All of Morey’s stockpiling of assets and compulsive pick shuffling didland him two superstars. He just landed the wrong ones. Howard and Harden are good players, but terrible leaders, and at this point they don’t even like each other. It’s why the team has gone from title contender to playoff hopeful, and why Chris Bosh ultimately refused to chase another ring in Houston after Morey moved heaven and earth (and Chandler Parsons) to sign him in 2014. Still, Morey was close. Even I bought into the Rockets with Ty Lawson. It just didn’t work, and looking back, a lot of this comes back to landing the only two superstars in the league that nobody else wants to play with.
This is a point I’ve seen made in other corners of the internet and one I’ve tossed around before on these pages or on the podcast, in passing. It’s relevant in light of the broader discussions we had six or seven years ago when this blog was in its infancy, as was Morey’s masterplan. Everything has, in a way, come full circle, with the answers to thematic questions possibly in front of our eyes. As some more loyal readers may remember, I advocated strongly in favor of tanking, asserting that greatness could not be achieved through mediocrity. To my dismay, Morey avoided that route (possibly at the demands of Alexander, as evidence suggests), but somehow still got somewhere near the very top, in his own way. He was a genius; he had done it! He had built a contender without having to tank.
But now, maybe, we’re seeing why that was possible, as some are suggesting. When you take shortcuts, it bites you in the end. The theory goes now that the Thunder might not have been as willing to let Harden go had he fit into their culture (though I’d imagine there is some degree of revisionism in play there). You were able to get Harden because he was flawed, and same with Howard. The assertion, from this reasoning, is that the Rockets only have these two players because they are each inherently flawed. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have been available to begin with. That would mean then, in validation of the original premise, that the only way to build a team is through the draft, because that is the only way to acquire premiere talent in an unflawed state.
This is all a convenient reaction, however, to this season. Unfortunately, it appears likely that such thinking will hold true. But if they hire a disciplinarian, or something suddenly clicks for Harden from within, it would dispel the aforementioned notions. As I’ve been writing now all season, that’s the only hope.