Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri is stealing a little bit of the Daryl Morey thunder. Morey likes to be considered the Genius GM. But he’s never been in the Finals. King of the North Masai Ujiri has. He built and developed the Raptors, then added Kawhi Leonard. So, it wasn’t a surprise that on the morning of NBA Finals Game 1 Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey threw out a stunner. Everyone on the roster is available.
What did he mean exactly by everyone is available? James Harden is available? The MVP? Chris Paul of the ginormous contract is available? Clint Capela who he just signed last year is available?
Read the fine print. Morey and newbie Rocket owner Tilman Fertitta are willing to shake things up if they have an offer they cannot turn down.
Fertitta is a gambler in the image of the late Jerry Buss but with way more money. He is estimated to have a $5 billion net worth and is top-200 wealthiest Americans thanks to restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, aquariums and sports teams. Before owning the Rockets, he owned part of the Houston Texans but had to sell when he acquired the Golden Nugget casinos.
Fertitta’s ownership of the Rockets is hands on. The first thing he decided once the season was kaput was to low ball Mike D’Antoni. Perhaps it was to make sure D’Antoni quits.
When the Rockets coach was employed by the Lakers, and they offered him a one year deal, D’Antoni was insulted and resigned. He has learned his lesson. It’s better to be lame duck than to be unemployed.
Fertitta offered D’Antoni a contract with incentives that pay him when he wins each round in the playoffs. For a coach who has been around as long as D’Antoni-29 years-to have to prove himself before being granted an incentive is disrespect. D’Antoni won’t say as much publicly. He clearly wants to continue to coach the James Harden-ites.
Fertitta strikes me as the kind of owner who doesn’t take kindly to employee criticism. When the minimum wage went up, he added a surcharge at his restaurants until there was a massive outcry. He’s not just going to stand still for insurrection.
D’Antoni is playing it cool and taking the firing of his assistants and making less than Luke Walton in stride. Power isn’t on his side and there aren’t other teams lining up willing to clear the deck for the offensive guru.
As for the on-court product: bitter about their playoff run ending on a Steph Curry hyper blast, the Rockets management have decided to go big baller. But running restaurants and casinos are easier than a NBA team because of the restrictions.
In the NBA, you don’t trade players. You trade contracts. Chris Paul’s contract is a mother. James Harden has a big contract but Harden can drop 40 whenever he wants. The problem is the way Harden plays. The ball in his hands all of the time. The Warriors have proven that playoff Harden can be defended. So who is going to take that financial investment?
- LeBron James paired with Chris Paul. Yes for the Rockets. No for the Vogel Lakers. Vogel is a defensive coach and Harden…well just no.
- Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. No for OKC. No for D’Antoni ball.
- Chris Paul for Victor Oladipo. Yes for the Rockets. No for the Pacers.
- Chris Paul for Hassan Whiteside? Yes for the Rockets. Yes for the Heat.
- James Harden for Anthony Davis?
Now that is the big baller move Morey and Fertitta need to make. Chris Paul and Anthony Davis would have mad game. Plus the ball would move. The Rockets would be tough to defend. Harden and Zion would be bling power. Alvin Gentry could take the best of Harden and make it work with Zion.
In June, on the outside of the NBA Finals, analytics guru Daryl Morey has envy. Masai Ujiri is getting credit that should be his. But where Ujiri is different than Morey is that the only homerun Ujiri hit was the Kawhi trade. Everyone else was because of NBA playbook regular. Find undrafted players. Draft athleticism and develop their scoring game. Everybody play defense. Build a team of length. Everyone make free throws. Fire one coach, hire the assistant.
The Rockets are not patient, despite it being a 12 year Morey run. They want to cheat the system each and every year. They claim they have a crush on the Warriors. But the Warriors built their team through the draft. Only then were they a player in free agency. The Rockets want to overpay and then win. Those NBA days are over. Either you draft the lottery like Golden State, or you draft the second round and add players, develop players, and take advantage of the market like Toronto.
Homeruns sound good but this ain’t baseball.