The reported idea that Tilman Fertitta forbade Stone from making a deal with Morey was incorrect. Not only does Fertitta stay out of trade negotiations, convinced that he lacks the expertise to have a preference and dictate directions, Stone had extensive talks with Morey and reached the point on the day of the trade with Brooklyn that he made one final demand. Had Morey agreed, the Rockets would have sent Harden to Philadelphia.
Stone wanted another draft pick or another player, likely Tyrese Maxey, along with agreement on far less protection for the picks in the deal. The 76ers never got there. Morey has since told confidants that he thought the Rockets made a great deal.
Fertitta obviously has incentive to convey that he didn’t block the best offer out of spite. The prior report made him look bad.
Unfortunately for him, it’s impossible to know whether that actually happened. The only way we’d know Fertitta was OK sending Harden to the 76ers is if the Rockets sent Harden to the 76ers. Instead, Houston traded Harden to the Nets. Just because Philadelphia got deep into negotiations doesn’t mean Fertitta would’ve ever granted final approval. The Rockets could have been using the 76ers only for leverage.
Maybe Rockets general manager Rafael Stone deemed Brooklyn’s offer best. Maybe Fertitta refused to deal with Morey. Maybe something in between happened, like Fertitta requiring Morey’s new team to pay a premium for Harden.
It’s impossible to say from the outside.
But the idea Fertitta stays out of trade negotiations is false – by Fertitta’s own admission. The owner said he dictated his basketball-operations department, which “got maybe a little weak at the end,” complete the Chris Paul–Russell Westbrook trade.
At the very least, the idea Fertitta refused to trade Harden to Morey’s 76ers is believable.
Of course, there’s plenty of reason to doubt it, too.