know what to say. Lots of love and tears. I'm so blessed and thankful for the ability to play this game, this is the part that no one can prepare you for. To the Los Angeles community and to CLIPPER NATION I say THANK YOU!!! For the past 6 years you all have welcomed not only me but my family. We love all of you. Most importantly, I'm thinking about the kids at LA's Best and the Brotherhood Crusade. You guys have changed my life. Doesn't matter where I go to work- we have a lot more to do.
Brad Turner: Clippers will also get backup center Montrezl Harrell as part of the Chris Paul trade, per source.
Austin Rivers: Dam....cp3 really dipped, was looking forward to lining up with u next year. Learned a lot from u tho bro. One of the best basketball minds
Jamal Crawford: Gonna miss @CP3, been thru a lot of wars, battles, ups & downs together the last 5 years.. One of the best pg's EVER. #brotherregardless
Ramona Shelburne: Wanna know Jerry West's influence on the Clippers? You're seeing it. He was not in favor of the "just bring everyone back" plan.
Jeff Goodman: Rockets GM Daryl Morey not done yet, source told ESPN. Harden and CP3. Will try and add a third star to compete with Warriors.
Marc J. Spears: Chris Paul was seriously interested in Spurs, source says, but chance to play off ball & share PG duties w/James Harden was more attractive.
Jeff Goodman: Clippers like the upside of Sam Dekker, the toughness of Patrick Beverly and the short-term contracts of both Beverly and Lou Williams. Source said Clippers will go after a big wing in free agency, and try and retain Blake Griffin.
Brad Turner: Can confirm Chris Paul informed Clippers he opt-in on his deal and will be traded to Rockets for Patrick Beverely, Lou Williams, Sam Decker
Mark Berman: Sam Dekker part of blockbuster trade with Clippers that brings Chris Paul to the #Rockets: "I'm excited to see what LA holds. It's a shock." pic.twitter.com/BuAu6h7HdK
Jeff Goodman: Clippers had strong feeling that Chris Paul was headed out of LA, source told ESPN. Instead of getting nothing, got value from Houston.
LeBron James: My brother off to a new journey! Best of luck @Chris Paul!! H-Town y'all got a great one coming to your city. #BrotherHood🙏🏾
Jeff Goodman: Spurs didn't show significant interest in Chris Paul, source told ESPN. Already have an aging point guard in Tony Parker.
Adrian Wojnarowski: After Chris Paul agreed to opt-in on contract, Clippers are trading All-Star guard to the Houston Rockets, league sources tell @The Vertical
Mark Berman: NBA sources confirm #Rockets trade for Chris Paul. Clippers get Beverley, Dekker, Williams and 2018 first round pick.
So after three years of Ballmer's ownership, it might just be long enough to draw some conclusions. Most importantly, according to Clippers insiders, is his commitment to keeping both Griffin and Paul long term no matter what it costs.
Still, Rivers realizes those rumors could resurface in February if the Clippers aren’t faring well. No team wants to be put in Oklahoma City’s situation, in which it waits on a player to make a decision at the end of his contract only to be left with no compensation if he goes elsewhere. “Blake and CP are free agents and just like last year, Oklahoma had to deal with that — now it’s our turn,” Rivers said. “It’s been a sense of urgency since we’ve been there, in my opinion. And we haven’t followed through yet, and there’s another sense of urgency here. We’re not the only ones. Everyone has a sense of urgency.”
Sources close to the situation say win or lose, Rivers is not open to trade talks on Griffin or Paul and that he’s not worried about either walking away in July.
"I'm confident (Griffin and Paul want to stay)," Rivers added. "Probably the same way every team's confident that they're going to be able to keep their guys. I do think we have an attractive place. We have a new owner. It'd be interesting if Steve Ballmer wasn't the owner, I don't know how confident I'd be. But with Steve I'm extremely confident that we can keep both.
"You know, listen, winning is the key. The better we play on the floor, the better chance we have of not only keeping those guys but actually adding to our basketball team. And so that's always the key factor in this. Quality of life is important, being comfortable, getting along, players getting along with the staff and each other, all that goes into it. But I think we're in a good place there. I know both of them have said they want to play here, they want to play with us forever. But you've got to do your job. Like, your job never stops. You can never relax. You can never take a player for granted. If I have (not) learned that over the years, I have not learned anything. That's something you just have to keep coaching them, but you also have to keep bringing them in and keeping them in."
While team sources could not immediately confirm that all three players would be able attend, inviting all three is an important affirmation of Rivers' previous statements about keeping the team's core together.
You've already said after losing to Portland you won't trade any of the three stars. Are you worried that boxes you into a corner a little bit? Is that really the case? Doc Rivers: I don't worry about the corner thing, ever. I'm always gonna do what's good for the team. You don't ever do anything but that. But I feel like the best thing for the team right now is to keep them together. Can that change? Of course it can change. But I don't think it will.
Doc Rivers said Monday that he would not break up the Los Angeles Clippers' big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan during the offseason — regardless of any trade offers that may arise. "I like our core and I like our bench, which was really good this year," Rivers said three days after the Clippers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
March 2, 2021 | 11:11 am EST Update
NBA Central: “I don’t think it’s any secret in the league Victor Oladipo has a desire to play in Miami. He’d like to go there in free agency. They’re going to have cap space, so that may happen.” – Brian Windhorst pic.twitter.com/QrATjw5hQl
March 2, 2021 | 9:47 am EST Update
Still, league insiders don’t believe the Celtics can stand pat, and potentially waste a year of the primes of their two young building blocks who are playing at an elite level. “There comes a time where you have to do something to keep your stars placated and show that you’re trying, especially when they’re young and early in their primes,” the East executive said. “You have to make that commitment to them.”
That’s something Ainge has been reluctant to do in the past. The last time Boston acquired a player in an in-season trade was six years ago, when the team landed Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix. Only the San Antonio Spurs have a longer drought. “They’ll only do something,” the West executive said, “if they think they’re going to bury you.”