NBA Cracks Down on Rockets Contract, Hurts Chances of Trading for Veteran

Andre Iguodala Grizzlies

Getty Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates a basket late in the game against the Toronto Raptors during Game Two of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 02, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.

The Houston Rockets tried to circumvent the system, but the NBA caught on to it.

Just days after the Rockets signed veteran big man Nene to an incentive-laden contract that could be worth up to $10 million per season, the NBA made sure to inform Houston it cannot use Nene’s potential bonuses for trade purposes.

Long story short, the Rockets were hoping to use Nene as a trade chip in a potential deal. You know, somebody like the Memphis Grizzlies‘ Andre Iguodala. However, with the NBA’s new ruling, that simply cannot happen.

To simplify things, Nene could earn up to $10 million for the upcoming season. However, only $2.56 million is a base salary while the remaining $7.4 million are bonuses that require Nene to play at least 40 games and for the team to win at least 52 games.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank broke it down in his explanation, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“The Rockets’ recent contract with Nenê contained bonuses that the league office reviewed for compliance with CBA rules,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said. “Following that review, the NBA and the Players Association reached an agreement regarding the Salary Cap treatment of those bonuses. Under the agreement, if the contract is traded, the calculation of the applicable trade exception would not include the bonuses in the contract.”

If you’re still confused, Feigen breaks it down even further.

“He met those measures last season, making the bonuses considered “likely” for cap calculations this season with the Rockets, but they would not be likely with other teams and could be impossible to be met if he was traded to a team that at that point of the season was unable to reach 52 wins. Nene is not eligible to be traded until after Jan. 15.”

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Rockets Have to Find Another Way to Acquire Iguodala

In other words, the Rockets largely re-signed Nene so they could use him as a trade chip so they can have matching salaries in a possible deal. However, Houston also avoids the damage to their salary cap because Nene’s cap hit is largely bonus-induced.

Considering former Finals MVP Iguodala is due to earn $17.2 million this season and the Grizzlies won’t buy him out — they want to trade him for assets in return — it makes it near impossible for the Rockets to make a trade for Iguodala without giving up a valuable player in return.

Nene averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while appearing in 42 games last season, but he’ll have a hard time finding playing time considering newcomer Tyson Chandler and youngster Isaiah Hartenstein will back up starter Clint Capela at center.

It’s worth mentioning that the Rockets attempted a similar type of deal with Iman Shumpert earlier in the week — to use his salary as a trade chip — only for Shumpert to reject the Rockets’ contract offer.

Rockets to Invite 6 Veterans to Minicamp

The Rockets currently have only nine players under guaranteed contracts and they’re currently over the cap, which means they can only sign players to minimum deals.

What do you do in that situation? You bring in six veterans who are desperate for a contract.

As the Rockets open minicamp in Las Vegas next week, they’ll invite some familiar names: Terrence Jones, Corey Brewer, Luc Mbah a Moute, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Young and Raymond Felton.

Jones and Mbah a Moute are former members of the team, while Brewer, Felton and Sefolosha are former teammates of Russell Westbrook. Young is a former NBA champion and was a starter with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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