Trevor Ariza in serious talks with Houston Rockets


Washington Wizards swingman Trevor Ariza is being pursued by Houston. (EPA/PAUL BUCK).

Contract discussion are advancing between free agent Trevor Ariza and the Houston Rockets, a person with knowledge of the situation said Saturday.

Ariza’s choice to stay with the Wizards or accept a more lucrative offer elsewhere is part of the expected domino effect in NBA free agency a day after LeBron James made his decision. After watching James return to Cleveland, the Miami Heat responded by fighting off a hard push by Houston to retain Chris Bosh with a five-year contract worth $118 million. Carmelo Anthony, the top player available after James, is expected to soon inform the New York Knicks that he will return and see how Phil Jackson’s plan plays out.

The Rockets are looking to make a big move in free agency after being spurned by Anthony and Bosh. The Dallas Mavericks signed restricted free agent small forward Chandler Parsons to a three-year, $46 million offer sheet and the Rockets have until 11:59 on Sunday to match the deal or let him walk without compensation.

Ariza, 29, and fellow free agent small forward Luol Deng are considered the top alternatives to Parsons if they can be had a lower cost.

The Rockets have a past with Arzia, having signed away from the Los Angeles Lakers with a five-year, $34 million contract in 2009. But they didn’t hold on to him for long, shipping him to New Orleans a year after he proved unable to handle the role as a primary offensive option. If he decides to go back, the Rockets are in a much different position with all-stars Dwight Howard and James Harden around to carry the offensive load.

The Wizards always placed Ariza has their top priority along with Marcin Gortat but they also lacked the financial means to give him more than a modest raise from his $7.7 million salary last season without going above the luxury tax threshold of $77 million to fill out the rest of the roster.

With Ariza seeking a contract that will compare to the four-year, $48 million deal that Andrew Iguodala signed last season, according to league sources, the Wizards knew that they risked losing him in the open market. The 6-foot-8 forward had one of the best seasons of his career last season and has attracted attention from both Los Angeles teams, Dallas and Miami.

Dallas will reportedly pursue Ariza if the Rockets decide to keep Parsons. The Heat lost James but doesn’t plan to go from four straight trips to the NBA Finals to the NBA lottery in one season. It will be looking to complement Bosh and Dwyane Wade with some talented veterans.

Cleveland was considered an option before James decided to go back to the franchise where he spent the first seven seasons of his career. The Lakers appear to be out of the picture as a viable option as well after agreeing to terms with former Wizard Nick Young on a four-year, $21.5 million deal and Jordan Hill on a two-year, $18 million deal.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · July 11