Storyline: Rockets Front Office

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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.
9 months 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.
9 months 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.
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March 24, 2019 | 11:05 am EDT Update
Murray State star Ja Morant will wait to make an announcement on whether he plans to enter the NBA draft after his team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament Saturday. “That time will come,” Morant said. “My focus is not on that right now. It’s just celebrating this — what a great season we had — with my teammates.” Morant is widely projected to be a top-three pick in this year’s draft, should he choose to forgo his final two years of college eligibility.
1 hour ago via ESPN
Storyline: Ja Morant Going Pro?
According to multiple sources, some high profile international candidates are being or have been considered. David Blatt, an American who coached the Russian national team as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers, was first choice but may have pulled out due to back problems. Former Italian national team head coach and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina is also being interviewed. A complicating factor? Financial challenges at Canada Basketball mean that the money being offered for the role is minimal or perhaps not even more than an honorarium covering expenses.
Meanwhile, a number of Canadian coaches are not impressed that Triano has been put in a situation where he has to effectively re-apply for his own job. “I know he was under the impression last summer that he was the head coach and hadn’t heard anything differently until recently,” said one source. “The way this has played out is disrespectful. He’s either your coach or he’s not.”
March 24, 2019 | 7:25 am EDT Update

Bulls keeping Robin Lopez?

Players, coaches and management all have insisted on how important center Robin Lopez has been to the rebuild, so much so that the Bulls didn’t want to buy him out the last month for the stretch run. With Lopez facing free agency this summer, and staring at a backup role with the Bulls if he does return, what are the chances that the mutual admiration brings him back? “Robin has been terrific for us,’’ Paxson said. “We’ll keep an open mind on that, absolutely.’’
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