Five Things We Can Ascertain From Daryl Morey's Monday Interview
Sometimes things don't go quite the way we planned them. Houston Rockets fans learned this all too well in the past four days.
Daryl Morey's comments in interviews on Monday were revealing.
At lunchtime on Friday, it was all right there. A few more simple (albeit expensive) steps left to execute, and the Rockets would have the best starting five in the NBA, and still have a few more tricks up their collective sleeve to fill in around a core of Dwight Howard, James Harden, Chris Bosh and Chandler Parsons.
(Yes, those players listed absolutely necessarily in that order. More on this in a minute.)
And then Bosh happened. And then a two-day scramble mode happened. And then it was good-bye to Chandler Parsons. And suddenly, where on Friday everyone was planning a coronation, now it looked like there would be another few months of construction.
What does it all mean? Where exactly are the Rockets right now?
Well, there is most certainly a lot more work to be done. What looked like the basketball version of the fully completed Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV now bears a much more striking resemblance to the partially built Death Star in Return of the Jedi.
If this means that Les Alexander is Emperor Palpatine and that Morey is Darth Vader (and that Chandler Parsons is Luke Skywalker in skinny jeans), then so be it.
(Nerds are nodding like, "Whoa...yeah... Mind. Blown." I know, right?)
Thankfully, the city has a general manager for its NBA team who is open enough publicly to give a more than reasonable window into the thought process for decisions made and to-do's going forward, yet private enough with the actual nuts and bolts of building the team to not be the sucker at the table.
The 2012 offseason gave the Rockets a late surprise (Harden trade), 2013's offseason brought the big fish (Howard signing), 2014's was a colossal disappointment, especially when you consider that Morey's book on how to build a team has a prologue and ten chapters on the need for a third All-Star player.
To accomplish that acquisition, Morey made correct moves, logical moves.
They just got sideswiped by Chris Bosh's desire for lucrative comfort exceeding his threshold for title contending stress. Maybe the Rockets and Morey should have seen it coming, but you take people (the Bosh camp) at what appears to be their word, and sometimes you get burned.
As outlined in detail yesterday here, Morey went on SportsRadio 610 with my colleagues Nick Wright and John Lopez on Monday morning, and was very forthright about his thought process behind the moves the team made once Bosh sent them into "Plan B" mode.
I would encourage listening to (or at least skimming the transcript) the entire interview, it's really good. As we sift through the roster left behind by the trades of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, along with the decision to allow Parsons to leave, here are a few things we can glean from Daryl Morey's words on Monday:
5. Morey is way more concerned with what the roster looks like on April 14, 2015 than we are all concerned with how it looks on July 14, 2014.
Every move the Rockets make is with an eye toward increasing their probability of winning an NBA championship. I think Morey made that as clear in his interview with Nick and Lopez as any conversation I've heard Morey have. He said it multiple times, often reinforcing it. To that end, to any Rockets fan that was glum on Sunday night because the roster is worse today than it was on July 1, I think Morey would say "And?" There are no games being played in July, August, or September, and no games that truly matter until April (Morey wouldn't say that last part about the regular season, but it's true). You don't win titles by feeling victorious in July, you generally win titles, Morey would tell you, by having three star players and a top ten defense in the league.
4. Patrick Beverley is a bigger part of this team going forward than people may think.
Multiple times in the interview when asked about reasons for optimism, Morey mentioned Beverley right off the bat. Also, as mentioned a moment ago, Morey spent a minute discussing the need for an elite defensive team in order to win a title. (NBA statistical side bar: The only two teams in the last thirty years to fall outside the top ten defensively and wins title are the 1995 Rockets and the 2001 Lakers.) He specifically mentioned having dynamic defensive players at three of the five starting positions, Beverley (2nd team All-NBA Defense) is one of them, and in a conference with a ton of elite point guards. I bring this up because when it's time to go trade shopping, the short list (and the list of likely available players is really short) will have two point guards, Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic, that will make the Rockets slightly worse and much worse (respectively) defensively. Upgrading the power forward spot is a much more likely strategy.