Section: Sports

Long-time Rockets GM Daryl Morey to head to Philadelphia

Long-time Rockets GM Daryl Morey to head to Philadelphia

Daryl Morey | MORBIDTHOUGHTS VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

On Oct. 15, after a 13-season tenure with the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey announced that he will step down as the general manager (GM) effective Nov. 1. Morey is well known for his unique, analytical approach to basketball.

“It’s been a great run and I appreciate everything Daryl’s done,” Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the team, told ABC News. “If I have any questions or need his support, he’s there for me and this organization … He will be a Rocket forever. And that’s just the way it is.”

Morey cited personal reasons for his resignation. In a television interview with ESPN, Morey said that he wants to spend more time with his family, especially his daughter, who is taking a gap year from college during the pandemic.

Shortly after his departure, Morey noted that he was looking for less time-consuming professional opportunities outside the league. “I’m sort of open on what’s next,” Morey wrote in a statement released on Twitter. “But I do love sports. I do love the NBA. And I do think a big part of doing this is to see what new challenges might be out there.”

Despite his comments, ESPN reported that Morey accepted a job on Wednesday as the new president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers. A formal announcement from Morey is expected as soon as this week, sources told NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Rafael Stone, the Rockets’ current executive vice president of basketball operations, will assume the role of Houston’s general manager, becoming only the 10th Black executive to hold the general manager title in NBA history. 

An MIT graduate, Morey is one of the early proponents of using more sophisticated metrics in the NBA. His strategy is bold and precise. For example, no players in this season’s starting lineup were listed at a height above six feet, six inches. Operating on the philosophy that stars are a top priority, Morey is on the constant lookout for acquiring new talent. He has made 77 trades in total, the second-most in the NBA since 2007. The most famous among these are the trades for Chris Paul and former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Though the Rockets did not win a championship during Morey’s tenure, they reached the Western Conference Finals twice and had the highest winning percentage (0.615) of any team besides the San Antonio Spurs during that span. The Rockets have made it to the second round of the playoffs 10 times and have the longest active playoff streak in the NBA.

The highlight of Morey’s tenure came during the 2017-18 season, when Harden was named MVP after leading the Rockets to the best record in the NBA, with 65 wins in the regular season. In the postseason, Morey’s Rockets pushed the seemingly indomitable Golden State Warriors to a seven-game series in the Western Conference Finals. With the Rockets up 3-2 in the series, they appeared destined for a trip to the NBA Finals. However, point guard Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury late in Game 5, and the Warriors won the final two games of the series and moved on. 

The sustained success and ability of the Rockets cannot be understated. Morey was fully aware of how special his opportunities to compete for a championship were. “If you’ve got even a 5% chance to win the title — and that group includes a very small number of teams every year — you’ve gotta be focused all on winning the title,” he told ESPN’s Zach Lowe

Morey’s influence on the NBA isn’t restricted to the 5% theory. He has also contributed to the increased frequency of 3-point shots and the usage of metrics to evaluate defense. “It’s reasonable to argue NBA basketball is both more mathematically efficient and (with some teams) less interesting to watch because of Morey,” Lowe reported

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