Q&A with Daryl Morey: Sounding Off on Rockets Hot Start

Houston Press: So I know it’s early, but you’ve got to be thrilled with the developments of this past week: five games — four against playoff teams (including the world champs) — and you guys emerge from that pressure cooker with a 4-1 record. Not a bad way to begin your first season as GM.

Daryl Morey: Yeah, I mean 77 to go, but early wins I think have a positive impact on many levels, in terms of team harmony and obviously getting people positive on the new players and new system. So we’re definitely happy with the direction we’re going and we have to keep it up.

HP: What have you noticed so far that strikes you as a bit of a pleasant surprise? And on the flip side, what stands out as an area of concern?

DM: On the concern side -- I wouldn’t call it a concern, I’d say it’s more something we just need to work through -- our offense is taking longer for our guys to get in sync with each other than we anticipated. So that’s something we need to continue to work on. On the other side, our defense has been as good as or better than last year, so we feel good about that.

HP: What about the turnover bug? That was something this team struggled with last year, and during the preseason as well. And throughout the first week, it has continued to rear its head.

DM: Well, you paid attention. Yeah, we had that issue the early part of the year last year, although we’re actually a little bit better than last year. I guess on some level versus expectations — given how much we threw the ball around during the preseason — we’re ahead of that. That said, it still needs to be something that we focus on and continue to improve.

HP: I thought one of the real underrated keys to last night’s win was your team’s ability to win the battle of three-point differential. In many respects, you kind of turned the table on the Spurs because that’s something they usually excel at.

DM: Well, I think frankly it’s hard to shut down our three-point game with Yao and Tracy. Tracy is such a good passer and then Yao is commanding a double-team where he punishes them; when Duncan was single-covering him late, [Yao] did a good job. So it’s hard to shut us down in terms of taking them. And we did just a terrific job defending them all over the court and especially getting them out of their three-point game which, as you pointed out, is a big part of their game.

HP: Finally, is there any way you can appeal to Commissioner Stern to have the Southwest division winner receive some sort of special reward? Not that this is a newsflash, but it’s just shaping up to be such a killer division. Even winless Memphis has the look of a .500 team.

DM: Yeah, it’s amazing. I think the division is 14-5, with three of the losses coming from inner division games. So it’s definitely been a very intense division. And, you know, we don’t get to decide which division we’re in or what games we get to play on a given night, so you just play ‘em. And I agree with you, I think they’ve done a nice job in Memphis. They could have 35-45 wins, or somewhere in there. So you could have four teams with 50+ wins, and another team in the 40-win range, all in one division. It could be — I’m sure you’d have to look back — maybe the strongest division ever in basketball, in the last 20 years at least. – Jason Friedman

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