New Rockets Era Begins With Rafael Stone Replacing Daryl Morey As GM
The Rockets "moved quickly" to replace GM Daryl Morey, who stepped down yesterday after 13 years, promoting Exec VP Rafael Stone to GM, according to Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Stone has been with the franchise since '06 when he started as its General Counsel. Morey said that his decision to step down was considered for "a month after returning from the NBA’s Florida bubble" and was "made for a variety of reasons." But mostly because "it 'felt right' to leave the Rockets and see where that takes him." Morey will "officially step down on Nov. 1 and continue to work as an advisor on the team’s coaching search." He said that he "wanted to leave the team with the right leadership in place" and "praised Stone and [Assistant GM] Eli Witus." Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta said that the decision was "entirely Morey’s and unrelated to Morey’s controversial tweet a year ago in support of the Hong Kong protesters" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/16). Fertitta added that his relationship with Morey "was not affected by the Hong Kong tweet." He said, “We’ve never had a cross word over it." Morey said their relationship had “'been great the whole time' and that he was not leaving because of a disagreement over the team’s strategy or direction" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16).
SUCCESSOR-IN-WAITNG: The CHRONICLE's Feigen in a separate piece notes though Morey "long has been the face of the Rockets’ front office," over the years he has "kept his assistants heavily involved not just in decision-making, but in the negotiations themselves." Stone, who has been "known within the Rockets’ hierarchy for being able to move easily from the most traditional basketball minds to the most cutting edge members of the analytics department, often has been on the forefront of moves for role players." He also has been involved in "some [of] the biggest moves in the NBA" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/16).
RENWED PRESSURE ON OWNERSHIP: THE ATHLETIC's Zach Harper writes throughout the entire Morey era in Houston, the GM has been the "front-facing presence throughout every pivot they’ve had." While the Rockets "can get competent front office personnel to guide the organization, we’ll now find out just how much Tilman Fertitta is about that NBA governor life." A team governor "doesn’t have to be the front-facing voice of the organization, but considering the fan base’s reaction to this news seems rooted in distrust for Fertitta, it’s fair to put the onus on him to be that voice." Currently, the Fertitta franchise "culture and direction is one of dilapidation" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/15).
WIN-NOW WINDOW GONE? Fertitta yesterday said, "Sometimes change is good, and let’s just see what happens. We’re going all in this year and next year and whatever we can do to try to win a championship." In Houston, Brian Smith: "That sounds great. But I’m just like every Rockets fan in the world right now: I’m having an increasingly hard time believing it’s true." With Morey following former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni out the door, Stone "must be the living combination of Bob Myers and Rob Pelinka to actually back up the owner’s bold words and push the Rockets past the hard ceiling that Morey’s creations always hit." Smith: "I’m not shocked because this was the perfect time for Morey to go. He had worn out win-now and the often-frustrating Rockets were still falling short" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/16).
THREE AND D: ESPN.com's Zach Lowe wrote Morey's critics "might clown him today upon his resignation for failing to win a title." While "some of those criticisms have merit," Morey is "not the only analytics-savvy person to assume a position of enormous power within an NBA team." But he was the "forerunner, and his influence on the game ... has been massive." It is "reasonable to argue NBA basketball is both more mathematically efficient and (with some teams) less interesting to watch because of Morey" (ESPN.com, 10/15). ESPN’s Pablo Torre: “As the history of basketball goes, he’s a seminal figure. He is the Billy Beane of the NBA in various respects." Torre added, "He has had a fruitful front office general managing tree, but when this news came out, my first thought was, I’m not surprised by this. He’s been warring with his owner, Tilman Fertitta, who’s kind of a loose cannon businessman in his right" (“Highly Questionable,” ESPN, 10/15).