It appears after years of being on the verge of an NBA championship the Rockets are now at a precarious crossroads.
This all came into question when it was announced last week that general manager Daryl Morey would be stepping down after 14 years once his contract expires on Nov. 1. But perhaps the wheels of restructuring the Rockets front office went into motion once Morey’s undersized experiment failed in the NBA bubble playoffs, or this had been in motion since Morey’s poorly-timed tweet in support of the Hong Kong students nearly eroded the NBA/Rockets and China.
Morey and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta both played nice in announcing the decision to part ways.
“I am very confident that the future – for the Rockets, and for our incredible fans – is in great hands, and that the Rockets will continue to perform at the highest level,” Morey wrote.
“I have truly enjoyed working with Daryl and couldn’t have asked for a better general manager to have at the start of my ownership,” Fertitta said in his released statement. “I wish him and his family all the best.”
But none of that deals with the reality of where the Rockets stand as the franchise attempts to go forward with an undersized roster that doesn’t make sense and is still without a coach in place.
Could the experiment with small ball and the Russell Westbrook-James Harden backcourt be done after one season?
It looked as though the Rockets were ready to tab championship coach Tyronn Lue last week before the Morey announcement. Suddenly, Lue decided to accept the Los Angeles Clippers five-year, $35 million deal.
Fertitta then acted quick, promoting Rafael Stone to general manager and naming Eli Witus as the assistant general manager. Stone, a Stanford Law School grad, has worked with the Rockets since 2005 but mostly on legal matters.
Stone’s is first big job is to find a head coach with Jeff Van Gundy and John Lucas – two respected former head coaches who could have difficulty relating to today’s young players – and up-and-comer Stephen Silas, who is the son of former NBA coach John Silas, as leading candidates.
Then comes the hard part; figuring out the Rockets smallish roster, which had 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker playing in the post thank to Morey’s analytics approach to putting together this small ball lineup.
What teams like the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers just proved is size still does matter in the league.
What that means is that the Rockets will have a challenging offseason trying to figure out what pieces work and what moves can be made to add size to the roster. Does it make sense to keep a Harden-Westbrook backcourt? Or is it time to trade one for a big man like the 76ers Joel Embiid?
The point is the Rockets could have some difficult decisions to make and some challenging times ahead in this transition from the Morey era.