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Thursday February 24, 2011 8:54 PM

Winds Of Change


Rockets GM Daryl Morey breaks down the team's trade deadline deals

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Following the completion of the Rockets' trade deadline moves, General Manager Daryl Morey met with the media to discuss the deals Houston made Thursday afternoon. What follows is a transcript of that discussion.

OPENING STATEMENT:

Our goal is to win a championship and be a championship caliber team. Our goal at this deadline was to make significant upgrades and that’s our goal constantly. These moves position us better in the future. The big move that helps us now and in the future did not materialize but we feel like this positions us better in the future to make that move.

Shane [Battier] is a winner big time, on and off the court. His leadership, everything he brought to the city of Houston and our team will be very hard to replace. The players we brought in the past few years here are obviously younger and we feel it’s their time to step up and make a big contribution.

Aaron [Brooks] was obviously a big time player for us over the past few years. He was my first draft pick and every year got better. Great person, and losing him was also very difficult as well.

Obviously we need a center on our team. We lost Yao Ming and we’ve got a chance for Yao Ming to come back in the future but Hasheem Thabeet is someone who has the potential to develop into a very significant interior defender, a very significant center over time. Right now he’s not there. Right now, if he was there, we would not have been able to get him. Unfortunately, you cannot acquire 7-3 centers after they become good easily, if at all. So you need to take a chance on a guy who you think has a chance to contribute over time. In addition to that, we picked up two first round picks we think will help us upgrade the team in the future as well.

Dragic has a pretty similar career arc to Aaron Brooks. He came in pretty unheralded, has contributed significantly to the Suns behind Steve Nash and has had great playoff games just like Aaron did. We like Goran here for the future and our point guard position, we felt like Kyle Lowry was our guy to start for the future and Aaron Brooks, as I’ve always said, we think he’s a starter-quality player as well, and very soon both Kyle and Aaron were going to make an amount of money that wouldn’t allow us to have both of them on the roster going forward. So we made a move for Dragic, who we like his potential very much and he’s already contributing and he’ll contribute right away for the Rockets.

ON THE FIRST ROUND PICKS THE ROCKETS ACQUIRED:

The Phoenix first round pick will come this year. It will either be Phoenix’s pick if it’s outside the lottery, or it will be Orlando’s pick that [ Phoenix] acquired in their recent trade. The Memphis pick is lottery protected, starting in 2013.

The main issue on our team is defense. If we had an average defense this year we’d be solidly in the playoffs. Shane was the guy who was the core of that defense and the best defensive player we had, so losing him will require others to step forward, no doubt.

The reality is right now this team, as constructed, isn’t a championship caliber team. I’m not telling any secrets, so we need to figure out how to upgrade the team. These moves will position us better to get there, than if we had kept Shane and Aaron for sure.

Shane is someone who we would have liked to keep, but had a good chance of losing in free agency; Aaron Brooks was the same. So to add a young, recent No. 2 pick, 7-3… guys like Hasheem who have struggled early, if they’ve struggled multiple times in multiple stops, I think the probability of them turning it around is low. Guys who have had difficulty in their first stop, there are many examples of ones who have turned it around. We feel like he’s a good bet and we were very concerned about losing Shane. Shane, as is his right, would have been someone who has every team interested in him, including us, this offseason. We did not want to take the risk of losing him and not maintaining our ability to upgrade the team going forward.

ON WHETHER OR NOT HE WAS SURPRISED THE TEAM WAS NOT ABLE TO MAKE A BIGGER MOVE:

I think it really just is. We constantly look to upgrade the team. Yes, we would love to add some of the big names that moved. Sure, that is the direction we would like to head. That’s the direction we’re going. We’re continuing to push toward that and the young players that are on this squad now we believe in and can take a step forward. With young players, there are opportunities. A few years ago we gave Aaron Brooks the opportunity and he flourished. We’re starting to see where Patrick Patterson is contributing in a big way and Chase Budinger is starting ton contribute. These guys can take big steps forward and I think we’ll see that down the stretch.

ON WHETHER OR NOT THE IN-SEASON ISSUE WITH AARON BROOKS LED TO THIS TRADE:

No, we want our players to want to start. The bottom line was we had to decide who was our starter going forward and we decided on Kyle Lowry. Didn’t mean anything against Aaron Brooks, we think he’s starter quality as well. But we feel like Aaron is a very good starter in this league and he’s about to get paid that way, and a guy who’s about to be a free agent isn’t someone who’s easy to trade for a significant amount, when every team knows they can just offer him money in free agency. Same goes for Shane, he was about to be a free agent and getting something significant is difficult there.

ON THE REASONS WHY A BIGGER MOVE WAS NOT MADE:

I think the opportunities come and you don’t know when. Take New Jersey: they had a recent No. 3 pick in the draft – I didn’t have that to offer and that was the key factor there. In New York, there was a very unique situation where a player had a significant amount of leverage in terms of he was about to become a free agent and only wanted to go one place. So those are really the only two major things that happened and obviously we didn’t get those players.

ON HOW YAO MING FITS INTO THE ROCKETS' PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:

Yao Ming has an injury players come back from. It’s a difficult injury to come back from but players come back from it and if I had to bet on one person, I’d bet on Yao Ming. But we do have to understand the reality of him having multiple injuries and we’re going to look at it very closely and evaluate once we have more info. Right now he’s in the middle of rehabbing and nobody needs to make the decision – not Yao and not ourselves. There’s really no reason to make that decision now.

I think that’s something we have to look at as potential. We can’t count on him returning but when we get the chance to look at it closely, we’re going to look at it closely.

ON WHETHER OR NOT HE'S CONCERNED ABOUT PLAYERS DICTATING WHERE THEY WANT TO PLAY:

I think players have the right, just like we all choose what city and what job (we want) as much as we can. So that personally doesn’t concern me.

In terms of making a significant move, we’re ever vigilant. We feel like we now have guys who have big time potential. Will they achieve it? That’s going to be up to their work, our work and helping them develop. So we think some of the guys on our roster can develop into something significant and at the same time we’re going to continue to look for a significant piece to add.

ON WHAT HE WOULD SAY TO FANS WHO ARE DISAPPOINTED:

I think fans our going to see that two All Star level players changed teams and I think if I was a fan I’d want to see that, too, and we’re going to continue to work toward those moves or have our players develop into All Stars – that is the goal.

We were looking to get as much as possible (at the deadline) and if we couldn’t make the move for an All Star level player, we wanted to set ourselves up to make sure we still have the ability to do that in the future.

ON MOVING FORWARD IN THE SEARCH FOR AN ALL STAR:

If you go back a year and we traded Shane for the No. 2 pick in the draft, people would be very excited right now. Clearly, Hasheem Thabeet has struggled early, so I’m not trying to sell him as the No. 2 pick in the draft and that’s what people should get excited about. What I want to sell him as is as a guy who has real potential. I think we can help him with our development structure and help him realize that potential.

Obviously, being very, very bad in this league is rewarded very heavily. What we’re doing right now is right now we’re in a playoff hunt and we’re going to continue to push in the playoff hunt. We need guys to step up to do that. That means, while we’re in the playoff hunt, we are not going to pick in the top-5 of the draft.

I think you can absolutely get locked in (to a bad situation) if you are on the fringe of the playoff hunt, but you’re doing it with guys who are signed for six years, and they’re veterans who have no upside and no other team wants them. If we’re on the fringe of the playoffs with a very young team, I think that’s a good thing. That means our players can help teams win and that means our players are what other teams value.

What we need to do is get that opportunity (to get a star player). These opportunities come and you don’t know what it will take. At one point in this league it took Kwame Brown. At one point it’s taken a little bit and sometimes it’s taken a lot. We’re positioning ourselves to be ready for the opportunity – that’s the plan. At the same time, I keep mentioning, we have young players we think can take a significant step forward to be All Stars. So we’re either going to get players who can take significant steps forward to be All Stars, or hopefully trade for them. And we’re a young team so there’s going to be more volatility. We’re either going to be a lot better than people think sometimes or a lot worse. It’s going to be harder to predict how good the Houston Rockets will be.

MORE ON HASHEEM THABEET:

He was a very effective player in college. You don’t go second in the draft if you’re just a project. I mean, he was a very good player for Connecticut. What happened in Memphis, we helped comfortable after researching it that Hasheem was someone who could realize that potential that was seen in college, so it’s very similar to the Terrence Williams trade, in that, as we investigated the issues we felt that there was a good chance that a change of scenery could allow him to realize his potential – that’s how we feel about both of them.

ON RUMORS THAT THE ROCKETS WERE ATTEMPTING TO ACQUIRE THE NO. 2 PICK IN THE 2009 DRAFT AND WHETHER OR NOT HOUSTON WOULD HAVE TAKEN THABEET:

No, it was not for him. We would have picked someone else. That said, we would have taken Thabeet, it unlikely would have been at two but we would’ve taken that bet just like we’re taking it now. Now we’ve got someone who we would’ve picked in that draft who has a lot of potential. Clearly, he’s struggled early but we think, in a new environment, he’s got a chance.

ON WHY THE MOVES CAME RIGHT DOWN TO THE DEADLINE:

You’re always juggling multiple scenarios. We were juggling a couple trades we thought could make us better in a hurry and get to the point where, maybe we’re not the favorites in the West, but we’ve got a real shot at winning a round in the playoffs – those trades didn’t materialize so we went with what we thought was the best available to make sure after the deadline we’re closer to a championship contender than we were before. That’s really all I look at at the deadline. That’s our only focus in every single move.

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