Houston Rockets Add Zhou Qi, As Rare NBA Rule Prevents Them From Re-Signing Nene [Opinion]

Has Nene played his last game for the busy Houston Rockets? That was one of the questions asked as the Rockets conduct their business during NBA offseason.

Few teams have been as busy as the Houston Rockets, who are attempting to put together a team which can rival the Golden State Warriors. As some teams are selling off their players out of fear that they will not be able to compete, the Houston Rockets are doing the exact opposite. But they may be without a key contributor from last season.

The Rockets first added (courtesy of NBA.com) Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade. With the addition of Paul, the Rockets add a star player who can set up the offense and play lockdown defense. He will pair up with James Harden to make up an all-star backcourt. The rest of the team will receive some alterations as well. Thus far, one player has agreed to join the Rockets, and there is the possibility of a huge signing on the horizon.

The Rockets have also come to terms on a multi-year deal with Chinese center Zhou Qi, according to ESPN. Zhou Qi was a second round pick of the Rockets from the 2016 NBA draft. After playing overseas last year, Qi joins the Rockets at a good time. The Rockets need all of the players on the roster they can get. They traded away a lot of their depth to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Adding Qi should allow the Rockets to have someone to play behind center Clint Capela, that is if they cannot re-sign Nene.

The Houston Rockets thought they had a deal in place for Nene on Friday night. Nene was comfortable accepting a four-year, $15 million contract offer from the Rockets, according to the Washington Times. The agreement has run into a considerable snag in less than 12 hours.

ESPN is reporting that the Rockets had to pull their four-year offer to Nene off the table. That because of a little known and seldom enforced age rule in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. That rule restricts any NBA team from signing a player to a contract longer than two years if they will reach 38-years-old. The “Over 38” rule would affect Nene in the final year of the proposed deal.

Having to adjust to the NBA’s rule, the Houston Rockets decided to offer Nene a three-year, $10 million contract instead. Thus far, Nene has yet to accept the Rockets’ offer.

Nene may decide to test the waters in NBA free agency, unless the Houston Rockets increase their contract offer.

The Rockets need Nene, who fit them perfectly. Nene added a level of toughness to the Rockets, along with veteran leadership. When he was in the starting lineup, Nene gave the Rockets a conventional NBA lineup to combat against opposing teams. Once the Rockets shifted to having Clint Capela in as a starter, it made Nene even more effective as a reserve. He had the opportunity to play against inferior competition from the second unit of other teams.

If Nene does re-sign with the Houston Rockets, he will be able to play alongside Chris Paul, who will make him more effective. Paul is a better passer than the players he replaced. And he would be able to find areas to get the ball to Nene. It would a perfect way to reward him for playing stout defense on the other end.

Losing Nene takes away the frontcourt advantage for the Houston Rockets. And despite the addition of Zhou Qi, Nene’s interior defense would be missed.

A resolution will likely take place soon, as the Houston Rockets do not want to lose Nene. He is not a player just filling in a spot on the roster. Nene played an integral role for the Rockets last season. There is a strong chance to believe in his return.

Update: According to SB Nation, the Houston Rockets and Nene agree to a three-year deal. Nene is slated to earn $11 million with the Rockets over the three years. He will likely be the primary backup to Clint Capela next season.

[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]