Due to NBA roster rules, the Houston Rockets recently signed veteran big man Willie Cauley-Stein to a 10-day contract. Cauley-Stein has played most of the 2022-23 season with the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Vipers, Houston’s NBA G League affiliate.
Now, it appears Cauley-Stein may soon be going back there. As first reported by Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston, the Rockets won’t be offering a second 10-day contract to the 28-year-old center. That will make Cauley-Stein eligible to be signed by other NBA teams — and if he is not signed, a return to the Vipers could be in play.
With three centers already on the roster in starter Alperen Sengun and backups Usman Garuba and Boban Marjanovic, it wasn’t as if the Rockets signed Cauley-Stein to fill a potential need. Rather, the team simply had to sign someone to meet the league’s requirement for 14 standard contracts, and rewarding Cauley-Stein was a nice touch after he spent a year with Houston’s developmental affiliate.
In an obvious rebuilding situation, Houston’s priority is to evaluate younger options that are already on its roster. Thus, adding a player like Cauley-Stein with no expectations of playing time made sense.
Now, as was the case after Houston’s trade deadline moves, the team can be below the 14-player roster limit for up to two weeks. Thus, with no path to minutes, there wouldn’t seem to be much of a reason to keep Cauley-Stein around and languishing at the end of an NBA bench (and paying him an NBA salary) at a time in which the Rockets aren’t required to have that roster spot filled.
When the two-week clock next expires in late March, general manager Rafael Stone will have to make another roster move for the Rockets at that time. He could bring Cauley-Stein back for a second 10-day stint, or another external move may be made, instead.