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.
More Rumors in this Storyline
Shams Charania: The Sacramento Kings are hiring Houston Rockets assistant GM Monte McNair as new head of basketball operations, sources tell me and @Sam Amick.
McNair has spent nearly 13 years with the Rockets, including the last two as assistant GM after spending nearly three years as vice president of basketball operations. A Princeton graduate, he has an extensive analytics background and has appeared at the MIT Sports and Analytics Conference.
Salman Ali: Monte McNair becomes the 6th person from the Rockets front office to land a head of basketball operations job. Some others: Daryl Morey Sam Hinkie Dennis Lindsey Gersson Rosas Arturas Karnisovas
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.
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.”
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.
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 contrast, conversations with nearly a dozen NBA front-office executives show that most have an acute allergy to this specific conflict with China. “I honestly just try to stay away from it,” one NBA team exec said. “It’s like watching my dog vomit.”
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.
Marc J. Spears: The Houston Rockets have added former NBA center and assistant coach Ed Pickney as a college and pro scout, a source told ESPN’s The Undefeated. Pickney was previously an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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.
Difference of opinions on Twitter within the Houston Rockets: after a message of support for the cause of Hong Kong by team GM Daryl Morey, Rockets’owner Tilman Fertitta has distanced himself and the franchise on the issue, claiming that “Morey does NOT speak for the Houston Rockets” and referencing to the team presence in Japan for the NBA preseason.
Tilman Fertitta: Listen…. @dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://twitter.com/dmorey/status/1180312072027947008
Olgun Uluc: Interesting situation going on with Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, right now: – Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong. – Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta, quickly distanced the team from the tweet, which has a big Chinese fanbase. – Morey’s latest tweet has been ratioed by Chinese users. pic.twitter.com/5pEHPudZ58
Daryl Morey: Tokyo wakes up.
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.
“Gersson has been an unbelievable person to work with,” Morey told ESPN. “He’s been way overqualified for his job for a while here. He’s more than earned his shot, although I wish he would’ve gone East. We’re going to have an extremely tough competitor in the West. Minnesota is going to find how forward-thinking, how hard working and how talented he is at putting together a winning team.”
Jon Krawczynski: The Minnesota Timberwolves are moving forward with plans to hire Gersson Rosas as president of basketball operations, league sources tell me and @Shams Charania
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Minnesota Timberwolves are hiring Houston’s Gersson Rosas as the franchise’s next President of Basketball Operations, league sources tell ESPN.
The Wizards have officially begun the interview process to replace former president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld. Rockets VP of basketball ops Gersson Rosas is currently in Washington with plans to interview for the job, league sources tell The Athletic.
Mark Berman: From the #Rockets: pic.twitter.com/fbSmO6KFmv
Salman Ali: The Rockets announced that the team has promoted Rafael Stone to Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Counsel, and Eli Witus to Assistant General Manager and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.
Other top candidates include Brooklyn’s Sean Marks, whose roster upgrades without the use of high draft picks got the team back in the playoffs; Houston’s Daryl Morey, last season’s winner who retrofit his roster on the fly during this season; and Denver’s Tim Connelly, whose team moved from outside the playoffs to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Industry estimates suggest Morey’s recent contract extension from the Rockets pays him in the $8 million range annually. Johnson was earning an estimated $10 million as the Lakers’ team president. Given the TV riches that the Lakers bring in, Buss could presumably double those figures in a pitch to the game’s elite executives.
As The Times reported last July, Philadelphia made an ambitious attempt at trying to hire Daryl Morey away from Houston — and I’m told Philly also commissioned a clandestine run at prying Myers away from the Warriors that was likewise rebuffed.
Jonathan Feigen: Timberwolves have also asked for and received permission to interview Rockets vice president Gersson Rosas, per source. Rosas has been a candidate for several positions the past few seasons, but this could be an ideal fit.
Jonathan Feigen: Posting in a few minutes, Rockets reach an agreement on a five-year contract extension for general manager Daryl Morey.
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.”
Salman Ali: Austin Rivers: “As much as you hear about how much freedom Mike (D’Antoni) gives…you don’t really understand it to you’re here playing for them just how much fun this team has on the floor…. It’s a great environment that Daryl (Morey) and coach (D’Antoni) have created.” pic.twitter.com/9a23nQAMtZ
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.
Salman Ali: From Daryl Morey’s Instagram Q&A: pic.twitter.com/tBoUWdsfOy
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.
Marc Stein: More from the pregame media sessions in Houston: Rockets GM Daryl Morey said “a lot” of the team’s struggles to open the season are “on me” and Coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged that management is “exploring all options” in the wake of a 4-7 start
Kelly Iko: Daryl Morey says there could be some fine tuning to the roster ahead of the season, adds that they have their draft picks going forward for flexibility. They’ll always look to improve the roster if the opportunity presents itself. pic.twitter.com/iVTkHtJ9Li
Marc Stein: The Philadelphia 76ers have been rebuffed in their attempt to hire away Houston’s Daryl Morey to take over as their new general manager, @NYTSports has learned
Marc Stein: The 76ers had great interest in Morey — freshly voted as the league’s Executive of the Year — to replace the ousted Bryan Colangelo. But Morey couldn’t be lured away from the Rockets, with whom he has spent the last 12 seasons.
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.
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.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Houston Rockets executive Gersson Rosas has withdrawn as a candidate from the Detroit Pistons GM/senior basketball leadership search, league sources tell ESPN.
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.”
Jonathan Feigen: Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta: “My family is committed to two things, a championship for the Houston Rockets and a championship for the Houston Cougars.”
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.”
Joel Embiid: Trust The Process
Daryl Morey: @SamHinkie tanking is solved.
Have you had many talks with Tilman Fertitta? Daryl Morey: “Oh yeah. I’ve really enjoyed working with him so far. He’s not the official owner yet, but that will be not too long. He’s going to be great for the city of Houston. I really think people will be extremely happy with him as an owner.”
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.”
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is maybe the NBA’s most outspoken executive. He throws shade at opposing players and owners, jokingly challenges people to fights and can be outright provocative. Active on Twitter, Morey generates plenty of exposure. The league apparently doesn’t always appreciate it. Zach Lowe of ESPN on The Woj Pod: “Daryl gets fined so much more than has ever been publicly reported. Daryl is fined all the time.”
Jeff Goodman: Rockets GM Daryl Morey not done yet, source told ESPN. Harden and CP3. Will try and add a third star to compete with Warriors.
Jeff Goodman: Clippers like the upside of Sam Dekker, the toughness of Patrick Beverly and the short-term contracts of both Beverly and Lou Williams. Source said Clippers will go after a big wing in free agency, and try and retain Blake Griffin.
Chris Broussard: Sources: Jerry West was not in yesterday’s meeting between CP3 and the Clippers.
Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander announced today that General Manager Daryl Morey has signed a four-year contract extension. Morey is now under contract with the Rockets through the 2021-22 season.
“Daryl has consistently proven to be one of the top minds and innovators in our league,” said Alexander. “I’m thrilled to continue to work with Daryl towards our pursuit of winning another championship for the Rockets, the City of Houston, and our fans all over the world.”
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
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.
Harrison Faigen: George Karl and Daryl Morey are here to watch the D-Fenders take on the Valley Vipers
Justin Kubatko: The @HoustonRockets James Harden is the second player in NBA history w/ 2000+ pts, 500+ reb, & 750+ ast in a season. Daryl Morey: If we might make someone MVP because they have hit a random combo of numbers then why not this random combo?
“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.”
The moves marked an undeniable pivot. Sources familiar with the process say Houston’s owner, Leslie Alexander, assumed a larger role in the team-building process, and that he was eager to rebound at any cost from the malaise of last season.
The moves signaled Morey’s position may not be quite as secure as it once was, league sources say. The dismissal of Gianluca Pascucci, Houston’s former vice president of player personnel and a Morey confidant, was widely seen as a shot across the bow at Morey. Morey says the decision was his, and the Nets quickly snapped up Pascucci after several teams expressed interest in him.
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 on Hinkie: I wanted to take hits for him. The reality is, when he took over Philly, he took the approach that was best for the franchise at that time in his judgment, which was that the best way for them to get to be a title contender, given the roster where they were at, was to take a pretty strong dip into the top five of the draft. That has more of a history of success in terms of building a championship contender.
Sources say Jeff Van Gundy has received strong support from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to make a return to Houston for a second stint as the team’s coach, but they maintain that Alexander has yet to be fully sold on a reunion with the ESPN analyst, who has been working in television since the sides parted ways in May 2007.
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.”
Alexander said a recent ESPN report that said general Daryl Morey “faces some uncertainty” about his future is not accurate. “There is no uncertainty,” Alexander said. “Daryl is with the team. We evaluate everybody, but right now things aren’t changing. “There’s no uncertainty about his future.”
Sources told ESPN that the Rockets believe every aspect of the organization — coaching staff, front office and, of course, their roster — must be subject to a thorough review in the wake of Houston’s slide to a 38-41 outfit that’s at serious risk to miss the playoffs after damaging losses this week to Dallas and Phoenix.
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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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).
As Butler himself pointed out, though, there was sound reasoning for this choice. Johnson had the superior college career in his four seasons at Purdue, while Butler took the community college route before spending his final three seasons at Marquette.
“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.
On NBA draft night last year there was a collective moan among the Boston Celtics brass right about the time the Miami Heat used the No. 13 pick to select Tyler Herro. Knowing they were on the clock right after the Heat, and seeing what he has done for the Heat both during the regular season and during their current playoff series with the Celtics, can you blame them?
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.