Before the season, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said, “This is the first time I feel like, without any changes, we’re good enough to win it.”
It took just 11 games for Morey to make a major change.
Houston fired Kevin McHale after a 4-7 start. But the Rockets have gone just 4-4 since without beating a team with a winning record.
“We believe in this group,” Morey said. “The priority really isn’t trade. The priority is getting this group back to its winning ways. Part of us having less flexibility, which I think is more or less true relative to what we had in the past, is because we do believe in the guys we have right now.”
Morey is correct in a certain sense. The Rockets accepted less flexibility – including a hard cap – because they believed in this roster.
But that doesn’t mean they should still believe in this roster.
James Harden has regressed and reportedly frustrated his teammates with his aloofness. His defense too frequently crosses into embarrassing territory, and that has continued after Houston’s players-only meeting. The supporting cast has also failed to live up to expectations, especially Lawson.
If Morey isn’t thinking about a trade, that’s far removed from his standard operating procedure. Morey has made an in-season trade each of his eight seasons running the Rockets.
Houston’s play from here will dictate Morey’s approach closer to this season’s trade deadline. So will the team’s financial constraints, being just $1,476,028 below the hard cap.
Supporting this current group of players might be Morey’s plan for now. But it’s easy to see him shifting into deal mode soon enough.