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Clint Capela will be back, but for how long?

The Houston center remains a free agent and could wind up betting on himself for next year.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We’re almost a full week into NBA free agency, and we have yet to hear any real concrete news on the status of restricted free agent Clint Capela.

What we do know is that the Houston Rockets extended Capela the qualifying offer, which was for $3.4 million, and then he was expected to go out and find the biggest deal available, which the Rockets were planning on matching.

Then we got this cryptic tweet from the big man himself one day into free agency.

Many assume this is related to Capela’s failure to find a highly coveted max deal out on the market. There’s simply not as much available money out there this season, and a team that signs a restricted free agent like Capela has that money come out of their available cap until the Rockets decide whether or not to match, at which time the other team’s money will either become available again or used on the player.

With Houston making very public statements all season long that they have every intention of bringing Capela back, rival teams are in no hurry to tie up their money for any length of time knowing they’re not likely to get Capela anyway.

So the negotiations for the services of the Swiss Roll now basically come back to only the Rockets, and so far, Capela doesn’t appear very happy with what the team has been offering.

The Rockets seem to be aware that they are without competition on the the open market and aren’t about to get into a negotiating war with themselves. It’s unknown right now exactly how far apart the teams are, but Capela’s side is likely looking for as close to the max as possible.

Should the sides manage to come to an understanding and strike a deal, it’s obviously the best possible scenario for all sides. Team management has made their fondness known for Capela, teammates James Harden and Chris Paul have publicly talked up Capela’s importance to what they do, Capela has himself previously expressed a desire to stay in Houston, and he’s also a fan favorite. Getting him back on a long-term deal would put smiles on everyone’s face.

But there’s also another option for Capela, and according to some, it’s what Capela’s side is leaning towards right now.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne thinks Capela is about to bet on himself, play this next season at a highly undervalued $3.4 million qualifying offer, hereby robbing the Rockets of their advantage in contract negotiatons, and then parlaying a hopefully big upcoming season into the mega-pay day he’s after.

If that’s indeed the route we’re heading down, my guess is Capela is as good as gone after this season. He’ll certainly be more willing to head to another city after enduring a unfulfilling restricted process which saw his importance to the team talked up for months, only to receive an underwhelming offer from management.

In fact, the Rockets are already grooming his potential future replacement in 2017 second-round pick Isaiah Hartenstein.

The 7-foot, 20-year-old from Germany has been playing with the Rockets’ G-League team in Rio Grande Valley to help ease his transition to the NBA game and Houston’s style, and though he still has some maturing to do before he’s ready to take over at the top level, he’s already been serving the Capela role with the junior squad.

Matt Brase, the head coach of the Vipers, had this to say to the Houston Chronicle about Hartenstein’s development:

“He improved a lot. He is an elite rebounder on both ends of the court. The thing he got best at is rolling quick and finishing at the rim. That was the big thing for him, to get out of the slower roll he grew up with in Germany to quick rolls to the rim. He worked on his 3s a lot in the season. But his highest value is as a roller and finisher at the rim. The role Clint Capela had up here with the Rockets is what Isaiah had with the Vipers.”

The Rockets still have a chance this offseason to lock down Capela for the the foreseeable future, but as the free agency period stretches on and on, it seems to become less likely with each passing day.

Either way you slice it, Capela will be back catching lobs at the Toyota Center this year come fall, but how much longer than that he stays is currently anyone’s guess. If he’s forced to play out the year for $3.4 million, this upcoming season could very well could be his last in Rockets red.