Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has long been a fan of James Harden and spoke about the 2017-2018 MVP in some glowing terms recently.
Morey was a guest on the “Pomp Podcast” with Anthony Pompliano recently and discussed Harden. He defended the Rockets guard and had high praise for him.
“I don’t think the media is super fair of him,” Morey said of Harden. “I think part of it is he he has a tight circle of people that that he trusts. With those people who he knows have his best interests at heart and he’s had a history with them, he’s very gregarious, very open, very smart. Just this great guy. And with everyone else, he’s not the opposite. He’s just reserved. He’s not someone who is going to be a big media guy or things like that.
“So, I think that hurts him a little bit, but I can I can tell you privately he’s like a basketball genius. He’s a great quality human being. We’ve worked together for eight or nine years now, and I couldn’t have a better partner to try and win a title with. In fact, most days I wake up saying, ‘I’ve let him down,’ because I haven’t gotten him got him the right players to win a title.”
The Rockets have gotten close to a title but haven’t been able to win it all since going back-to-back from 1994-1995. They’ve twice made the conference finals with Harden and have won over 50 games five times with him. He’s become a bonafide superstar in Houston, leading the league in scoring three years in a row. Morey has previously even said that Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan.
In the interview, Fertitta addressed D’Antoni’s contract status. D’Antoni’s contract is actually set to expire in July, though he is expected to fulfill his duties for the rest of the season. What will his future be after that? Fertitta says it’s up to general Daryl Morey to decide.
“I think I have one of the NBA’s great coaches in Mike D’Antoni,” Fertitta told Feigen. “And I think I have one of the best basketball ops groups, Daryl and his whole team. Personally, I love Mike. But I’m going to leave it up to the general manager. … I surely would like to have Mike back. If Daryl wants to have Mike back, I’m sure Mike is going to be back.”
Daryl Morey has been personally victimized by the bloodbath of the Western Conference playoffs, so he is all for the NBA’s potential new format.
The Houston Rockets general manager took to Twitter this week to express his support for doing away with conferences during this year’s postseason in favor of reseeding all 16 playoff teams into one big bracket. Morey said that such a bracket would be a “huge” advantage for his team.
I am in favor of a “Conference-less” bracket for the #NBA postseason.
The Rockets, who had the tenth-best record in the league when play was suspended, would face the Utah Jazz in the first round under the new format instead of having to play the Denver Nuggets in the traditional format. They would also avoid the LA Clippers’ side of the bracket but would likely have to face the Los Angeles Lakers if they were to advance to the second round.
The Houston Rockets had the Golden State Warriors on the ropes in 2018, and their GM thinks a single twist of fate kept them from finishing the job.
Appearing this week on FS1’s “The Herd,” Daryl Morey referenced Houston’s near-toppling of the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals that year.
“Really just one of the all-time great teams and a hamstring probably kept us from a title,” said Morey.
Morey is referring to then-Rocket Chris Paul, who suffered a hamstring injury at the end of a Game 5 victory to put Houston up 3-2 in the series. Paul missed the remainder of the conference finals, as the Rockets were trounced in Game 6 and then blew a double-digit second-half lead to lose Game 7 at home as well (an affair that saw them infamously miss 27 straight three-point tries).
The shame is that Morey had built almost the perfect team to dethrone the Warriors — a small-ball steamroller with switchable, three-point shooting wings led by dynamic offensive creators like Paul and James Harden and complemented by the interior energy of Clint Capela. The Rockets may have been the better team that year, and Morey sure felt like they should have won.
While Golden State was also without a key piece in Andre Iguodala that series, Houston’s players feel the same way that Morey does. With the Rockets losing to the Warriors in the postseason again in 2019 and having since parted ways with key members of that team like Paul and Capela, that 2018 run might just have been their best crack at a championship.
That’s a reference to the Astros, who were exposed by MLB as cheating during the 2017 postseason when they won the World Series. It’s also a reference to the two championships the Rockets won in the mid-90s when Michael Jordan stepped away from the NBA to play baseball.
The Astros didn’t officially get an asterisk, but they have been heavily ridiculed for their actions. Morey would happily accept a championship even if it came with an asterisk. So would many others throughout the league.
The Houston Rockets made a big trade over the summer that brought them Russell Westbrook and sent Chris Paul to Oklahoma City. Many questioned whether the Westbrook acquisition would significantly improve the Rockets, and whether adding him and the contract he was on would actually hurt the team long term. The answer so far seems to be that Westbrook has helped Houston remain one of the better teams in the West (and NBA).
So why did the Rockets feel motivated to make that move? Rockets general manager Daryl Morey shared the reasoning during a visit with ESPN’s Zach Lowe on “The Lowe Post” podcast. Essentially, Morey felt the addition of Westbrook would increase Houston’s ceiling.
“We just felt like you can’t win unless you’ve got a peak level that’s very high,” Morey told Lowe. “And we thought with Chris (Paul) and James (Harden) we were an extremely good team, and in fact in 2018, you could argue the best team. I think Golden State, to be fair, was probably the best (in 2018), but we were right there with them.
“And we felt like the team we had with Chris and James was extremely good but was going to come up short of the title. And we thought that adding Russ, who unquestionably has this peak level of play that not many guys have reached, was the right move.”
Morey clearly isn’t worried about the risk of possibly having a bad fit that doesn’t work if it means increasing the chances of his team winning a championship. And the move has paid off, as Houston now focuses on spacing, and Westbrook isn’t taking as many three-pointers as he used to because he has many more options for passing. The team even traded away Clint Capela to go all-in on making this squad as competitive as possible based on their strengths.
Will the Rockets win the championship? Maybe not, but Morey is at least going to go down giving what he feels is the team’s best shot. And what’s funny is now he’s banking on a guy he used to dislike.
Russell Westbrook plays with the kind of style that makes you love him if he’s on your side and dislike him if he’s not. That’s even been the case for Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.
During an appearance on FS1’s “First Things First” Tuesday, Morey talked about Westbrook’s game with the Rockets and jokingly admitted he hated Russ when the guard was with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“When [Westbrook] was in OKC, I hated him. I’ll be frank,” Morey said. “He played with such a passion, and he would win games with his energy alone. Here it’s the same thing.”
Daryl Morey on Westbrook shooting less 3s: "He's smart. He sees the floor open. We don't have a lot of conversations with Russ on how he should play because he's a guy who plays with passion and energy and you can't not love it. When he was in OKC, I hated him. I'll be frank." pic.twitter.com/yRnbwAxLFE
The answer from Morey came in the context of a bigger question about Westbrook not shooting as many 3-pointers over the past two months as he did early in the season with Houston, and as he had been doing with the Thunder. Morey says there is no directive from the team telling Westbrook how to play. Instead, he believes Westbrook is just seeing lots of open players and therefore opting to pass more.
Another reason for the previous dislike from Morey towards Westbrook? It probably had to do with Rockets star James Harden competing with Westbrook for NBA MVP in 2017. Morey was backing Harden all the way and felt the voting was wrong.