NBA Rumor: Rockets Front Office

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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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Daryl Morey not in the hot seat for Hong Kong tweet

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.”

The Houston Rockets are one of the most advanced statistic-reliant teams in the NBA, and their old head coach thinks it is somewhat to their detriment. In an interview this week on ESPN 97.5 in Houston, Kevin McHale took a bit of a shot at his former squad over their fervent belief in analytics. “You guys are caught up a little bit in Houston on numbers,” said McHale. “Numbers do not win games. The one number that wins the game is if you have one more point than the other team. That’s the biggest number. But numbers don’t win games.”

Morey has put together all the pieces — starting with trading Chris Paul for Westbrook during the offseason — and all he can do now is wait and see what happens. The Rockets are all in on small ball. The style will be called gimmicky, crazy, genius and everything in between. “It’s definitely a talking point,” Morey said. “But that’s who we are now. “My job is to win and we are always going to chase whatever gives us the best chance to win.

There’s still great uncertainty about the effects on league business, from the impact on salary-cap projections to the probability that the NBA can fully restore its relationships with Chinese broadcasters and corporate partners. Does the NBA have a shot of returning in the foreseeable future to China, where it has played preseason games in every non-lockout season since 2007? No team has felt the brunt of the fallout more than the Rockets. League sources say the franchise has lost more than $7 million in revenue this season from cancelled Chinese sponsorship agreements and nearly $20 million overall when terminated multiyear deals are calculated.

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.

Daryl Morey explains Hong Kong tweet

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.

Daryl Morey has green light to pay luxury tax

Jonathan Feigen: Never rule out a bold move, but the most likely avenues are with the mid-level exception and minimum contracts. They could have as much as $9 million of mid-level money to spend, though given what that would take under CBA rules and the roster constraints that would bring, it is much more likely they operate with the $5.7 million exception. Though spending the exception money would push the Rockets back into the luxury tax, general manager Daryl Morey has already been given a green light to pay the tax, a person with knowledge of the team’s planning said.

Morey, 46, had been in the final year of his contract in the second season with Tilman Fetitta owning the team. “I’m super happy,” Morey said. “I’d love to be with the Rockets for life. This obviously solidifies us for a little while. I’m just really thankful to Tilman Fertitta for having the faith in our team. And really, it is about us having a team of people that makes this all work; Coach (Mike) D’Antoni, (vice president) Keith Jones, (vice president) Gersson Rosas, (trainer) Jason Biles, (assistant general manager) Monte McNair, (assistant general manager) Eli Witus, (assistant general manager, Vipers GM) Jimmy Paulis. “We have too many people to mention, but I’m only as good as the people behind me.”

The Rockets picked up their option on the final season of D’Antoni’s contract, keeping him under contract through the 2019-20 season. But Morey said he would like to work on an extension for D’Antoni in the offseason. “He’s such a critical factor,” Morey said. “Speaking for myself only, I would love for him to be here for as long as he wants to be here. He’s so critical to everything we’re doing here. Hopefully, that’s something we can work out at the right time. I think the right thing for everyone is those things are done in the off-season.”

So to that point, we’re about a month from that (trade) deadline. What kind of outlook do you have when it comes to how active you might be? Daryl Morey: Yeah, we’re for now (in terms of their mentality). So what do they say — buyers vs. sellers? We’re definitely a buyer. …I think we’ve been trying to win the title for a while, and we had a couple years before we got James where we probably didn’t have as much of a chance to win, where we were probably a little more future focused. But since James has been here we’ve been buyers at the deadline and hopefully something comes along that we think can help our chances to win the title. We’ve had a few years where we don’t, so we don’t force it, but we’re going to be looking for something to hopefully upgrade the team.

Rockets looking for wings?

Houston is primarily focused on acquiring wing talent, sources said. Their trade market intensity last week, in the midst of their winning streak, was described by one source as “not in emergency mode, but not sitting back either.” In regards to Washington, Markieff Morris, Jeff Green and Kelly Oubre Jr. would fit the bill here. Morris and Green put on a rather impressive audition for Daryl Morey, who attended the game in D.C. The salaries are doable from a trade standpoint, around $9 million for Morris and $2.3 million for Green.
2 years ago via ESPN

This is one kind of scenario the Houston Rockets envisioned in April, when they proposed before the NBA’s competition committee that the league should start free agency at least a week — and likely more — before the draft. The Rockets are not the first team to contemplate that notion; Mike Zarren, Boston’s assistant general manager, used his very first tweet as a plea to flip the order of the draft and free agency. (The concept is popular across Boston’s brain trust; Zarren noted in his tweet that Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel, sold him on the idea.) Other leagues, including the National Football League, schedule free agency first.
2 years ago via ESPN

It is unclear exactly how Houston’s proposal would unfold. Rosas hopes to build a calendar not so different from today’s version: free agency commencing in late June, the draft around July 10, and the start of summer league perhaps a week after that. But that would push the NBA’s calendar back by at least a week or 10 days, and some opponents of Houston’s proposal fear an NBA in which urgent business persists well into August, sources say. Everyone needs vacation. The Rockets have addressed that by building in a two-week window stretching from August into September in which all transactions would be banned — a new moratorium.

Royce White: My motivation was to connect some dots on the psychological psuedo-science I was presented with in my pre-draft process. During the discussions with Houston, my management team and I were shocked to discover there were NO FORMAL MENTAL HEALTH POLICIES. In response, I attempted to formalize a written agreement that would modify existing policies to encompass mental health. The proposal we suggested included ALL TEAM PERSONNEL, not just PLAYERS. That proposal was tacitly denied. It was during this time that birth was given to a narrative behind the scenes that I was simply ”AWOL” and non-compliant. This was mostly the work of Daryl Morey and maybe others that I am not aware of. That narrative was untrue and drove me to Twitter and other media outlets to exonerate myself.

The Rockets have built Harden’s supporting cast mainly through trades (Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza) and free agency (P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute), but they hit big in the Draft in 2014 with Clint Capela, taken late in the first round. “Once they landed two stars, they have done an excellent job of surrounding them with enough shooting and toughness,” the West executive said, “along with the continued emergence of Capela who has become a top 7-8 center in the league.”

That does not mean Morey won’t make a deal. But as the Rockets close in on the deadline, they consider the in-season free agent recruiting that could follow to be at least as likely to bring an addition as the usual trade market. A month since Morey said he thought there was at least a chance that he would go without a deadline deal, Morey said he remains committed to the rotation the Rockets have used to build the second-best record in the NBA. “It’s going to be hard to do anything,” Morey said. “When our guys are healthy, we have lost (once.) Obviously, my job is my job. I’m pretty cognizant I have something special right now.”

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.”

Daryl Morey on tanking as an NBA-wide problem: “Teams have to go through cycles … What you want to have though is that when a team is in its rebuilding cycle, which every team goes through – we went through it after Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady – you don’t want them to sit around the table and be dreaming of ways [to get worse]. … ‘It’s not good enough to only win 25 games, to actually get the best odds, we have to win 15 games.’ It’s just bad for the league that a team in a rebuilding cycle has to think about ‘Maybe I won’t sign a free agent because, oh my goodness, that might win us a few extra games.’ … When you’re down in that rebuilding trough, you shouldn’t have to dream up more ways to be even s–ttier so that you can get the odds at a top player.”

Daryl Morey on the Rockets’ ability to contend for a title heading into 2017/18: “I’d say we feel much better. We went from feeling not so good – which I think 29 teams in the league should feel like considering the Warriors obviously are the class of the league – to feeling spunky. We’re feeling like if we can pull this together, get our habits right on offense and defense, execute, that we can give one of the best teams of all time a very, very good series.”

Atlanta is considering a number of candidates, including Griffin, Joe Dumars, Houston vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, and New York Knicks director of player personnel Mark Hughes, sources said. Altanta is also planning to discuss the GM opening with television analysts and former players Chauncey Billups and Brent Barry, league sources told The Vertical. Houston has granted permission to Atlanta to discuss the opening with Rosas, its No. 2 executive behind GM Daryl Morey, league sources said. New York has granted permission on Hughes too, league sources said.

“It’s hard to judge because it takes two. It’s hard to know,” Morey said. “I don’t know if it makes it more or less likely, but the kinds of things you do are different. We are more likely to shore up a spot in case we take an injury. Anything we would do is more likely for depth.” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander was even more non-committal. “We’re always looking to improve, always,” Alexander said. “You can say that now and for the next 10 years.”

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey defended his protégé, former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, during a recent appearance on Yahoo Sports’ “The Vertical” podcast hosted by Adrian Wojnarowski. Wojnarowski asked Morey for his perspective on Hinkie’s departure from the 76ers after team brass (and NBA officials) decided they had waited long enough for Hinkie to fix the team. Specifically, Wojnarowski asked Morey if he received criticism because Hinkie had become a pretty polarizing figure in the league and whether Morey was judged because of Hinkie’s struggles.

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.”

After giving general manager Daryl Morey a vote of confidence earlier this week in an interview with Fox 26 TV in Houston, Alexander said Morey will assist in the evaluation process to improve a team that crashed from 56 wins last season to 41 this season. This season, Alexander fired coach Kevin McHale after 11 games and the Rockets clinched the last playoff spot on the final day of the regular season. “We definitely thought we would have a much better team,” Alexander said. “We didn’t play well for the first half and we let a lot of games go by and also James (Harden) won a lot of games. It takes its toll on somebody.”

Sources say Morey, whose contract runs through the 2017-18 season, ‎also faces some uncertainty in the wake of the Rockets’ struggles. Morey’s ever-bold approach to roster assembly won deserved kudos for bringing Harden (October 2012) and Howard (July 2013) to Houston in quick succession, but team chemistry has been a rising concern this season given the well-chronicled deteoriation in the Harden/Howard relationship and the failed offseason gamble on guard Ty Lawson.
More HoopsHype Rumors
September 24, 2020 | 12:47 pm EDT Update
“I think Billy Donovan will do a great job,” an Eastern Conference general manager told HoopsHype. “He has not coached a team without a strong personality, so we will really be able to see what Billy is about now with this young growing team. I think he and Arturas will work great together. I think (Wes) Unseld Jr. had a good shot at getting it, but I feel like Billy is the better coach for the team right now. Looking at the other jobs for Billy, the only one that might have been better for him is New Orleans, but I can see why he went with Chicago. They have young talent, lots of flexibility, a great city, and solid ownership.”
“It’s a great spot,” one Western Conference coach told HoopsHype. “I like their position. They’ve got to hit on that fourth pick, but you’ve got some talent at least.” Several agents with clients on the Bulls also praised the move. “I’m not too familiar with him personally, but they can only go up,” one agent told HoopsHype. “He’s obviously a winner. I’m excited to see what he does.”
When Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren came on the Tampering podcast with Denver general manager Tim Connelly in early September, the two executives discussed the unavoidable reality that front office executives will always miss the mark on some prospects. And the Celtics, Zarren explained, were still stinging from that choice to take Johnson over Butler. One is a five-time All-Star who has transformed this Heat team after signing with Miami in free agency in the summer of 2019, and the other played 36 games as a rookie (2011-12) before eventually heading overseas (he currently plays for Bayern Munich in the EuroLeague).
“JaJuan Johnson had a tremendous college career,” Butler, who was taken by Chicago at No. 30 in that 2011 draft, told me when I asked if he was aware of the Celtics’ regret. “He probably did more in college than I ever dreamt of doing, and I hope he’s having a healthy career, wherever he is. But I don’t look at it like that, man. You don’t know. I got lucky. I fell into Chicago and turned into a player, and maybe if I’m (with the Celtics) I don’t pan out to be the player that I am. It’s funny how things work together to make something happen like that. I’m grateful for where I am, and I’m grateful for who did take me in the draft.”
September 24, 2020 | 12:10 pm EDT Update
Some are more skeptical that the interest is a two-way street. Multiple league sources who spoke with PhillyVoice have questioned whether D’Antoni is genuinely interested in the job or whether it’s a leverage play to get a better deal elsewhere. There are other teams, most notably the Pacers and Pelicans, with rosters that better suit his style of basketball.
Storyline: 76ers Coaching Search
The Celtics were very much enamored with the 20-year-old leading up to last June’s draft, aware that there was a shot that he might be on the board when it was their turn to select at No. 14. But in came Heat team president Pat Riley, sticking it to the Celtics again by not only taking a player Boston had a major interest in selecting but also developing him into a difference-maker whose play may very well spell the end of the Celtics’ season.