It has been a strong bounce-back season so far for the Rockets, who were just 25-24 through their first 49 games a year ago. In 2016/17, the team is 34-15, and currently holds the NBA’s third-best record.
Much of the credit for Houston’s turnaround belongs to general manager Daryl Morey, whose offseason moves received mixed reviews at the time, but have paid off tremendously so far. Morey spoke to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype about those moves, as well as what’s next for the Rockets, and shared a few interesting quotes, so let’s round up some of the highlights from the conversation…
“We knew that we weren’t going to be a team that could add talent through the draft and our ability to make trades [was hampered] because we didn’t have that period where we could build up a lot of things that would allow us to trade for big-time players, so free agency was going to be the big tool for us, especially in a city like Houston.
“We always felt that we played our best ball when he had a spacing four, like Ryan, and someone next to James [Harden] who could create, like Eric. The fact that we were able to get them in free agency, we were thrilled – even though, at the time, people didn’t seem to think those were the right signings for us. But we were pretty confident they were.”
On replacing Dwight Howard after using cap room to fill positions other than center:
“There wasn’t a superstar [center] available, so we knew we’d have to take the money from the CBA and the money freed up from Dwight choosing Atlanta to add to the team. If you can’t add a superstar-level player, the next best thing is to add players who perfectly fit what you’re trying to do. That’s what we went for. Nene was a huge bonus. He was looking for a winning situation because he hadn’t been in one in awhile. He really wanted to come to a winning team and we were fortunate he was available for us. With the remaining money we had, we signed him. He took every last dollar and we are happy to give it to him.”
On the success of new head coach Mike D’Antoni in Houston:
“If you look at the teams where [D’Antoni] didn’t win a lot of games, the players didn’t really fit and there wasn’t a lot of organizational buy-in. I think the big difference here is that from our owner, [Les] Alexander, to myself to Coach D’Antoni to James Harden to the other players, there’s an alignment of how we want to play and what kind of players we need to have. That actually helps a lot. I don’t know if it equals a 34-14 start, but it does help a lot when you have a top-down commitment to how we want to play and the players we want to get within that.”
On the possibility of making a deadline deal in February to bolster the roster:
“We will be less likely to make a move this year, but I have to always listen — as you don’t get many opportunities with a team this good. If we do any moves, they will likely be for depth.”