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Wednesday August 11, 2010 7:17 PM

Breaking Down The Deal


Daryl Morey discusses the Rockets' acquisition of Courtney Lee

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Wednesday evening, Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey took time out from his vacation to discuss the 4-team deal that netted the Rockets Courtney Lee (and a $6.3 million trade exception) in exchange for Trevor Ariza. What follows is the transcript of Morey's conference call with the media. Click here to read Rockets.com's breakdown of the deal.

Q: How do you see Lee fitting in with Kevin Martin?

DM: I think they complement each other well. I think Courtney is a guy who is a very solid defender. I think obviously Kevin is gifted offensively, so the two of them provide a very solid tandem at that spot. Coach Adelman, it’s up to him to decide how to play our different guys together and to decide on who’s going to win the minutes at the all the spots. We have a lot of depth, a lot of very quality players and thankfully we’ve got a lot of players with a great approach, who are going to focus on winning no matter what their role is.

Q: What do you like about Lee?

DM: This is a guy who we were focused on acquiring in the (’08) draft. I think, overall, the deal is similar to the Kyle Lowry deal. We’ve been trying to acquire Courtney when he went to Orlando and then he went to New Jersey and as you can tell, myself being on vacation, you can just never tell when an opportunity is going to strike. We really target players who we think will fit in well here over time and when we got our first chance to acquire him we really were obviously fairly aggressive to get this done.

He’s very versatile. He can defend multiple spots – for sure the 2-guard but also can guard 1s and some 3s. He’s a very solid cutter and shooter with a very high basketball IQ. We see upside in his game. He’s going into his third year in the league. Not many guys out of college play as much as he’s played going into their third year, being mostly the starter in both years in the league. He played 16 playoff games and started in the NBA Finals (his rookie year). So he’s a guy we see with a lot of upside and fits really well.

I frankly don’t envy Coach Adelman’s job of figuring out how to put things together. But I think as Coach Elston Turner says, they’ve got a lot of pieces to work with, a lot of players with different strengths and when they’re putting together a gameplan, they’re going to have a lot of great options of how to put that together because every position, 1 through 5, we’ve got players with different skill sets to bring to the game.

Q: Was this more a deal to move Ariza’s contract or to get Courtney?

DM: This was an opportunity to get Courtney. I mentioned the Kyle Lowry deal and I hesitate a little bit because Kyle is a very good player and I don’t necessarily want to put expectations on Courtney to be similar to Kyle – they’re very different players. But in terms of our aggressiveness and trying to acquire players who we think fit our winning culture and style of play, fit our overall focus on what we value on the floor, when those players become available we aggressively go for it.

We also like how this gave us a lot of flexibility going forward with the $6.3 million trade exception. That makes putting deals together, obviously simple ones where we’re taking on a player $6 million or less, but it also opens up bigger trades where we’re taking on more money. This one happened to be one where we’re taking on less but that trade exception really gives us a lot of flexibility in bigger deals going forward.

We’re pretty happy with our roster, we actually were before this trade. We didn’t expect this opportunity to arise but, again, we sort of keep a target list of players that we think have a big future in this league and a big chance to be a part of the Rockets and when we get a chance, you don’t know when it will come, we jump on it.

Q: What did Trevor not do to allow him to be in a trade like this a year after coming here?

DM: I think to get something we like you have to give up something. I really like Trevor. I do think there was a situation where it was going to be difficult for Coach to figure out how to make the minutes work at the 3-spot. That wasn’t a motivation – we thoughts we could make it work and we made it work real well last year. But we really like Courtney.

I do think it’s similar to the Kyle deal in that Rafer (Alston) was a very, very solid starting point guard on a team that won 50 games multiple times and a starting point guard on an NBA Finals team when he went to Orlando. So it wasn’t a situation where we were down on Trevor, it was really about we think Courtney has got a big future and obviously in terms of his game, this just being his third year in the league, we see a path of improvement there as well.

Q: Is it also like the Kyle deal as well in that you’re getting a guy who can be as good as the guy you got rid of, and hopefully better in the future, but today it’s a lot less money as well?

DM: I think both Lee and Trevor are valued around the league. That has to be a factor in our trade. It’s not just what they’ll provide to us, but how they’re viewed around the league and I think both of them are valued. Obviously one of our stated goals is that at some point, and who knows when the opportunity will arise, we want to make a move for a star who comes lose, or like Boston did in trading for Garnett a few years ago. Obviously those opportunities don’t come along often but if something comes along like that, it’s something we have to look at and we feel like we’re in a similar or better situation to get those kinds of things done after this trade than before.

Q: Was getting back below the luxury tax a priority for you?

DM: We’re over the luxury tax by a couple million dollars so that wasn’t a part of this.

Q: Do you still have salary flexibility?

DM: Yeah we do. I think for sure that trade exception is something I’m authorized to use at any point if there’s something that will help us win.

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