It has been an eventful day in Houston, as word broke this morning that one of the NBA’s longest-tenured general managers, Daryl Morey, has decided to step down from his position in the Rockets‘ front office.
Few – if any – lead executives were more closely associated with a team’s identity and philosophy than Morey was, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN, who notes that Morey’s analytical approach to the game resulted in the Rockets pushing the limits on pace and three-point attempts. We don’t have a clear sense yet of what sort of influence GM Rafael Stone will have on Houston’s playing style, so the team’s new head coach may determine its direction in the short term, writes Pelton.
According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Stone is a believer in small-ball, but it’s not clear if he’s as enthusiastic about playing a full 82-game season without any traditional centers. As such, it will be interesting to see how aggressively the Rockets attempt to fortify their frontcourt this offseason.
Of course, bigger roster decisions will be on the horizon for Stone and the Rockets, especially if the team fails to make a deep playoff run again in 2021. I’d be surprised if Stone does anything drastic right away, but sources who have spoken to Marc Berman of The New York Post believe the Rockets are likelier to consider the possibility of a Russell Westbrook trade following Morey’s departure.
“I can’t imagine they are keeping (James) Harden and Russ together,” one NBA executive told Berman. “Russ excels best as the best player on a team and Harden needs outside shooters around him – not a ball-dominant guard. I think Russ will be the one traded.”
Here’s more on the Rockets:
- After thriving in Houston down the stretch and during the postseason, Rockets forward Jeff Green is expected to receive interest from “a slew of contending teams” this offseason, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. As I noted last week, Houston only holds Green’s Non-Bird rights, so it may be tricky to re-sign him without using the mid-level or bi-annual exception.
- Following Doc Rivers‘ exit from Los Angeles, the Rockets initially wanted to hire him to fill their head coaching vacancy, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN. However, Rivers quickly reached an agreement with Philadelphia, taking him off the board for Houston. With Rivers and Tyronn Lue unavailable, the franchise is reportedly focusing on three potential finalists.
- Kelly Iko of The Athletic conducted an extensive Q&A with Rockets wing David Nwaba, who spoke about his Achilles recovery, his fit in Houston, and more. Nwaba said he anticipates being good to go for the start of the 2020/21 season. “I’m working on getting in shape. It’s taken longer than what I thought to get back into shape, but that’s going to happen through time,” he said. “… The season’s probably going to start in two, three months — I should be more than ready.”
- In another piece for The Athletic, Iko and Danny Leroux took an in-depth look at the Rockets’ short- and long-term salary cap situation.
- If Morey seeks another NBA job, there will be no shortage of opportunities for him, writes Chris Mannix of SI.com.