Rumor: Rockets Let Parsons Out Of Contract As Part Of Dwight Howard’s Deal

When the Rockets declined their fourth-year option on Chandler Parsons in early June, the reaction was split whether they were making a mistake. Dallas’ three-year, $45 million offer sheet lured him away from Houston permanently, and many blamed GM Daryl Morey for making an unusual (for him) tactical mistake. But a new report makes it seem like Houston’s decision to forego Parsons’ fourth year, that would have meant paying him less than $1 million before he became an unrestricted free agent next summer, might have been tied to Dwight Howard‘s decision to sign with Houston in the summer of 2013 since agent Dan Fegan represents both players.

The argument in favor of Houston GM Daryl Morey terminating the team’s option on Parsons stems from the belief they didn’t ever want the second-round star to enter unrestricted free agency, since they planned all along to match whatever he was given in restricted free agency. Sure, they could have had him on the cheap for one more year, but it would have opened them up to losing him next summer.

Except, a report from ClutchFans (by way of SheridanHoops) says that Parsons’ agent, Fegan, actually made their Parsons decision a proviso in the deal Dwight signed with Houston as a free agent in 2013. It seems Fegan wanted Dwight in Dallas, since he has a good relationship with owner Mark Cuban, but Dwight wanted Houston and Fegan only gave his blessing when Houston agreed to let Parsons’ fourth-year team option lapse, turning him into a restricted free agent this summer:

By letting Parsons out of his contract, the Rockets were simply honoring an agreement they made with his agent in 2013 when they signed Dwight Howard.

As I’ve been told, Howard’s agent Dan Fegan did not want Dwight in Houston, preferring instead to steer him to another team. Reportedly, that team was Dallas as the agent has a relationship and comfort level with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Dwight preferred Houston. To seal the deal for the premier free agent, Fegan provided the Rockets a list of needs/demands to bring him here and one of them was to let Chandler Parsons, who also was represented by Fegan, out of his contract this summer rather than wait until 2015.

(It should be noted that though I have no idea what other items would be on that list, there were two “interesting” things that happened around that time — the Rockets hired Howard’s former trainer with the Orlando Magic and they later added Dwight’s brother to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, though it was largely believed that he wasn’t a good enough prospect to make that jump. See JR Smith-Chris Smith for how nepotism package deals can work.)

Parsons has since publicly denied that the decision by the Rockets had anything to do with Howard, but I’ve been told by multiple sources that it’s true.

We know what happened next, but ClutchFans also added some background ameliorating the report’s veracity, specifically the timing of the leak: Houston declined their team option on Parsons nearly a month before the late-June deadline:

News that the Rockets would decline the team option and make Chandler a restricted free agent leaked nearly a month before the deadline the Rockets had to make that decision. This may not seem excessive, but when you consider that the NBA Draft — the hotbed time of player movement throughout the league — was still to occur and could impact the decision, it seemed silly that the front office would be able to say it with certainty at that point. I’ve since talked to people who were told by Chandler himself during the 2013-14 season that the plan was to make him a restricted free agent. No mention of why, but he apparently knew even then that the team option was not going to be picked up.

After Houston let him out of his deal, Cuban offered Parsons a massive raise — perhaps after getting tipped by pal, Fegan — in the form of the near-max three-year, $45 million offer sheet, which Houston eventually chose not to match.

If you’re Fegan, it’s like having your cake, and eating it, too. Howard wanted to sign with Houston, and he was going to regardless of Fegan’s wish Howard signed with inner-state rival, Dallas. By attaching this purported provision to Howard’s deal, Fegan had created another opportunity to cash in on the percentage he receives when Parsons signed Dallas’ offer sheet — in grand style, no less.

Whether this is true or not is anyone’s guess, but both Howard and Parsons are on multi-year deals with Houston and Dallas, respectively. It does make you wonder, though, especially when you take into account how hard Parsons petitioned Howard to sign with Houston last summer.

Click to read more evidence about why the report might be true…

Parsons was at the forefront of the Rockets’ pitch to the big man — who could have signed for a lot more had he stayed in Los Angeles. We doubt Parsons was privy to Fegan’s thinking, but if he was, it might have played a role in Parsons’ enthusiasm for the former Lakers big man — though that’s all unsubstantiated conjecture on our part. In fact, Parsons seems to genuinely hold Dwight (and the Rockets) in high esteem — this summer’s back-and-forth in the press, notwithstanding — and we don’t envision him manipulating a situation like that. We do, however, think it’s right up an agent’s alley.

Fegan’s thinking lends more credence to the report. Parsons, after getting selected in the second round of the 2011 Draft (No. 39 overall), was locked into a tiny deal because of where he was selected (second-round picks don’t even have a guaranteed contract). When it became obvious to Houston they’d hit the second-round lottery with the selection of Parsons out of Florida, they made sure to attach a third and fourth-year team option on his rookie-scale deal. This meant Parsons would earn far less than his potential free agency would garner in the open market.

So Fegan attached the alleged Parsons clause to Howard’s contract, knowing that regardless of where Parsons ended up, Parsons (and hence, Fegan) would get a hefty raise over the reported $964,750 Parsons would have made if Houston had picked up their fourth-year option.

We hinted at it earlier, but if this report is true, Fegan probably tipped Cuban that Parsons would be available this summer, so the Mavs owner could plot to make the big offer viable. The Rockets didn’t match and Dallas got Parsons, Houston has Dwight and Fegan can deposit two huge checks as a result of all this underhanded maneuvering.

We’re speculating here, but director Oliver Stone might want to do a third installment of his Wall Street franchise on NBA agents.

(ClutchFans; H/T SheridanHoops)

Did Houston agree to let Parsons out of his cheap deal in order to sign Dwight?

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