Looking for someone to add below Brand isn’t surprising to league sources, who always questioned ownership’s seriousness in regard to giving up its control to a team president. However, it will be interesting to see if the Sixers make a run at Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for that job. League sources think he could soon be in the market for another job, even though Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey’s job is safe following the team’s second-round playoff elimination.
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Speaking on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” on Tuesday, Fertitta solidified Morey’s employment with the NBA franchise and said he’s in charge of finding the Rockets’ new head coach. “Daryl Morey’s job is safe, and I’m sure he’s going to pick the right head coach,” Fertitta said of Morey’s job to find a replacement for Mike D’Antoni, who announced he would not return to the Rockets.
Jonathan Feigen: Fertitta continued: “Daryl Morey’s job is safe. I’m sure he’s going to pick the right head coach.”
Jonathan Feigen: Tilman Fertitta on the coaching search: “It begins and end with the general manager. That’s why you have a basketball operations team. They’ll make a recommendation to me. I’m the sign off guys. I wouldn’t know how to interview a basketball coach.”
There has been widespread speculation throughout the league that Fertitta would want to also move on from Morey this offseason, gossip that began in the wake of Morey’s tweet that damaged the Rockets’ relationship with China, costing the franchise millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. High-ranking Rockets sources dismiss those rumors, saying that Fertitta fully intends to keep Morey.
The topic of the Hong Kong tweet has come up again lately. The President brought it up. It came up on your CNBC interview. What would you want people to know about your position about that issue? Tilman Fertitta: “The tweet was seven words. There was nothing wrong with the tweet. That’s why one hour later I told ESPN when I was asked ‘Are you going to get rid of Daryl Morey,’ I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Why would I get rid of Daryl for that tweet?’ I think Daryl’s one of the best general managers in the league. Plus, we truly enjoy working with each other. To this day, we plan on working with each other and I expect Daryl to be here for years to come.”
Justin Sink: Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta brings up the @dmorey Hong Kong controversy during the White House restaurant meeting with @potus. “Is he still working for you?” Trump asks. “He must be pretty good.”
None of the executives doubted Morey’s interest in the political issue in question, but almost all of them suggested that Morey would figure out how to leverage the ordeal into a net positive for himself. Several noted that, in recent years, Morey has immersed himself in so many disparate pursuits — the Sloan conference, theater production, Silicon Valley, techno-activism — that his impulses are best interpreted as groundwork for his next big thing.
Though a couple of NBA executives speculated Morey might have greater difficulty attracting marquee free agents to Houston, few said that his ability to perform his job would be affected beyond having to placate Fertitta, a shotgun marriage that sources close to the Rockets have considered a tenuous fit since Fertitta bought the team in 2017.
In his first public comments since the interview with ESPN, Fertitta, whose team opens the season on Thursday night against Milwaukee, agreed to provide written answers to questions through a spokeswoman. He said he “never considered firing or punishing Daryl” in the wake of Morey’s Twitter post. Fertitta also said that he needed to initially distance the Rockets from Morey because, “I felt it was important to make the distinction between Daryl speaking as a private citizen and Daryl as a representative of the Houston Rockets.”
Then it was back to silence. Fertitta declined to answer several follow-up questions, including whether he wished he had handled anything differently since Morey’s post. The Rockets said Morey was not available for comment.
The Rockets do not plan to discipline Morey, according to one person with knowledge of the ownership’s thinking who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly. Yet it remains to be seen how much Morey’s apology will mollify the fans and various entities in China that expressed such loud dismay about Morey’s original Twitter post, in which he shared an image that read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” — referencing the protests that have raged for months. The slogan is commonly chanted at demonstrations and has been spray-painted throughout the city.
Shams Charania: NBA is not disciplining Rockets GM Daryl Morey for his social media post, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Morey also issued apology tonight.
Chris Mannix: NBA’s Mike Bass with the leagues statement on Daryl Morey.
Ramona Shelburne: New Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai has been a major asset for the NBA in managing this crisis in China. Just as he was with UCLA during the LiAngelo Ball incident.
Sam Amick: Two sources with knowledge of the Rockets’ ownership thinking strongly refute the Ringer report indicating that the GM Daryl Morey’s job is in jeopardy as a result of the Hong Kong tweet-China situation. That being said, it’s undeniably a mess.
Marc Stein: Echoing what @Sam Amick just tweeted, one source with knowledge of the situation tells @NYTSports that Houston has “no discipline” planned for Rockets GM Daryl Morey in the wake of this weekend’s Hong Kong/China Twitter controversy
Daryl Morey: I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.
Chris Mannix: Expect the NBA to issue a statement tonight addressing the controversy sparked by a tweet from Rockets GM Daryl Morey that expressed support for Hong Kong’s fight for freedom.
Fertitta praised Brown and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, saying he would keep the Rockets management team in place. He and Brown had already spoken about changes great (addressing the NHL potential in Houston) and small (pledging to upgrade the players’ dining room.) Mostly, he and his family celebrated a day long anticipated. “It’s an unbelievable thing, an unbelievable day,” his father Vic Fertitta said. “To see your son do what he’s done and remember him as a child, this is just wonderful. He’s been a Rockets fan for so many years, I just can’t tell you. He’s been a Rockets fan as long as I can remember. It’s been about as good a story as you could tell.”
Mark Berman: NBA sources: #Rockets GM Daryl Morey signed 4-year extension.Had 1 year left. Now tied to Rockets for 5years.Morey not available for comment
Morey has been frequently equated with one of his former employees, recently resigned Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, who was hired in Philadelphia after cutting his teeth in Houston. According to other executives around the league, that’s not an entirely fair comparison. Where Hinkie was fully committed to playing percentages and probabilities while building a team, Morey has had a more deft hand when dealing with agents and other general managers, and with the personalities on his roster.
“Daryl is a guy who can understand where you’re coming from and work out something, be creative, be tenacious, all of those things,” one NBA team executive told Sporting News. “He approaches things with a lot of imagination and understanding of how to make deals work for everybody. With Sam, he was doing his own thing all along. It could be like you were speaking two different languages sometimes. He knew what he wanted, he would tell you, and that was the beginning and the end of the conversation.”
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January 17, 2021 | 5:45 pm EST Update
Tim Bontemps: Tonight’s Sixers-Thunder game has been postponed, the league announces. Too many Sixers are in contact tracing protocols for the game to be played.
John Karalis: Contact tracing on the Sixers postpones tonight’s game with OKC. Philly is Boston’s next opponent so let’s see how this impacts games later this week
Brad Townsend: Carlisle says he is optimistic that Brunson will be available tomorrow, but adds with agitation in his voice: “The guy basically tested negative for a week and a half and didn’t have it. Go figure that one.”