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Morey’s Moment

This was Daryl Morey’s finest hour.

In landing Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, and two future Knicks draft picks, the Houston Rockets’ GM may have cemented his place at the pantheon of sports management.

I’m still in utter disbelief.

It was a long and strange process, even surreal at times for the unyielding exposure. The sides talked, neither budging, implicitly knowing of the stakes.  This was NBA theater at its finest.

For the Knicks it was about hope, fulfillment of a plan, and the chance at refuge from perpetual mediocrity.

For Houston it was patience, with Morey preying on a premium from his predatory perch.

One could almost picture the Houston GM unmasking the poker face, smiling at his foe, and issuing the challenge Walsh had no choice but to accept.  Eternal salvation.

To have been a fly on that wall.

Talks fizzled before word broke last night of Kevin Martin’s acquisition, reinforcing the dictum that a Morey deal is never leaked.

Landry for Martin. A good deal, but for Morey, shocking – paying full has never been his cup of tea.

There seemed to be something more, something missing.  The other shoe would surely drop.

Then came the slew of tweets.  My jaw drops.  Yahoo! and ESPN, simultaneously.

Houston has received both Knicks picks.

Minutes, seemingly hours later, the correction:

The trade was not correctly reported – Jordan Hill too has been sent to the Rockets.

When it later became known that the picks were lightly protected, the significance became clear.  Morey had reshaped his franchise in one swoop, somehow avoiding trash in the process.

Yes, this was Daryl Morey’s finest hour.  His signature move.  The splash I had warned would not come.  The splash upon which our hopes had clung.

**

This deal is so beautiful that in its assessment, I am struck by disbelief.

In Landry, the team surrendered the man I had described all year as its best player.  But through his trade, it got back so much more.

Martin is the cornerstone upon whom we can build.  He has a sensible contract and an even more pleasing stroke.  [3yrs at an average annual $12mill is great value for a player of his production in the modern CBA era.]

He’s not the creator for whom I have desperately pled, but his shooting skillset fits this motion offense to a tee.  In that respect, there probably isn’t a 2-guard better suited for that role in our league.  [Martin’s career TS% of 60% is beyond jaw-dropping as explained in this piece.]

Then there is Jordan Hill.  The 8th overall selection in last year’s draft, while a disappointment thus far, could very well one day replace Landry in this outfit known for its reclamation of power forwards maligned.

But the real coup, what made this deal special, are those picks.  So lightly protected (top 1 protection in 2011, top 5 protection in ’12), they could one day become the pieces of this team’s future foundation.

Or flipped this summer for something more.

**

Jared Jeffries was the pill.  For a thorn, one could hardly do better.

Slated next year at a gross $6.8million, he will make things difficult on the books. But just a 1 year burden, this is not a player without merit.

Taking Jeffries was the cost for this haul and it was well worth it.  You could hardly do better for an albatross than Jared Jeffries.

**

This trade was not made for today.  The team may not have even improved its cause for the year.  This deal was about value, and extract it they did.

First, on the court:

The rewards may not be immediate.  This year, Martin may only offset the loss of Carl.

That will change in ’10 when Yao receives the touches once allotted for Landry.  Martin will start next to Brooks, pushing Ariza to his more natural 3, and finally giving this lineup conventional balance.

Still, as composed, this team will not be a contender.  But that could quickly change.

On Thursday night, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the Houston Rockets had made a late push for Amare Stoudemire, offering Shane Battier, Luis Scola, draft picks, and Brian Cook in the 11th hour.  ESPN’s J.A Adande later reported that it was the Rockets who backed away as Phoenix wanted to waive the requisite physical examinations.

What the report reveals is the team’s intent.  Armed with a shopping cart of assets—the picks, the expiring contracts of Battier/Jeffries, Scola (in a sign&trade), and young talent galore–Morey will likely offer a similar package to the Raptors and Suns in attempts to reopen talks for their coveted power forwards – this time for a sign&trade.

The team has obligations of roughly $58million in player salaries for next year.  If resigning its free agents and draft picks, it could be looking at close to $75million in player salaries.  While Morey said in his press conference that he has been given allowance to re-sign his own guys, a better value will be a max free agent.

And with this deal, he now has all the bait.

**

Unknown it is how this will all unfold.  The team could strike out in the summer, and New York could crown its King, dashing the dreams of Red Nation.

Still, nothing will have been lost and for the hope will we all have gained.

This is a lesson for patience, to never again doubt.

In some ways has this been poetic.  It is the divorce from an era but the dawn of a new day.  It is the close of a saga but the birth of tomorrow.

This could be the moment it was all built for the Houston Rockets.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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