A very honest Daryl Morey talks Rockets, Lin, 2004 Pistons

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Daryl Morey is a geek. In a good way. And I’m not just saying that because he clearly knows his way around Reddit. Well, that is part of the reason.

But clearly he does. Morey did an IAMA on Reddit Friday — which for the uninitiated is kind of an online Q&A — and in this comfortable setting he was honest. And witty. And worth reading. Check out the entire thing, be a Reddit lurker. But here are what I saw as the highlights.

Starting with: Which is the most intimidating team in the NBA?

Miami. I have consistently said this since the team was assembled

About his push this summer to land an elite player (Dwight Howard, for one) on the Rockets.

You definitely need at least 1 elite player in the top 10-20 of all NBA players (all-star level) to win the championship. There are no counter examples of this. We are not championship contenders right now. All our moves since Yao Ming went down have had the specific goal of acquiring a top level player since that moment. Each change on our team has been designed to acquire players who either have a chance to be an all-star or give us the cap room or trade flexibility to acquire an all-star.

Wait, what about the 2004 Pistons? They didn’t have a superstar/elite player?

(Chauncey) Billups and Ben Wallace clearly were playing at an all-star level in my opinion at that time. Also, 4(!) of them made the all-star team either that year or the next. For those wondering on Ben Wallace, they had the #1 defense in the league and Ben Wallace was for sure the primary reason for it. Omer Asik has the potential to play at an all-star level on defense. We will see if he does.

Well, can Jeremy Lin be that All-Star/elite player?

We were rolling the dice on getting Jeremy Lin but taking smart risks is what we have to do up and down the roster on every move. As only 1 team out of 30 gets to win, you cannot play it safe. A fund manager who beats more than half his peers and beats the S+P 500 is considered pretty good. We have won more games than we lost the past few years (beaten our peers) despite losing our franchise player Yao Ming and it has been appropriately considered disappointing despite the fact that most teams win around one-third of their games after losing their franchise player. We need to keep taking on more smart risk.

What about the trend of small ball? Is there a place for a traditional big man in the NBA?

For sure in the regular season, the general rule of thumb to help you win is put your 5 best players on the floor as much as possible. Because of scarcity, the smalls are generally better than the bigs and also more numerous. This is why “small ball” works.

If you wonder why the media seems to love Morey, it’s not just that we think he makes smart moves, it’s that he is open and honest about what is going on more than most. Honesty is appreciated by all of us (well, until someone runs for political office).

Report: Phil Jackson thought Carmelo Anthony was trying to sabotage him

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In March, Kristaps Porzingis offered a strong endorsement of the triangle.

That put him between then-Knicks president Phil Jackson and forward Carmelo Anthony.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to an NBA source, Anthony was furious to read Porzingis’ positive sentiments on an offense he disdains.

“Melo really chewed him out, lit into him,’’ the source said.

Actually, some Knicks officials believe Anthony’s influence on Porzingis has been detrimental and a key reason why Jackson became adamant about removing him from the roster any way he could.

“Phil thought Carmelo was trying to sabotage him,’’ an NBA source said.

Jackson tried to pressure Anthony out of New York, tweeted criticism of Anthony, sidestepped Anthony’s requests to meet, seemingly pushed an anti-Anthony narrative, publicly called Anthony a ball hog and used racially insensitive language to discuss Anthony’s friend, LeBron James.

But Anthony was trying to sabotage Jackson?

It’s unhealthy for a team’s president and highest-paid players to be on such different pages, but it’s also unhealthy for a team to be caught up on an antiquated offensive system. Anthony acquiescing to Jackson might have made the Knicks’ better in the short term. But if he widened the fractures that eventually caused the Knicks to split from Jackson, Anthony did the team a favor in the long run.

Report: Masai Ujiri’s salary about half what Phil Jackson’s was

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James Dolan isn’t fixing the Knicks’ biggest problem – James Dolan.

But the owner took a step in the right direction a few years ago by pouring a ton of money into the front office. Of course, Dolan did it in the worst way. Offering a five-year, $60 million contract, he didn’t target general managers with proven track records of success. He hired front-office novice Phil Jackson, whose tenure was a wreck.

With Jackson out, will Dolan get it right this time?

The Knicks are reportedly interested in Raptors president Masai Ujiri, but it will be more complicated now, because Ujiri just signed a contract extension and the Knicks are still paying Jackson.

But can New York lure Ujiri from Toronto?

Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

As a source close to MLSE ownership told me Wednesday morning: “Don’t even waste your time on this.”

But as one NBA source put it: “This is not fake news, the Knicks will be coming hard.”

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Ujiri signed a five-year extension worth $32 million last September

Bruce Arthur of the Star:

All that just makes the Knicks more desperate for a new saviour, and league sources indicate the Knicks are already confident Ujiri is coming to New York.

Despite the contract, sources indicate Ujiri can leave if he wants to leave. It’s really up to him.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

As for reports that the Knicks were interested in Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, sources told ESPN that the Knicks have a deep respect for him, but he’s under contract and thus would require permission to speak to and compensation — likely draft picks — which the Knicks would be very reluctant to consider.

Dolan has the fortune to offer Ujiri a significant raise and buy him out of his Raptors contract. Money goes a long way in these negotiations, though it’s unclear how much Dolan would spend on a less-flashy name – and whether the Raptors want more than just cash.

Sending Toronto first-round picks as compensation would hurt the Knicks, but not as much as hiring another incompetent front-office head.

Will Ujiri land in New York? There are so many mixed signals, but it appears the Knicks at least have a chance.

Report: James Harden recruited Chris Paul to Rockets throughout season

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Chris Paul to the Rockets seemed to come out of nowhere.

It didn’t.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

According to one NBA executive, James Harden, the Rockets’ all-star guard, had been recruiting Paul throughout the season. An executive from another team said Harden had already told a fellow NBA player that Paul’s going to Houston was a done deal.

This is how the league works now. James Harden continues to be a enthusiastic recruiter, and that’s a huge asset to the Rockets. It goes toward explaining why Houston general manager Daryl Morey has bestowed so much faith in Harden.

The NBA has simply decided nothing players do constitutes tampering. So, Harden was free to convey Houston’s message to Paul – and this went beyond the typical bonding of two stars. The Rockets had to orchestrate a complex series of transactions, including getting Paul to waive most of his trade bonus, to make the deal work. Harden was part lead recruiter, part middleman communicating with the front office.

Getting Paul was truly the Harden-Morey partnership at its finest.

Report: Thunder have planned Blake Griffin pursuit for months

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The Clippers sound confident about re-signing Blake Griffin in the wake Chris Paul going to the Rockets.

But L.A. will have competition for the star forward – from the Nuggets, Celtics (depending how their primary plan goes), Heat and Griffin’s home-state Thunder.

Royce Young of ESPN:

It’s a shame for the Thunder they backed off their plan to sign Griffin last summer, signing Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo to contract extensions, only to resume it a few months later.

Letting Adams and Oladipo hit unrestricted free agency would have given Oklahoma City an additional $22,514,699 in cap flexibility while maintaining Adams’ and Oladipo’s Bird Rights. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to offer Griffin a max salary, but dumping Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and either Doug McDermott or Domantas Sabonis would’ve projected to get the Thunder there. In that scenario, Oklahoma City could have also exceeded the cap to re-sign Adams and Oladipo after inking Griffin.

Alas, the Thunder are now limited to dumping contributors that make the team appealing to someone like Griffin in the first place or executing a sign-and-trade. But a sign-and-trade gets complicated. Adams’ salary alone isn’t enough to return Griffin on a max, and it’s not even clear the Clippers – with DeAndre Jordan – would want Adams (though losing Griffin could initiate an even greater rebuild that includes trading Jordan). And again, the Clippers reportedly want to keep Griffin rather than go this route.

This was all foreseeable, though some surprising factors worsened the consequences of the extensions for Oklahoma City.

Griffin seemed more certain last summer to stay in L.A. The 2017-18 salary cap appeared on track to be higher. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement won’t raise cap holds for first-round picks until next year. So, Adams’ deal projects to save the Thunder just $6,425,000 over the next four years relative to a max offer sheet – a paltry sum in the face of the potential cap flexibility lost this year by extending him instead of waiting to re-sign him.

The Thunder making moves earlier than necessary and salary-cap developments turning those plans especially imprudent – where have I heard this one before?