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The Rockets are all fed up



Photo: Rich Pedroncelli (AP)

The Warriors are seriously exhausted as next season approaches, so it goes without saying that the Houston Rockets are as well placed as any other team to take advantage of and end the five-year Warriors race. After all, they've been the only Western Conference team to have pushed Golden State to the limit, and they have the kind of proven formula the Lakers have not developed yet. However, as ESPN's Tim MacMahon report makes clear, the Rockets organization is in turmoil. "Too much trouble," in fact.

A source of "high ranking" Rockets summed it up for MacMahon: "There are grudges now everywhere." It starts with stars Chris Paul and James Harden. Paul's play declined last season, and as he tried to slow down the offensive and play stopped games, Harden became increasingly frustrated with him. When this led to "tense exchanges" during the Rockets' end-of-season defeat, Paul did everything to avoid the traditional post-game press conference with Harden.

Paul's incessant chatter was also playing with Harden, according to MacMahon. He apparently continued to harass Harden throughout the season, about little details about his game, his team's style of play, and Harden's reluctance to miss the ball. Harden slammed after the end of the Rockets season, telling Paul "He did not always know better and talked too much."

"Chris wants to coach James," says a source close to the dynamics of the stars. "James looks at him like," You can not even beat your man. Shut up and look at me.

The tension between the two can not be easily resolved by exchanging Paul either, as he still owed $ 124 million over the remaining three years of his contract. Rockets' owner, Tilman Fertitta, who allegedly complained to members of the team and rival leaders, is the central figure in MacMahon's story. His leadership within the team for two years has paid $ 2.2 billion, a record. as uneven at best. Fertitta raised two-thirds ($ 1.4 billion) of bond sales, but also borrowed $ 175 million and received a $ 275 million loan from former owner Leslie Alexander.

Questions about Fertitta's willingness to invest in the team naturally sprouted when the details of the purchase appeared, though it was clear with MacMahon that he was ready to immerse himself in the luxury tax, but not in the recovery tax. He can say what he wants, but the Rockets have undeniably cut costs last year by choosing to recruit minimum wage players instead of using the mid-level exception for replace Trevor Ariza. General Manager Daryl Morey also collected the tax at the last minute after dropping Brandon Knight and James Ennis on the trading deadline.

According to MacMahon, Fertitta's stubborn refusal to pay is also the source of the discord between management and head coach Mike D'Antoni, who has only one year of contract left. The negotiations for an extension were interrupted at the end of May – shortly after Fertitta raised questions about D'Antoni's age and willingness to continue coaching – and Fertitta revealed at a press conference he had offered D'Antoni a base salary of $ 5 million.

However, the agent D'Antoni clarified that the offer was not actually $ 5 million (which would be lower than the market rate for an established veteran coach such as D'Antoni), because it would be halved if Antoni was fired or if the Rockets failed to make the playoffs. Fertitta met D'Antoni in West Virginia earlier this month. Although he said he was offering more incentives for the transaction and was abandoning the language of the buyout, his refusal to raise D'Antoni's base salary annoyed D'Antoni's agent, Warren LeGarie. "I have not heard from them since this trip to visit Mike," says LeGarie. "Mike is ready to coach his contract."

The front office also let most of D'Antoni's staff leave after last season, and the assistants apparently would not be willing to join the team when D'Antoni's status was so uncertain. And so, the Rockets will kick off the first season of West Conference troubles with a confused and shorthanded coaching staff and a growing unhappy pair of stars. Harden is good enough to win a Rockets championship next season despite all that, but he will have to go through more organizational chaos than ever before to do it.

Morey responded to the story this morning at a radio show in Houston and drew attention to the tension that reigned within the organization. "I'm frustrated, our best players are frustrated, Mike D'Antoni is frustrated. We want to take the last step and become the champion and I think it's good that there is tension in the sense that we all want to win. "


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