This year's NBA free agency class is technically as star-studded as any other in league history. I say "technically" only because there's a strong belief that the stars at the top of the list are, by and large, virtual locks to return to their incumbent teams.
But for now, technically the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki are all available to teams wishing to place a bid.
Attaching the concept of "bids" to this process is somewhat appropriate since money is the driving factor for 90 percent of these transactions, and if NBA free agency were a metaphorical silent auction, then Rockets general manager Daryl Morey spent the first hour of the open communication period figuratively scrawling his name on the notepad in front of perhaps a dozen or so potential Rockets.
Here is the Rockets-related update, by free agent (with incumbent team) and in no particular order:
KYLE LOWRY, Toronto Raptors If order of meeting is any indication of desirability, then the Rockets must really be enamored of the idea of bringing Kyle Lowry back to Houston, since Daryl Morey and head coach Kevin McHale made the trip early Tuesday morning to Philadelphia to meet with the former Rockets point guard. Now, you may recall that Lowry's tenure in Houston ended on a sour note, specifically centering around his relationship with McHale, but Lowry seems to have moved on from that time, and after a fantastic 2013-2014 season in Toronto and leading the Raptors to a three seed in the East, he should be in line for a big pay day. Rumors have it somewhere in the $12-million-to-$14-million-per-year range. As of Tuesday night, the Rockets' courtship of Lowry seemed to be, at best, on life support as an attempted sign-and-trade was "dead on arrival," according to CBSSports.com.
CARMELO ANTHONY, New York Knicks Anthony spent Tuesday in Chicago meeting with the Bulls, who pulled out the roster guns of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. (Gibson is a curious inclusion in that meeting only because moving his contract would seem to be a necessity in order for the Knicks to offer Anthony market value.) Anthony has his meeting scheduled for Houston Wednesday morning, and Dwight Howard and James Harden are both confirmed as part of the welcome wagon. Anthony's meeting in Dallas is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, and expect the full-court press from Mark Cuban, up to and including a Carmelo Anthony cartoon.
Lest we forget...
Anthony will also meet with the Lakers on Thursday. The main competition for everyone is still the amount of money the Knicks can offer, around $130 million guaranteed over five years.
CHANDLER PARSONS, Houston Rockets As outlined in this space on Monday, Parsons's free agency courtship is very much tied to Anthony's, since the teams scheduled to meet with Anthony are the same as the ones on Parsons's rumored dance card. In a normal restricted free agency cycle, expectations would be for the first non-Rockets team to bail on their Anthony courtship to turn their attention to Parsons as a less expensive alternative. I theorized on my radio show on Tuesday that the Rockets and Parsons could already have an agreed-to wink-wink number in mind (would four years, say, $42 million, shock anybody?) where Parsons would sign an offer sheet only if it's within a reasonable orbit of that number, with the Rockets' full intention of matching it. The positive to the Rockets is cost certainty and commitment from Parsons (whom they can exceed the salary cap to keep); the benefit to Parsons is an eight-figure payday a year earlier than if the Rockets had picked up his team option for 2014-2015 (and its $964,000 salary).
THABO SEFOLOSHA, Oklahoma City Thunder On the surface, this would be a great fit for the Rockets, whose major need (non-third superstar category) is a perimeter defender who can check 2's and 3's and knock down open jumpers. That's Sefolosha, and while he fell out of favor (and out of the starting lineup) with the Thunder during the post-season, he's better served coming off the bench than as a starter anyway. At the right price, this would be a good rotation pickup for the Rockets. Main competition would be Clippers and Mavericks.
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....and, since he's the best player on earth....
LEBRON JAMES, Miami Heat While it seems like a foregone conclusion that James is returning to South Beach, his agent, Rich Paul, is taking meetings with a handful of teams so he can keep leverage on Pat Riley to urgently tweak the Miami roster (as if he's not acting urgently enough) and keep his client's options open. It's what good agents do. The Rockets, Suns and Mavericks are among the non-Miami teams James's agent plans to listen to.
Other free agents to keep an eye on for Houston: TREVOR ARIZA (Washington), PAUL PIERCE (Brooklyn), PAU GASOL (Lakers), LUOL DENG (Cleveland).