Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney earlier in the week about the team’s offseason, particularly the James Harden extension. Said Morey, on the extension:
“Even through trade, those deals are often made to teams that the player wants to go to. It was a pretty easy analysis in that you need the [top-tier] player no matter what and you want to be able to signal to those players across the league that if you’re in Houston, at any given moment, the team’s always going to try to take care of you—whether it be with money or a top team you’re playing with.”
In conjunction with my thoughts from last week, however, while a “signal” to top players is certainly a direct outcome of the extension, the more significant function is that retaining Harden in the first place is a necessary condition to luring another star. Essentially, it is of little use to have players think highly of how one treats its stars when one does not have a star to begin with. Thus, to build upon what I wrote last week, Houston relinquished its remaining flexibility to enter the weird stage of their history in which they’re now in: not really contending and not really seeming to have a clear plan towards contention. Just sort of hanging around, but being fun, you could call it. And as I said in the piece last week, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong therein, at least from a business perspective.
Morey hasn’t completely broken from his ideological roots, however, as the team is still playing hardball with Donatas Motiejunas, smartly allowing the market to dictate price. They did this, famously, with Carl Landry, and then Kyle Lowry, and then Chandler Parsons, and most definitely did not do this with Moochie Norris, and Maurice Taylor, and Matt Maloney [during the previous regime]. You can afford to risk goodwill with the Motiejunas’ of the world, but Harden is a different equation. If he’s upset, or if he is the center of uncertainty, it sinks the ship. I do wonder though, would a younger Morey have offered this extension?