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#pounditMonday, September 28, 2020

Daryl Morey: Rockets have ‘closed the gap’ on Warriors

Daryl Morey

The Houston Rockets proved when they traded for Chris Paul that they are committed to assembling a contending team around James Harden, and general manager Daryl Morey feels they have done just that.

Assuming Paul and Harden can coexist, we know the Rockets are going to score plenty of points. They were second in the NBA last year with 115.3 points per game, but it’s the potential for improved defense that has Morey excited. The GM expects the signing of veteran forward P.J. Tucker to a four-year, $34 million deal to be a big help on that end of the floor.

“Just what this team needs,” Morey said Thursday, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “We were able to talk with (Paul) and James and coach D’Antoni and say what do we really need for this team. Unanimous (opinion) was we need toughness, we need defense. P.J. brings that in spades.

“We’re trying to get our defense into the top 10. Obviously, our offense was historic. Getting Nene back, getting P.J. are two huge steps in that direction.”

The Rockets allowed 109.6 points per game last season, which was fifth-worst in the NBA. Not being able to get stops was the main reason they lost 4-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semis. We can only imagine how many points the Warriors would have put up on Houston if San Antonio scored 120-plus in three of six games.

Whatever the Warriors could have scored against the Rockets last season, Morey is confident it would be a lot less against his current roster.

“They’re one of the best teams ever,” he said. “We obviously felt we needed to close the gap. We felt we have closed the gap. They’re the ones with two rings in the last three years. You have to say they’re going to be the favorites going in. We feel like this is a group that can compete with them.”

With Paul George having been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the West is as loaded as ever. Morey even cracked a funny joke about that recently. The Rockets will have a lot of work to do before they can think about challenging the Warriors. Tightening up on defense is a great place to start.

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