Daryl Morey

Rockets GM Morey talks about rolling dice on Royce White

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Rockets GM Daryl Morey is an interesting interview.

And when you put him on a podcast with the interesting questions and discussion run by the people at Slate, you get good insights.

Morey was on a recent podcast and discussed Jeremy Lin, the state of analytics in the NBA and more, and relatively openly. (You can listen or read the transcript at the link above.)

He also talked Royce White, the No. 16 overall pick of the Rockets who is not with the team right now as both sides try to figure out how to deal with his anxiety disorder. The Rockets knew of the disorder before the draft and it is the reason Young was still around at 16 and not taken higher in the lottery. Morey discusses why he made that pick and the risk involved.

Basketball is sort of an interesting sport that, you know, the top player on your team makes so much more of an impact than the top player in any other sport. Any other of the major team sports, I should say. There’s no other sport where LeBron James can have a team winning three out of four games or 60 games out of 80, and then when he leaves, that basically the same team wins 20 games out of 80. That kind of a swing just shows you the impact. You need these elite talents to win in this league. We think Royce is an elite talent—top five talent in this last draft, which was very deep. Obviously if we’re getting him at 16 in the draft, there’s going to be something wrong, or something that’s a gamble with the player, and really you’re just choosing the gamble. Maybe they’ve got an injury history. Maybe they’ve got a particular part of their game that could be an Achilles’ heel that would make them fail. Maybe they’ve never gone against that level of competition. So there’s going to be something wrong, so you’re really just picking among things that are potentially going to derail that player and which ones you’re most comfortable with. Royce was someone who played every game at Iowa State, played it well. So even with his issues, he showed that he is very functional. We knew going in that potentially there could be issues and right now obviously things are bumpy at this point, I’d say, but you know it takes a little time for him to get going at the various stops he’s had in his career to this point. We’re trying to work things through with Royce, and hopeful that we can. That’s sort of the current state.

It’s in Morey’s and the Rockets’ interest to take the long-term view here. Morey is right, it’s about talent. And has Morey has described it in the past, the NBA is more like an “elephant mother” — you have one baby every few years and you have to nurture them for two years before they can really take care of themselves.

White could still be a productive, quality NBA player. This isn’t about his rookie season, it’s about who he can be three years from now as the Rockets rebuild. You don’t write the book on a player less than a month into his rookie season (good or bad).

This may not work out for the Rockets. But it was a smart gamble. And making those is how you eventually win in the NBA.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.