The Houston Rockets are pessimistic about their chances of re-signing point guard Goran Dragic with the sides far apart in negotiations, according to sources close to the process.
The Rockets met with Dragic on Monday in Houston and were hopeful of reaching terms quickly with the Slovenian, who averaged 16.3 points and 7.3 assists in 32 games after the All-Star break following an injury to Kyle Lowry.
But Dragic left town without a deal, sources said, leading one source close to the process to say that the lefty's expected return to the Rockets is "not going to happen." Dragic is scheduled Tuesday to visit the Phoenix Suns, who dealt him to the Rockets at the 2011 trade deadline.
Dragic is said to be seeking an annual salary of at least $10 million and, according to sources familiar with his thinking, expects to be installed as the starter wherever he lands.
The Rockets gambled that they could retain Dragic when they began actively shopping Kyle Lowry. You may question the thinking behind that move, but here are the likely reasons for it:
A) Lowry has a very reasonable contract and thus would be easy to trade.
B) Lowry made it public that he's unhappy under Kevin McHale, whereas Dragic thrived under McHale at the end of last season.
C) Dragic has always said positive things about Houston, wants money that Houston can afford to pay him and wants to start — something guaranteed if he stays in the H.
D) By trading Lowry and retaining Dragic, the Rockets get something in return for both point guards — Dragic and whatever Lowry's trade brings in — as opposed to keeping just one point guard and letting the other walk for free.
Unfortunately, if Stein's report is any indication, the Rockets' offer may be missing something. Are they avoiding having to spend $10 million per year to get him? Does Dragic want to play for an instant contender? At some point, Goran may have to slice things off his list of demands until something fits, but it's looking like that still may not result in a stint in Houston.
Signs the Rockets are getting somewhat desperate: They've brought in Zoran Dragic — Goran's brother — to the Summer League team, perhaps as a gesture to entice Dragic to stay. Zoran is a good player, don't get me wrong, but among the many choices out there and of all the intriguing players, I think there's more to this than "well, he's a good prospect."
As for Houston's Plan B in case Dragic walks? Yikes. I suspect the Rockets will still try to move Lowry, but now they would have to bring back a point guard in return. If they choose to keep Lowry, he'll have to adjust to life with McHale, and we all saw what happens when an unhappy player returns to Houston after time on the trading block (looking at you, Kevin Martin).
An odd offseason continues to get weirder for the Rockets, who keep taking steps forward in promises and steps backward in execution. At the end of the day, this is a team that won't contend this year regardless, but the little swings and misses we've seen thus far could go on to hurt the team down the road. Here's hoping Stein's report missed as well.