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Discerning Morey’s Philosophy Part 9: The paths avoided

We plan and carefully prepare, but often our lives are shaped by the unexpected.  The surprise job offer, the college admission to the better school, the sudden death of a loved one.  Good or bad, we cope when fate appears and make the most of the hand dealt, even if needing a completely different route.

Saturday’s acquisition of Thunder guard James Harden was an unexpected boon for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.  Only time will tell how good they’ll be, but with the trade, Morey’s team now has a distinct shape.  Harden, guard Jeremy Lin, center Omer Asik, and forward Chandler Parsons are all—or in Harden’s case expected to be soon—locked in long term.  To fill the hole at power forward, many expect Morey to make use of the money his team has available below the cap.

But most everyone will remember that in the past year, the Rockets came close to striking two other franchise altering deals, each of which would have left the team looking very different than it currently appears, and setting it on a path distinct from the current track.

Last December, David Stern struck down a deal which would have landed Lakers forward Pau Gasol in Houston.  Via uncontroverted sources, then-Nuggets forward Nene would have been next in line to put on red.  Had it all happened, the team’s lineup would look something like this:

PF Gasol/White

SF Parsons/Budinger

C   Nene/Hayes

SG Lee

PG Lowry/Lin

Reports were at the time that the team had requested the agent for forward Chuck Hayes to hold off on signing with Sacramento until they could complete the trade; Lin was only waived to make room later for Samuel Dalembert.

As for Budinger and Lee, it’s anyone’s guess whether the latter would have been re-signed this offseason or if the former would still have been dealt.  But from the desire for continuity, we’ll assume they’d have stayed.  Royce White was selected with the New York Knicks’ #16.

This August, the Rockets were again heavily in talks with the Orlando Magic—discussions which had been ongoing over the past year—about a trade for center Dwight Howard.  That deal would have sent out the two draft picks used in the Harden trade, two players from among the group of Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, and Terrence Jones, and would have required the Rockets to take back two of Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, and Hedo Turkoglu.

Rob Hennigan chose instead to bank on “the potential” of 27-year-old guard Arron Afflalo.”  It’s easy to point to deals that don’t go through and cite them as examples of what might have been – 99% of trades discussed in the NBA do not come to fruition.  But in this case, that Howard didn’t become a Rocket should be seen as an anomaly.  Almost all objective observers were in agreement that Houston was offering the far superior package.  In a normal market, where both buyers and sellers were equally informed and competent, Howard would now be wearing red.

Lin would’ve been at point, Parsons at the ‘3’, Howard at center, and Patterson or one of the rookies at the ‘4’.  Jason Richardson probably would have been at the ‘2’.

Which of the three teams would you have preferred?  With Howard, Houston would have still had money left over—after amnestying Luis Scola—for another big signing next summer.    But there was the huge risk that Howard might have bolted.

The Gasol Rockets would’ve contended.  They would’ve had a three-headed monster in Lowry/Gasol/Nene that could’ve taken them deep into the playoffs.  But their window was smaller and they didn’t have the ball-handling wing/guard usually needed to win big, nor did they have the avenue/assets left to acquire one.  At the time, it was thought Terrence Williams could become that player but we know how that ended.

The Harden Rockets probably don’t have the upside of the Howard version but they also are spared of the uncertainty.  As mentioned, all major pieces are locked in and young and there is a clear route to obtain a second star.  They also have clean hands: despite his dominance, it would’ve been tough to root for Dwight Howard.

But unlike the Gasol version, the Harden Rockets will take time.  They might not be ready for another few years.  The Gasol/Nene Rockets would’ve been vying today for the #1 seed.  But again, they’d have a smaller window.  Will fans stay patient to watch this current team grow or would they have preferred immediate success?

After two botched deals, killed off by unlikely events out of his control (evil/dishonesty – Stern; incompetence – Hennigan), things ended up working out quite well for Daryl Morey.  We saw from the Gasol deal that he would’ve been willing to go old and from the Howard trade that he wasn’t averse to huge risks.  And now we see from the Harden trade the fruits of staying ready.

And that’s the lesson.  If one thing’s been learned, there has all along only been one philosophy: staying ready and staying flexible.  It’s what Morey himself said, each time after each and every failure, when a star was snatched away by unforeseen events.  Most scoffed and mocked the notion.  Finally, for Morey, it paid off.


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Total comments: 11
  • redfaithful says 1 YEAR ago

    Looking back at people's opinions at the start of the season, seems to me the main thing that changed is the perception of DH12, clearly not because of drastic change in his basketball skills.

    For me it's not only the decision to choose Houston over flashy LA, but also the way things went in his tenure with the Lakers - standing up against Kobe and his media puppies. Hope he fits the culture of the organization and embraces the team's needs even when they counter his personal preferences.

  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago Excellent job from Morey here. Maybe, and just maybe, he sign Delfino because he talked to Presti some time ago and extended that offer depending on whether OKC could make Harden sign or not. In that case, it was a very good move too.

    I agree with Jeby, this deal is the most fan-friendly. Frankly, I don't like Howard. Sure, he would have made us really good right now, but at some point, it would have been hard to put up with his antics and it would have been impossible to win the ring at any time during his stay here (assuming he took the money here).

    This doesn't detour us from that rebuilding path we were willing to take, just make us one step ahead and that's always a good thing :D
  • Jeby says 1 YEAR ago I think all-around, the Gasol-Nene scenario still would have been the best deal in terms of what makes us most likely to win a championship. But as Rahat pointed out, the title window would be short, and I doubt the relationship between Gasol and the fans would ever be in a good place.
    The Howard deal...let's just say it had the most upside. IF Howard stayed, then we would all be happy. On the other hand, Howard seems like he would be impossible to root for. Ever.
    The Harden deal is the most fan-friendly. He seems genuinely pleased to be here (guess who showed him the money?), he gives us hope for the future, and we still have room to add another max player. Good times.
  • Jacob Cooper says 1 YEAR ago I like this move a lot. The Rockets are still rebuilding and getting younger, but they are doing it with a proven commodity now, instead of the potential talent of draft picks. This looks like the Rockets are now on the up-swing of the rebuilding project, without ever really bottoming-out. I believe this was what Les Alexander wanted all along. Props to Morey for pulling it off.
  • frogs07 says 1 YEAR ago I am ecstatic over this deal. Harden is such a fluid offensive player. His basketball IQ is high, and he puts a tremendous amount of effort into his off season regimen. All the exact characteristics you want in the face of a franchise. I'm also happy that Morey has gone on the record with a path forward. After securing a significant part of the team identity in Harden, he said the Rockets will be active in free agency next summer while also trying to develop one of our rookies to an all-star level. So that means that as the team rebuilds this year, we can expect D-Mo and Terrence Jones to play significant minutes. Best case scenario they both play well and we still make a run for a big name free agent. Worst case, they take their lumps, and we still sign another free agent to the max. As Harden showed, players (and their agents) are well aware of team's salary situations. It's only a matter of time before the Rockets will find someone to claim that second max contract. As fans we just need to be patient. Either way, you look at it, the future looks bright.
  • bob schmidt says 1 YEAR ago I am also pleased with the unexpected upgrade to our roster. With the talent that we have competing for the 4 slot, we should be more than mediocre... Although I don't have Insider, I understand that Hollinger has added 10 games to our potential win total. That is considerable improvement... I am ready for some basketball now, assuming that I can catch some games via Time Warner, wish me luck!
  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago I'm extremely excited about the trade. As tombrokeoff said, I prefer this incarnation over the other scenarios stated. The timing was perfect too, I was in a mode to watch the Rockets and hope they lose as to vie for that high lottery pick to couple with Toronto's protected one. Now, after getting Harden and finally sloughing off Martin, I will be watching the games with the hopes of pulling out wins and maybe slipping into the 8th seed. I know, we've really only elevated into the realm of mediocrity for this first year of the new look, but the biggest difference is that now we have a roster chock full of talented young players with tremendous upside and the cap room to absorb another stud. Heck, a couple pleasant surprises out of this group could make us a little better than mediocre immediately. Harden was the right guy too for what was given up. I'm sure he made some friends this summer in the Olympics that would be glad to join him on what is now a nice high-upside young team. Good job Morey.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    Rahat Huq, on 30 October 2012 - 15:40 PM said:

    you hit the nail on the head here. i'm stoked for myself and all of us as a rockets fan for getting to watch a fun team now. but a big part of this for me is just happiness for THE ROCKETS organization. they finally got something to go their way after all of the bad luck. really feeling good for the organization especially on saturday when they will unveil the new scoreboard along with harden.

    no doubt. perseverance paid off! kudos to morey and staff. i think in the end, they got exactly what they needed and hopefully its all up from here. i really want to try and get tickets to saturdays game, now. especially since i wont be able to watch it on tv w/o finding a bar. well maybe ill just track down a bar. lol.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    tombrokeoff, on 30 October 2012 - 14:14 PM said:

    im happy that daryl finally got something to fall his way. he deserved it BIG TIME. im excited about the rockets NOW and moving forward. I just wish GD comcast / at&t would hammer out a deal already.

    you hit the nail on the head here. i'm stoked for myself and all of us as a rockets fan for getting to watch a fun team now. but a big part of this for me is just happiness for THE ROCKETS organization. they finally got something to go their way after all of the bad luck. really feeling good for the organization especially on saturday when they will unveil the new scoreboard along with harden.
  • kdog94 says 1 YEAR ago It's quite beautiful isn't it? Morey has consistently put us in positions to where we could land the big fish, with room for another big fish, while having a pretty competent supporting cast. Finally a bit of luck hit the Rockets.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago when i first heard of the harden trade, i was unsure how i felt about it, but ive quickly warmed up to it. and given the question in the post, i prefer this latest incarnation of the rockets the best. after howard had fallen through, i had begun getting excited about the rebuild and starting young and fresh. and as many have pointed out, the harden trade essentially is still that path, but with a major jump start. i never really wanted gasol. i wanted howard, because i felt like he wouldnt pass up the $ on the extension, but i grew tired of his antics. im happy that daryl finally got something to fall his way. he deserved it BIG TIME. im excited about the rockets NOW and moving forward. I just wish GD comcast / at&t would hammer out a deal already.

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