Daryl Morey Stepping Down as Rockets GM

Daryl Morey has stepped down as Rockets GM.
Daryl Morey has stepped down as Rockets GM. Photo by Jeff Balke
According to reports, Daryl Morey's decade-long tenure with the Houston Rockets is coming to a close. Morey will step down as the team's general manager effective immediately and the team will promote Rafael Stone to the GM position. Stone will become the tenth black NBA executive to hold the title of general manager.

So far, there have not been any reports as to why this is happening now, only that Morey approached the Rockets after the team was bounced from the playoffs in the COVID-shortened season. He is going to remain with the team in a consulting role until the team finds a new head coach, which apparently could be Jeff Van Gundy, the team's former coach. Rumors are swirling that he and the team are trying to negotiate terms of a contract that would bring him back to the Rockets.

In less than a year, all of the big three sports in Houston have had turnover at both the coach and general manager positions. The Astros fired GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch in the wake of the sign stealing scandal last offseason. The Texans, just over a week ago, fired Bill O'Brien, who was both head coach and GM for the team.

Immediately following the Rockets final loss of the postseason, coach Mike D'Antoni announced he would not be rejoining the team. D'Antoni was unable to reach a contract agreement with the team last offseason and decided he would not return.

While Stone is considered a bright and talented personnel guy, he has massive shoes to fill. Morey essentially reinvented much of how the professional game is managed. He was given the nickname "wizard" for his ability to pull seemingly impossible deals out of thin air. He was responsible for trades that brought the team players like Tracy McGrady, James Harden, Chris Paul and, most recently, Russell Westbrook. And he managed to pluck players out of seeming obscurity and develop them into talent.

His use and, some would say, outright manipulation of the salary cap was masterful and he was one of the critical players in the use and expansion of the developmental league.

Perhaps more importantly, his use of analytics led to the small ball that is being pursued by most teams in the league, many via former proteges of Morey.

His ultimate failing in Houston was the inability to bring another title to the city. Whether it was injuries to McGrady and Yao Ming or the wrong pairings with Harden, the team never could quite get over that hump. They came closest in 2018, when they won a team record 65 games and came within one pulled Chris Paul hamstring and a couple of three pointers away from the NBA Finals.

Now, the Rockets will have to begin anew, which is particularly daunting given where they sit with the salary cap, with the talent they have (much of which is aging) and with not only a young, unproven GM, but a new coach and an owner who has only been on the job a couple years.

At the moment and with all due respect to Stone, this feels like a massive blow to the Rockets chances going forward. Fans will have to hope the pieces fall into place, and quickly.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke