Despite falling just short of an NBA Finals berth last season, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute decided to sign elsewhere in free agency this summer, therefore creating two major voids, especially on the defensive end of the court for the Houston Rockets.
However, the threat of losing another key player was a realistic possibility for the Rockets.
Center Clint Capela, who averaged 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds in 27.5 minutes during the regular season and then 12.7 points and 11.6 rebounds in 30.6 minutes in 17 playoff games, was a restricted free agent.
The Swiss-born big man made his mark offensively in pick-and-roll situations and also proved to be a legitimate rim protector last season. Most of all, his athleticism allowed him to switch onto quicker defenders and stay on the court against the deadly small-ball lineup of the Golden State Warriors.
Therefore, it was absolutely necessary that the Rockets kept him on board. Since he was a restricted free agent, any team was able to present an offer to him (which Houston would have the option of matching). But, in the end, the Rockets came to a multi-year agreement with him, thus making him a major part of their exciting future.
Houston and Capela agreed to a five-year, $90 million extension, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday.
Exactly $10 million of the $90 million are incentives, which means $80 million is guaranteed money.
Amazingly, the Rockets were 42-3 last season with Chris Paul, James Harden and Capela in the lineup, per ESPN. They went 23-14 when missing one of them. That’s not a coincidence.
Luckily for Houston, their “big three” will presumably be together for multiple upcoming seasons. Paul agreed to a four-year, $160 million max deal earlier in the month and Harden signed a four-year, $228 million supermax extension last year.
Harden reacted to the news in real-time while at a Team USA practice in Las Vegas.
“Obviously we love the game of basketball but to be able to provide for your family for generations, that’s what we do it for. I’ve seen him work his butt off these last few years. He listens, learns, competes. I’m happy for him,” the MVP said.
Capela also put out a brief statement as well.
Although the Rockets seemingly still have more work to do from a team-building standpoint this summer, taking care of their franchise center was an important and logical move.
In the end, it still might not be enough to overtake the Warriors especially now that they signed DeMarcus Cousins, but it gives them a fighting chance. Winning 42 of 45 regular-season games with Paul, Harden and Capela healthy was no fluke.