So over the weekend, general manager Daryl Morey made his best effort to find another large gift, some smaller gifts, and stocking stuffers to try to surround James Harden and the newly acquired Paul. It was quite the roller coaster, and in the end, there was a lot of flirting, one peculiar glitch and some new faces added.
Let's start with the most significant acquisition — late Saturday night, the Rockets reached a four-year, $32 million agreement with veteran forward P.J. Tucker, who was last with the Toronto Raptors in 2016-17. Tucker became the focus for the Rockets after Andre Iguodala decided to return to Golden State on a three-year, $48 million deal after having what were categorized as "excellent" meetings with the Rockets. Tucker brings wing depth, solid outside shooting and elite-level defense to a bench sorely in need of all that. Tucker's friendship with Paul was reportedly crucial to closing this deal, as the Raptors offered Tucker three years at a total of $33 million. Tucker likely will pick up the minutes and role Corey Brewer had before being dealt last season, only my guess is he will do it far better.
Additionally, the Rockets signed last season's second-round pick, 7-foot-2 Chinese center Zhou Qi, to a multi-year deal. Qi, who was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Chinese Basketball Association last season, continues the tradition of Chinese big men with the Rockets — back in the day, there was this guy Yao Ming — and brings the usual things you'd expect from a slight-of-build seven-footer plus some decent outside shooting. It will be interesting to see how quickly Qi is thrown into the mix, given the lack of front-court depth at center... which brings us to another Rocket-related saga from over the weekend, the Nene situation.
It was reported just after free agency opened that the Rockets were bringing back Nene on a four-year, $15 million deal, a bargain for the quality scoring we saw off the bench from the Brazilian big man last season, especially in the postseason before a torn hamstring in the Spurs series ended his run. There was only one problem — because of a quirky rule in the collective bargaining agreement, since Nene turned 38 years old before the beginning of the fourth season of the deal, that fourth year was nullified. Rather than agree to a contract with just the first three years of the deal, Nene, at first, reopened his free agency. Happily, though, he chose to agree to a three-year, $11 million modified deal, so Nene is back with the Rockets next season.
All the moves and non-moves by the Rockets are occurring under a backdrop where the team is still searching for a third star player to align with Harden and Paul. Former Pacers forward Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for wing Victor Oladipo and big man Domantas Sabonis, which for now gave the Thunder a second All Star and took out a big target for Morey.
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