Houston Rockets chief executive Tad Brown today told reporters at a news conference that owner Leslie Alexander is putting the team up for sale.

The unexpected announcement, which reportedly even caught people within the organisation by surprise, comes less than two weeks after the Rockets signed James Harden to the biggest contract extension in NBA history.

The Rockets' next owner will inherit a budding superteam anchored by Harden, who is under team control through the 2022-23 season. Earlier this offseason, the Rockets traded for point guard Chris Paul to compete with the Golden State Warriors for Western Conference - and NBA - supremacy.

Alexander bought the Rockets in 1993 for US$85 million and watched them win back-to-back championships in his first two seasons as owner.

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In February, Forbes valued the Rockets at US$1.65 million, which is eighth among NBA teams. Forbes reported that NBA franchise valuations have increased 3.5-fold over the last five years, in large part as a result of the NBA's US$24 billion TV deal with ESPN and TNT.

"It's been a great joy in his life and pleasure to be the owner of the Houston Rockets," Alexander said in a statement. "The great players, Hall of Fame players and coaches, championships won, all-NBA teams made. Just the connection with the community that's been established over 24 years has been an incredible opportunity that he's just loved."

Brown said Monday there is no timetable for selling the team and Alexander is looking for a buyer committed to keeping the Rockets in Houston.