Q&A With Daryl Morey
Rockets General Manager breaks down what he's seen through the first month of the season
HOUSTON - With the Rockets riding a 7-game winning streak, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up with General Manager Daryl Morey to hear his thoughts on what hes seen through the first month of the season. Also, there was the little matter of clearing up a minor Twitter skirmish that occurred when Rockets.coms Jason Friedman described Houstons 12-point fourth quarter lead over New Orleans as comfortable a characterization Morey rapidly took to Twitter to take issue with.
What follows is the transcript of their conversation:
JCF: So I guess we have to begin by defining what is and what isnt a comfortable lead?
DM: (laughs) That was pretty funny. What the heck were you thinking?!? Theres no upside to saying something like that even if youre right!
JCF: But its not about being right; its about trying to make an accurate assessment of where things stood and what was going on at the time.
DM: Thats like saying, Oh, Im so happy Im not dead right now. Its a true statement but why say it?
JCF: But I dont believe in jinxes
DM: I dont believe in them either! But I believe in making statements that have more positive than negative qualities. That had no positive quality to it and it had some minute negative chance; not like youre impacting the game but like, just why?
JCF: OK, well in that case then lets talk about something positive like winning seven games in a row.
DM: Yeah, lets not talk about our seven-game winning streak (laughs)
JCF: Says the guy who doesnt believe in jinxes. Well, last time we talked you wanted to temper expectations because of the brutal start to the schedule
DM: That feels like it was just yesterday.
JCF: I know. But thats this season in a nutshell, isnt it? Anyway, the fact remains that your message was pretty prescient; you asked fans to stick with us through the first 10 games
DM: Sand-bagging is my special term for it
JCF: Right, it was all just an elaborate hustle straight out of the Paul Newman collection. Seriously though, the team has clearly bounced back thanks to any numbers of factors great play from Kyle, the insertion of Dalembert and Parsons into the starting lineup, getting Courtney back, Patricks continued progression, a softening schedule so what else has stood out to you during this resurgence, if you even want to call it that, because I also believe this team wasnt as bad as its record indicated during those first 10 games.
DM: Right, youre never as bad as you think or as good, either. I mean, obviously Kyle, Chandler and Dalembert are all playing above where they have in the past. Kevin started a little slow and has really come on of late and then Scola is Mr. Steady. That unit has been giving us double-digit leads and if you want to win an NBA game, getting a double-digit lead early as long as you dont tweet about it is really helpful toward winning.
Then the bench started slow as we clarified roles, but really Goran and Patrick and Courtney getting healthy have all solidified the bench. So weve had a couple bench wins now which we needed, especially in a season like this. Like Tuesday night, obviously we had some starters on the floor who played well, too, but it was a lot of the bench guys who came in and gave us a lift and allowed us to keep some of our guys minutes below 40 which is a positive in this kind of season.
JCF: We also talked last time about Kyle taking the next step to become All-Star-caliber. Safe to say hes done that?
DM: Yeah, hes playing at that level. I dont really care if hes picked. I hope he gets picked Ive made a bunch of votes myself for the team and for Kyle but hes playing at that level. Obviously the NBA is not really about play, its about consistency, and the fact were 17 games in and hes been very consistent even as defenses have gotten more intense and are loading up on him, thats a really good sign. Weve had a lot of positive developments; that might be No. 1 on the list. Kyle really has taken a step forward, even after his step forward last year.
JCF: I know many people are surprised with the production Dalembert has given you thus far, but it seems to me this is a case of a guy whose skill set in this case elite rebounding and shot-blocking skills is a perfect match for what this team needed. Fair?
DM: One, Sam deserves credit for really working hard. Two, obviously we really did have a big need. And three, I think as you look through Sams history, he really responds to being on a team like ours and with a coaching staff like ours. Those are all things we hoped would be the case and have proven true.
JCF: I know youve wanted to see this club push the pace the last couple years. You were very successful doing so last year but not as much this season
DM: Were right around the same place as we were last year. We measure it differently than some other sites you might see. By our metrics, we were ninth last year and were 11th this season.
That said, the one thing were doing differently this year because were really emphasizing defense is were putting a major emphasis on our pace coming out of defense; getting stops and then pushing the pace. I do think at some point, over time, were going to want to grow to being a pace-all-the-time team after makes, after everything. But I think messaging-wise, we want to keep the team focused on defense thats served us well and we want to focus on our up-tempo play really keying off our defense. Thats something I know the coaching staff has really emphasized.
JCF: From a shot selection standpoint, the Rockets are one of the better teams in terms of their ratio of long 2s taken versus 3-point attempts. I think youre in the top-10 in that area. Does that matter to you?
DM: I think shot selection is a big thing but were running a different offense so were going to get some different shot selection. Were still running some corner sets but were not running it as much so were going to get different shot selection. Obviously what matters is if our offense is outscoring your defense. Thats my genius analysis right there. As Red Auerbach said when I met with him: Just put the ball in the hole more than the other guy. He would say, At the end of the day all that matters is that you put the round ball in the hole more than the other guys.
JCF: Unless, of course, the other teams baskets are all 3-pointers which could then potentially alter the final result.
DM: OK, fine. A weighted round ball. Reds trying to keep it simple, man. It doesnt sound as good when you say it that way.
JCF: Fair enough. Well speaking of bucking the traditional wisdom, most years you might see teams with excellent depth but little star power do well in the regular season but falter in the postseason when the more superstar-laden teams are able to play their big guns more minutes. Do you think, however, that this season with its compressed schedule and everything else might provide a unique opportunity, allowing clubs like the Sixers, Nuggets, Pacers and maybe even the Rockets to not only enjoy regular season success due to their impressive depth and young legs, but also a better chance to translate that into postseason success, too?
DM: Well I would just say that three teams have separated themselves Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City; those three to me are definitely in a little bit of a different class but that the Western Conference is just as deep as it always seems to be. So considering were probably a good chunk away from those three teams I wish I could say we werent I dont think for us the scenario is really any different.
JCF: So I assume, then, that doesnt really impact your philosophy leading up to the trade deadline in terms of there being a unique opportunity this season that you might be able to take advantage of this year?
DM: No, I think were always evaluating that. I think a team that eventually wins a title, its rare for it to just go from not making the playoffs or first-round losers to go right to winning the title. Obviously there are examples like the Celtics but there arent a ton of examples; its obviously more normal to have a couple years where youre in the second round or the conference finals. But, yeah, if theres an opportunity that presents itself to make us better well definitely look at it just like we always do.
JCF: So in terms of that team progression graph, where do you see the Rockets as being right now?
DM: I think were maybe feeling a little bit better about things than we were when the season started in terms of some of the positives we talked about like Lowry taking a step forward, Chandler Parsons play, etc. Though, to be frank, Chander has outplayed someone who gave us very solid minutes a year ago in Chase so thats not as big of an upgrade as maybe it seems at first. And then theres Sam. I think Dalemberts solid play and Lowrys solid play are the two big factors that make us look at things differently. But I think it frankly shifts us from being a team that a bunch of NBA experts out there might expect to miss the playoffs to now being a team that has improved our chances to make the playoffs, but I dont think it puts us in where were battling Oklahoma City I think we need one more step forward from someone on our roster to be at that point.
JCF: So what are you looking for over the next two weeks?
DM: I think were looking at hoping to win a lot of games because I think our schedule is still something where well need to win a lot if we want to make the playoffs.
JCF: So its about building a cushion for when the schedule inevitably gets harder again?
DM: Yeah, we cant take our eye off the ball right now because its going to get bumpy again real soon here. Weve got to win a lot of these upcoming games to stay on a playoff pace.
JCF: So sounds like weve come full circle then: right back to tempering expectations. Thanks, Daryl.