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Report: Rockets considering trades, but hard cap meant patience choice

Houston Rockets v Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: James Harden #13 and Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets walk off the court during a first half timeout against the Washington Redskins at Verizon Center on December 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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The Houston Rockets are hard capped this season. GM Daryl Morey thought he had put together a contender — they had reached the Western Conference Finals last season and added Ty Lawson — so taking the hard cap on (by using part of their mid-level exception to bring them close to the apron) to bring in rookie second rounder Montrezl Harrell seemed a wise move.

Except things did not go smoothly for the Rockets to start the season, and suddenly having that hard cap became a problem. Calvin Watson explained it well at ESPN.

Make no mistake, the desire to trade players remains despite the improved record. The Rockets talked to teams about trades regarding forward Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer. Ty Lawson’s reps sought more playing time elsewhere and there was a report Dwight Howard wanted out, something he disputed.

When the Rockets signed second-round pick Montrezl Harrell to a three-year, $3.1 million deal during the summer, it used a portion of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, pushing them to the apron level of a hard salary cap of $88.7 million. Morey is limited in what he can do because he can’t take on a huge salary for this season with the hard cap.

The Rockets have won five in a row, they are playing better on defense, and things flow better with Patrick Beverley in the starting lineup and Ty Lawson off the bench. Still, the Rockets are not the title contenders they expected to be and Morey would love to make moves at the deadline to strengthen this team.

He just tied his own hands and can’t make any big ones.