Executive of the Year

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Genius.

That’s the best way I can describe Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.

What else can you say for an executive who transformed a team from coming off a 3rd straight respectable but mediocre-ceiling to championship calibre season in less than 2 years?

Daryl Morey could have done the safe thing. He could have stuck it out with the roster that he had. Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry as the core to go along with some nice young talent in Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Chase Budinger. The sky was by no means the limit but this team had playoff potential.

As he should have, Daryl Morey said “screw that”.

The NBA, or professional sports in general, are not about making the playoffs. It’s about winning championships. Even though the NBA offers very little in the way of competitive balance, being content with making the playoffs is like settling for ground beef when you can have filet mignon.

In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game!”

When so many teams are hell-bent on sneaking their way into the playoffs, Daryl Morey wasn’t having any of it. His job would have been secure if he was able to finish a 7th or 8th seed. The Western Conference is almost as tough as the MLB’s AL East division, almost.

Yet, he still decided to blow it up.

Daryl Morey was going to do it his way and he didn’t care what anyone thought of his plan.

That’s the crux of being a general manager. If you’re going to be terrible, you might as well be terrible on your own terms. Don’t be terrible by bowing down to media, fans and other voices in the front office. It’s hard enough being a GM, but it must be even more difficult if you’re not going with your instinct.

What Morey did took guts.

He didn’t blow up the team conventionally though. This wasn’t going into full tank mode as so many fans and media types (including myself) would recommend for situations such as the one the Rockets were in. He went pushed the reset button and made it work.

First, he traded an inconsistent Kyle Lowry to polar opposite GM Bryan Colangelo and the Toronto Raptors. He got a pretty much guaranteed lottery pick in return. Then, he boldly went after a questionable commodity in Jeremy Lin, stealing him away from the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. He gambled on Omer Asik. He amnestied another solid player in Luis Scola, while trading away Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger and Marcus Camby to stash away a bunch of draft picks.

Most incredibly, Morey found the star player that every franchise needs. He traded some players, picks (the ones he stashed) and Kevin Martin for James Harden. Another questionable commodity, Harden was acquired to be a franchise cornerstone even though no one had any idea if he could actually be one.

Daryl Morey didn’t let that phase him. He knew he needed to make bold moves, despite the fact that every one of those decisions could have blown up in his face.

Jeremy Lin could have been more Sebastian Telfair than Mike Conley. Omer Asik could have been more Kwame Brown than Emeka Okafor. James Harden could have been more Rudy Gay than Kevin Durant.

That didn’t happen though. Daryl Morey is a genius with a rabbit’s foot and four-leaf clover in his pocket.

Whatever. You gotta be good to be lucky and lucky to be good, right?

Lucky and plucky.

He deconstructed and reconstructed an average team into a championship contender in less than 2 years. No matter what you think of Dwight Howard, he makes Houston a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.

Without D-12, the Rockets made the playoffs and didn’t have a Milwaukee Bucks type exit from the first round. With Dwight Howard, the Rockets will be picked by some to win an NBA championship. Just like the Lakers!!!

Nevertheless, Morey tried something that very few GM’s would have ever even thought of, much less attempted. Although he could have very easily been kicked to the curb of the Houston Rockets training facility for a failed retool, Morey is now reaping the rewards of a sequence of events that deserves to be immortalized in a New York Times bestseller.

Whether the Rockets go the way of the Lakers or the Heat doesn’t matter because what Daryl Morey has been able to accomplish is something special. He is the real story of this never-ending Dwightmare.

All he needs now is for someone to put a ring on it.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to cross_can15@hotmail.com. Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

18 Responses to Executive of the Year

  1. J-Dub says:

    The Houston Rockets are “championship caliber”? What did I miss?

  2. JStyles says:

    Great article as well. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @JStyles_ and the Swickass blog page.

  3. afergbu says:

    I enjoyed this. It’s amazing how far this Rockets team has come in the past offseason and part of this year’s offseason alone. Morey has had a plan and the dominos have fallen his way!

  4. dishnerdevin says:

    Appreciate the comment! and excellent piece! I am a Thunder fan first and foremost, but with that naturally comes a respect for Harden, and hence an attraction for the Rockets! I hope Howard doesn’t hold them back! Morey has done brilliant work in the last two off seasons, and I hope his push pays off. My only hesitation is Howard. He wants control, and with the organization already adjusting to the styles of Harden and Lin, it’ll be interesting to see how Dwight fits in. Last off season I called that the Lakers would be a bust. I’m not pulling the plug on the Rockets though, and hope to see some success.

  5. I think that you have a very well written article here. It’s clear that you follow the world of sports very closely and I respect that a lot. The one thing I will say is that Morey, though he has lured a top-5 athlete in Dwight Howard to the Rockets, he hasn’t created a championship caliber team just yet. He needs a few extra pieces.

    What made the Miami Heat a championship team this past year? They had a team that, for the most part, had been there for two years.They have chemistry. Not only do they have two of the top 10 players in the world on their team and a coach that’s going to be a Hall of Famer some day, they also had the veteran talent on the bench to save them when they needed an extra push (Ray Allen in Game 6 of the Finals or Shane Battier in Game 7). In order for Houston to even get out of the Western Conference Finals, they are going to have to make some veteran acquisitions (i.e. Miami with getting Ray Allen, Birdman, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, etc…). After they lose a series or two, then the team needs to establish the chemistry of a team that can contend for years to come. And then they’ll need luck. But until Houston develops that bench, and can beat OKC, San Antonio, Memphis, the Lakers, the Warriors, the Nuggets, and the Clippers in the West, then they’ll be championship contenders. But the Rockets are a WAY better team than they were last season, and with the Rockets trading away Royce White, they have more room to improve.

    -Will

  6. A a couple of missing pieces to this puzzle are #RajonRondo and JoshSmith. Don’t get me wrong the Rockets proved a lot this past season and people in Houston are just looking for things to get better. I can laugh about it but Houston hasn’t been the same since the Oilers lost to the Bills, the Rockets winning two back to back and the Comets winning and moving. I won’t even talk about the Astros. The thing I see with all Houston teams is that they do not know how to keep a team together it went to the point where I disowned Houston. But Houston has a lot of ban wagoners and they have die hard fans. I grew up on the west coast so I will forever be a Raiders Fan pointblank. The Lakers got disowned after the Nick Van Exele and Eddie Jones Era, I’m a Dodgers Fan, Angeles Fan and all the way up to the Bay of Oakland.
    Anyways I’m proud of the Houston Rockets making a necessary move and are starting to put the right pieces together.

    • I don’t think Rajon Rondo is a missing piece to the puzzle just yet. He is coming off of ACL surgery and until he can prove that he can play on the level consistent with what he did last season, he should stay in Boston. And Josh Smith and Dwight Howard may not be able to coexist together. They don’t complement each other that well, in my opinion.
      However, Houston still has to prove that they can even win their division first. Until they do that, they should try to make the team that they already have work and not add more “big name” players.

      • True facts there about Rondo but I’m stuck on Josh Smith and Dwight Howard playing again together like they have in the past. The main thing would have to get the whole team on the same page. However it was just a thought but Kevin McHale can make it happen. He made the Timberwovles in the K.G. Spreewell era when the doubts on Spreewell were big when people could see that all he wanted to do was play and win.
        McHale is the right coach and mentor to do so and get the Rockets on track and we will see out the outcomes are.

      • The difference between them playing then versus now is that it’s the NBA. They played together in AAU, when it was okay to play with your friends. Now, the only time you can see good friends coexist together is in Miami. I don’t think they can play together simply based on the fact that Howard and Smith play very similar roles, though Smith can make free throws (65 percent over his career to Howard’s 57 percent). They both are very athletic and they both can play great defense. But both require a guard that can set them up and I can’t Lin being able to make both Smith and Howard happy.

        It would be interesting, as a fan, to see them play together. Kevin McHale is still going to need somebody else besides a Rondo or a Smith to improve that bench. He’s a great coach, but unless he can fix that team completely and make them gel, it won’t mean anything (i.e. see Mike D’Antoni)

    • Chris Ross says:

      Okay, clearly me calling them championship calibre has stirred up a bit of controversy. I will give my response to everyone in this comment. I can get that they may not be championship calibre yet but i would say they’re pretty damn close. You put Howard, Harden, Lin and Parsons together in a starting line-up and you’ve got something pretty special brewing. A couple of complementary pieces need to be added but with Kevin Martin gone, how much further are they away from a team like OKC who only have two, albeit much more proven, stars as well? It’s a tough conference, as I said, but this is a team that I think can put it together. Daryl Morey has a little more up his sleeve too. Maybe championship calibre is a little too far right now but, man, this could be scary good if Howard can get back to Orlando Magic NBA Final Dwight Howard.

      P.s. I think Rondo is a terrible fit in Houston. And to a lesser extent, Josh Smith. Howard needs shooters around him. That’s why Harden is a better star fit than Kobe. Rondo is the farthest thing from a shooting point-guard in the NBA and Josh Smith loves the wide open 3 but we all know that story. Calderon would actually be a nice fit around Howard but that doesn’t work obviously now that he’s with the Mavs. Lin should be fine for now.

  7. Yeah, I’m not ready to crown the Rockets just yet but I don’t think you did that in this article.

    I think there are still plenty of teams in the West that are better but, as you suggest, they are relevant for first time long time and for that, as you also suggest, Morey should be commended.

  8. CR

    Morey`s background and pedigree tells you all you need to know .

  9. kareemmunshi says:

    Great article. I agree about what you said about Daryl Morey. Morey took the Rockets from no relevance to a close to being championship caliber team. He did this in the span of 2 years. The Rockets starting lineup of Dwight Howard, James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik looks really dangerous.

  10. atthebuzzzer says:

    Great post enjoyed reading this, you couldnt of said it any better! but i think he still has some work to do in “the Bench” with the lost of delfino and brooks there a hole there without a good bench they wont win anything right now there bench isnt even decent they just signed Garcia thats a start but they’re gonna need a couple more pieces to contend for a tittle

  11. Good stuff, Chris. Morey executed his plan very well. He had his missteps (overpaying for Lin, jumps to mind), but overall, the general outline of his plan was exactly the right way to do things. He remained competitive in a very difficult Western Conference all while stocking up assets to make the big changes the Rockets needed. Perhaps most importantly, he cut out the mid-level contracts that bog down so many teams and kept himself flexible with cheaper, movable contracts with his one max contract guy in Harden. Now he’s got his two superstars and he’s been signing up steals left and right since. Francisco Garcia at 2 years, $2.6 million and Omri Casspi at 2 years, $2 million are great bargains. They will space the floor with Chandler Parsons around Howard and Harden. The Rockets should be a top 4 team in the West next year, if Dwight is back to full health.

    • Chris Ross says:

      Yeah for sure. I don’t even really think that Lin was a misstep though. Lin was his first big move and he was trying to make a splash after blowing the team up. He knew he had to overpay to steal him away and he did. Lin is a serviceable point guard in this league and I think he’s going to get better. Although, it is a weird combo with him and Harden, they can be a very good backcourt duo I think.

  12. Jarred Belman says:

    Chris thanks for the kind words on my post. Can’t agree with you more, Morey did not settle for a team that can just be an 8-seed every year, he was bold enough to make a contender. The Rockets have been trying for years to build up the team and stockpile talent to eventually add some star power. I think Harden and Howard together can be very dangerous. That being said they need another piece. Parsons is a good player but if they want to challenge the Thunder and the Clippers, they need to add more bench scoring and a reliable big man next to Dwight. Give our blog a follow @SidelineUpdate. We could use some more attention to bring in an audience. Thanks again for the kind words, keep up the good work brother!

  13. nice article Dwight definitely made the right decision to go to Houston. Also nice site all around. If u ever want to to some guest writing on my site hit me up

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