Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey met with fans for an informal Q&A session after Wednesday night’s home loss to Philadelphia. I was fortunate to be able to attend and here are some notes and quotes from the round of questioning.
When asked what it is that the Rockets are missing or need, Daryl did not sugarcoat it.
“We need a center. We need a franchise player,” said Morey. “We used to have a franchise center, so he did both, and now we have neither.”
Daryl said the Rockets did not trade for Terrence Williams for nothing and that he hasn’t soured on the deal, despite Williams not being in the rotation at the moment.
“We really like his talent,” said Morey. “We think he has the ability to really play at a high-level, could play at an All-Star level.”
Morey said Coach Adelman right now is going with guys he knows in a playoff push but that Williams “fits bigtime into our plans I think over time.”
Who is his favorite NBA player?
“Mark Price, by a huge margin,” said Morey, who is from Cleveland.
This response turned comical though as Daryl then somehow managed to segue that answer into his all-too-honest analysis of BYU point guard Jimmer Fredette (despite intentionally not saying his name), a prospect that NBA teams will be looking at in the upcoming NBA Draft. Realizing he probably shouldn’t have done that, Morey laughed and then turned to me with the camera and said, “Leave that part out.” So alas, I’ll do just that.
The Q&A session was loose, fun and from the hip, but when Daryl was asked about Rick Adelman’s lame duck status as coach with his contract expiring after this season, the tone turned serious. Daryl was brief and to the point.
“With Coach Adelman, we’re going to sit down after the season and figure it out,” said Morey.
Daryl recognized that the Rockets have struggled defensively. When asked what was the biggest reason for the Rockets fall from being a Top 5 Defense, the GM listed missing Yao Ming as reasons “one, two and three.”
“It’s not just Yao Ming, just any sort of five who can defensive rebound, the most important thing, and second, be a presence in the middle to discourage drivers,” said Morey.
Morey added that not having a big center almost puts a hard cap on how good they can become defensively.
“Right now, our guys, a lot of them, really care about defense,” said Morey. “A lot of them play hard on defense. Could be playing the best they’ve ever played — and I’m not saying they are. I’m not saying we don’t have room for improvement — but if they were the absolute best, I don’t think we get much better than average or near average without a five in the middle. It’s just too hard of a thing to overcome.”
High Praise for Lowry
Morey was asked about how Kyle Lowry has slipped in charges drawn, rebounding and in attacking the hoop (drawing fouls) “per opportunity” this season. The GM chalked that up to Lowry’s transition to a larger role, going from 15-25 minutes off the bench to a 30-40 minute starter.
On a career night for Lowry (36 points on 15-18 shooting), Morey had high praise for the Rockets starting point.
“He’s still one of the best point guard rebounders, by a huge margin. Still one of the best defensive point guards by a huge margin. Still a great foul-drawer, by a big margin,” said Morey. “He was literally like the best in all of basketball last year for a lot of those things. To expect him to transition to the starting role and still be at these heights very few people ever see, even in NBA history, at his position was unrealistic. He’s obviously been awesome. You could argue for a few guys for being our best player this year, I would say Kyle is probably #1, if I had to vote.”
Last Year vs. This Year
Morey was asked about the aggressiveness in last year’s team that seems to be missing in this year’s Rockets squad. Morey felt that both teams were “very similar” and are tracking almost identical (40-win team). He said the offense this year is a little better (attributing that to Kevin Martin) and the defense is worse. With Yao, Morey said he expected the Rockets win total to be in the “high 40’s,” but that without him it’s not a surprise they are where they are.
Morey felt that Kevin’s having arguably his best year and that both Luis and Kyle are having great seasons, but there is something he is still hoping to see.
“My biggest disappointment — we needed some of our young players to take a big step forward, like Aaron did last year,” said Morey. “We haven’t had that. There’s still time. I still think Jordan, Patrick, Chase, Courtney — one of those guys could take a big step forward and play well. That’s something that we still need. If we’re going to make the playoffs, one of those young guys has got to take a big step forward the rest of the way.”
AB’s Market Value
Morey was asked about Aaron Brooks‘ trade value around the league, a question begging for a more political response.
“He’s a very good player,” said Morey. “We’re committed to him. He’s obviously struggling a bit right now but he’s won a lot of games for us and we’re big fans of Aaron. Not only are we big fans, but the league is too.”
As you can imagine, Daryl fielded several questions about potential deals, with the February 24th trade deadline just one week away.
“We’re going to try to make a trade to get somebody at a high-level, or someone who can develop into a high-level, or even trade for a pick that has a chance to be very high,” said Morey. “Any of those three. All are hard paths. All have low probability of working, but our job is really to go for the best path with the best chance among a bunch of really hard options.”
I then asked Daryl if he was confident he could make a deal beneficial for the Rockets right now, or if this was more of a situation where things will “open up” at the deadline.
“I think last year if you had asked me who you’ll trade for and list the chances, Kevin Martin would have been near the bottom,” said Morey. “Didn’t have any sense he might be available. It’s really hard to predict right now. We have a lot of discussions going that could turn out positive, but it’s very hard to predict.”
Morey added that the Rockets are thinking long-term in their conversations about trades.
“The priority for our deals is definitely how does the player we get fit into a potential championship caliber team,” said Morey. “This year is not a big factor in our deals. That doesn’t mean we’ve — it’s just second priority. It’s much less priority than how do these players fit into a winning plan going forward.”