At some point, I hope Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle stumbles upon the realization that there is more to sportswriting than attempting to rip Daryl Morey.
If you don't see a clear agenda over the course of reading these pieces, I advise you to gather your resume and submit an application to the Chronicle yourself; you shouldn't have much trouble landing a paycheck. My guess is that if you show up to work on time and improve yourself as a writer with each proceeding week... well, they'll probably fire you. Such is life.
Over the years, I've generally supported the moves that Morey has made since being named general manager. Looking back at the circumstances surrounding each transaction, it's difficult for me to find many faults in Morey's decision-making. It's not Morey himself that draws my support. Sure, he's a nice guy, or at least he appeared so when I met him for a brief interview in South Padre earlier this year. But for purposes of clarification, I have no personal connection to Morey whatsoever. I evaluate his job without any form of bias, I can assure you that.
On the contrary, I think it's clear that when evaluating the Rockets, Solomon sheds aside any fair analysis on the basketball team -- you know, the group dressed in red that takes the court and actually plays the games and such -- in favor of employing closed-minded absolutes to nail Morey to a stake. Why? Because it makes him sleep better at night, that's why.
Let's have a look at the analysis. Brace yourselves for a long, boredom-induced ride:
April 21, 2011: As a GM, Morey has some nerve
At least we've established the subject in the title. Alert, America: Daryl Morey is the subject of this article. Let us begin.
Maybe Daryl Morey is feeling the pressure. That's good. He should be feeling it.
Possibly the least-biased statement to emerge from Solomon during his week-long tear. Cherish it.
The Rockets' general manager just ran off a successful coach because of an unwillingness to bend.
"The Rockets' general manager and its head coach failed to agree upon a shared philosophy and parted ways." Wait, does my version lack a risqué tone? Damn, it appears so. I knew I should have watched more TMZ this week.
Rick Adelman, the successful coach with the Rockets' all-time winningest record percentage-wise (with the team and overall), just bailed on the fresh-faced GM because of his own unwillingness to bend.
Solomon actually forgot to include a link to Adelman's Wikipedia page, as well as a highlight package dedicated to praising the backdoor cut, as gracefully backed by the song "You're The Best" by Joe Esposito. But I suppose I can excuse such an atrocity. This time.
The difference between the two is Adelman has more of a track record of success, and at 64, the old dog isn't inclined to learn many new tricks. Rolling over for a new-school GM certainly isn't one of them. Who can blame him?
Just what a last-place team needs: a stubborn, old school ringleader. No, I can't blame him, Solomon. But what I can do is picture Brad Miller showcasing his innermost desire to play the point guard position while Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill wonder exactly how last-place the Rockets need to be before each of them can receive proper playing time. Oh, and if you don't take a liking to my referencing Houston as a "last-place team," you should stick around a while longer. Trust me.
But unproven though his philosophy might be, Morey's unwillingness to toss it out isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. If you don't believe in what you're doing, you aren't likely to be very good at it.
If Morey hasn't been unwilling to make a few changes to his philosophy -- such as, you know, hiring a new coach for the very purpose of changing the team philosophy -- then... actually, I'll stop there. Made my point mid-sentence. That's always nice.
It takes nerve for a sub-40-year-old with all of four years running an NBA franchise to tell the likes of Adelman, who entered the league before Morey was born, what a team's philosophy is and will be. If the Texans' young GM told his less experienced, less successful, non-Hall of Fame head coach what it is and would be more often, perhaps that franchise wouldn't be in such a sad state.
Lesson for you young Houston-area sports writers out there: when looking for padding with which to back a statement, always fire one off towards Gary Kubiak. Hopefully, we'll forget what you were trying to say in the first place and instea... OHMYGOD KUBIAK? WELL DON'T GET ME STARTED!
Not that a GM should be heavy-handed. Morey was smart not to dictate to Adelman whom to play and how to play them. The key was Morey made trades Adelman didn't like and has yet to make the trade that would make the Rockets a contender.
"Solomon, how dare you hide from Morey the gigantic red Successfully Trade For Dwight Howard Button. He's the GM, for goodness sakes, it belongs to him!"
Note: If Carl Landry for Kevin Martin wasn't an idea conjured straight from Adelman himself, I'll be damned. Also, while Solomon and I each wanted to swap Aaron Brooks straight up for Deron Williams, only one of us appears to have the wherewithal to notice the obstacles in that approach.
"We're not a championship-caliber roster right now," Morey said.
"Morey's unwillingness to toss out his [philosophy]..."
Adelman got more out of this team than Morey gave him to work with. In the last two years, he rustled up a fairly tasty batch of chocolate chip cookies out of one drop of chocolate and a spoonful of sugar.
Shame on Morey for not "giving" Adelman a healthy Yao Ming. What a jerkface.
Morey has spent as much time at the grocery store as any GM in the business, but until he shows up at a news conference at Toyota Center to announce the acquisition of a star, there isn't a chef on the planet capable of delivering championship cookies from this dough.
In the meantime, while Morey continues the difficult search to find a star player, it looks as if the only smart thing to do is for the Rockets to hire a development-oriented coach who isn't hell-bent on winning a championship this season! But wait... what does this mean for Miller? Hold the phone! Are you telling me that Brad Miller won't be allotted minutes anymore? WELL THEN HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP?!
One problem with the stated desire to find that special chocolate chip is the current nuts on the team can't help but wonder how, or if, they fit in the recipe.
Again, you can't necessarily blame Morey for that. That is the cost of doing business when so many other teams are working with better ingredients.
I'm confused: does Solomon want the Rockets to tank or not? Better ingredients come from tanking -- i.e. youth and draft picks; the recipe to cooking up the Deron Williams trade -- but if this team is trying to avoid falling to last place in the division and is thus simultaneously battling for the playoffs, keeping Adelman would make sense, right?
But perhaps Morey has learned that trolling the aisles shouting, "Get your nuts here!" isn't great for team morale. He managed to upset players who were traded and those who weren't. Not to mention the entire coaching staff, which had to deal with those nuts every day.
That's inexperience. Or something.
Hey, look: a valid point. No, seriously. I actually agree with this and have ever since it appeared to be an issue.
My only quibble with this assertion lies in this question: if Solomon wants Morey to acquire a big star, how else does he suggest a GM to assemble a package other than to A) Replace an ancy, "wins-only" coach with one comfortable with reloading or rebuilding, or B) Move parts until they add up to the whole? See what I'm getting at here?
Of course, every player on the roster is on the trading block. Not one Rocket is an irreplaceable chocolate chip. It'll be that way going forward, too.
Morey, who puts more pressure on himself than he admits publicly, just needs to stop talking about it so much.
Morey is an OK GM. He could one day prove to be a very good one. Rockets owner Les Alexander is gambling that he will one day be a great one.
All valid points, although I do question the divide between a public versus private sense of instability. If average to above-average players find out that they might be traded through listening to 610, a reality check may be in order. News flash: 40-win teams who miss the playoffs aren't likely to remain intact for too long.
Danny Ainge went from decent (or worse) GM to great GM when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen fell in his lap.
They fell from the sky, and not from trading prized draft picks, budding star Al Jefferson and coping with the worst season in franchise history. If Solomon is giving Morey a hard time for a plus-.500 finish, I'd hate to see him lay into Ainge prior to him making two no-brainer deals.
Solomon tangents to a Les Alexander paragraph before returning to Morey to close:
One of Morey's strengths - he is quite willing to pull the trigger on player moves - should be attractive to a new coach. (Too many of these nuts are terrible defenders.)
One of his weaknesses - no one knows if his plan will ever deliver a big-time winner - only adds to the pressure. We're at the point where it is time to stop roasting the nuts and start looking at the guy who brought them here.
We'll assume that Solomon has already consulted the "Rome wasn't built in a day" phrase and chose to disagree with it. That's my only explanation.
April 17, 2011: Rockets' last-place finish is unacceptable
We're actually going to go in reverse-order for the time being. Why, exactly? We've seen what Solomon can do in an article directed squarely at Morey, but now we're in for a treat. Here, now, is an article written four days prior to the Adelman Separation, in which Solomon transforms a commentary on the Rockets' season into a Morey roast. Again, not that the players themselves matter or anything. The Chronicle can simply toss those relevant notes to the sidebar, just so the agenda isn't completely obvious.
Last place is unacceptable. That would be the opening and closing remarks of Daryl Morey's State of the Rockets address, whenever he decides to give one.
"Well you know, Jerome, actually, the way the NBA playoff seedings work, it's not necessarily the division standings that determine..."
The Rockets' general manager might as well get to it. The playoffs started Saturday, and his team isn't in them. Again.
All that truly matters right now is that the Rockets finished in last place in the Southwest Division, behind San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans and Memphis. This is the team Morey has built.
"Actually, what matters more than divisional standings is that the Rockets came up just short in the conference..."
It has been a long time since the Rockets, this city's proudest and winningest major sports franchise, finished last.
"You seem to be missing the point. The fact that the Rockets finished last in their division doesn't exactly matter or make much of a..."
The Kings were in Kansas City, the Clippers were in San Diego and the closest thing to Air Jordan was Alia. The last time the Rockets finished last, Ralph Sampson was a rookie, Hakeem Olajuwon was Phi Slama Jamming it and Kyle Lowry was minus-2 years old.
"Now you know that I always appreciate a nice history lesson, but for the relevant purposes of this article I think we need to make clear a few things..."
A lot of good and bad has happened to the franchise in the 27 years since it last finished last, but none of that matters now. The most important thing that happened to this year's Rockets is they finished last. That is the message.
When you actually finish in last place, it is misuse of the Lombardian thought to say that everybody who doesn't finish in first place finishes in last place.
"Again, Jerome, the Rockets technically finished in last in their division, but if you'd like to make a more logical point, they actually finished ninth in their conference -- the barometer for playoff contention -- and managed a winning record despite..."
You surely shouldn't brag about how you battled as a team. Or how you hung together through thick and thin. Or how you put up a good fight, played hard and never threw in the towel.
"Gee, I sure hope that in exactly four days you don't decide to make a case for keeping Rick Adelman because that would really make you look..."
What would have happened had you not battled, not hung together, not fought, not played hard and tossed in the towel? Would you have finished more last?
"Winston, I need you to call the NBA front office and find out if the Rockets could have indeed finished more last than they actually finish-- WIPE THAT GODDAMN SMIRK OFF YOUR FAT FACE."
Last-place futility in the early 1980s brought superstar players Sampson and Olajuwon, who would lead the team to the NBA Finals in two years (and in the case of Olajuwon, eventually to a pair of league titles.)
"That may be fine and dandy, but last place futility in this day and age could bring stellar Duke point guard Kyrie Irving! We're not sure if he's fully healthy and he only played twelve games in college but boy would he add some much needed size to the Rockets' frontcourt, just like ol' Hakeem did, eh?"
This year's mediocrity got the Rockets a 0.5 percent chance of having the No. 1 pick in the draft. That's half of 1 percent. The same as last year, when the Rockets also finished with the best record among teams that didn't make the playoffs.
"Look, I can find the facts myself, but now that you've finally decided to leave this whole 'last place' business alone..."
Morey might think of that as an accomplishment, but it simply means the Rockets are last in the NBA welfare line. Of the places for an NBA team to be, that may be the worst.
Either you don't want to be in that line - meaning you're playing this weekend - or you want to be at the front of it.
Clearly, even before Morey and Adelman went their separate ways, Morey didn't consider this season to be a success. I'm fairly certain that he didn't want to be in the line to which Solomon alludes. Also, is Solomon really finding ways to fault the GM for a three-game difference in the standings? Really?
The last time the Rockets missed the playoffs two years in a row was during that fateful stretch when Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis were the team's leading scorers every season.
Bad days, those. Bad days, these.
For a couple of years now, Morey has been talking about how well-suited the team is to make something substantial happen. We're still waiting.
I'm fairly certain that the whole Yao Ming absence thingy may not have been in Morey's plans when he made these claims. Can we fault him for not adequately finding a backup for Yao, despite finding Miller amidst a weak class of free agent big men? No, because then Solomon would have to criticize and doubt Yao. And that can't happen.
The uncertainty of who would and wouldn't be here was a distraction early in the season. Turns out nothing major happened.
"So if you're calling for a big move to be made, and if you're at the helm of arguably the most widely read media source in the city, and if YOU'RE the one talking about distractions..."
Would Morey trade his roster for that of Memphis or New Orleans?
I dare anyone to pose this question a few years down the road, especially when considering New Orleans.
Are Lionel Hollins and Monty Williams better coaches than Rick Adelman? If not, why did their teams - Memphis and New Orleans, respectively - finish ahead of the Rockets?
"Wait, so we're comparing one subpar year in the midst of a franchise's slew of 50-win seasons to the Grizzlies' first playoff series in... how long? Is this not the best Hornets' roster we'll see for a few, if not more years to come?"
Memphis has won more games than the Rockets in the last two years. So have nine other teams in the Western Conference. Had Chris Paul played in more than 45 games a year ago, the Hornets, who have won just two fewer games than the Rockets in that time, would be on that list, too.
"Oh, nice. We've expanded the window to two years. That's totally more fair."
Oh yeah, injuries hurt the poor Rockets more than anybody, right?
Remember when things looked so promising a couple of years ago when the Rockets got a first-round playoff series win over the Trail Blazers?
I'm not sure how promising a guaranteed second-round exit to Los Angeles is, but go on...
Since then, with Greg Oden having played in a total of 21 games in the last two seasons and Brandon Roy starting only 23 games this season, the Trail Blazers have returned to the postseason twice, winning 50 games last season and 48 this season.
Portland plays Dallas in the first round. The Rockets are playing golf and video games.
"OK, fine, you make a decent point. Portland's been hurt as much as anyone. But let's be careful, eh? We're talking about Yao Ming and Greg Oden in the same sentence? And we're comparing Brandon Roy's 59-game absence to the Tracy McGrady benchfest that took place over the course of multiple seasons? Not to mention the fact that Portland was in the gutter when their roster was rebuilt, as opposed to Morey taking over during a winning stretch? WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO CONTEXT, HUH?"
That gets us back to the story of the 2010-11 squad, the state of the Rockets.
"I'm no English major, but isn't this part of the article supposed to go in the beginning or somewhere close because that's the implied subject and my teacher said..."
It's not the decent post-All-Star game run. It's not Kevin Martin finishing in the top 10 in scoring. It's not Chuck Hayes being better than duct tape. It's not Kyle Lowry stepping up to be a team leader. It's not Yao Ming going down, again.
Seriously. On the third-to-last line of an article dedicated to discussing the Rockets' season as a whole and what went wrong, Solomon finally mentions the names of a few players.
And it's not - to paraphrase Bill Clinton - the economy, stupid.
It's last place.
"Last place!? Come ON, I thought we were past this!"
April 22, 2011: Addressing Daryl Morey's Assets
I won't keep you for much longer. To keep things short, Solomon dedicates an entire blog post to proving to the world that Morey has indeed used the word "asset" in an interview after Morey claimed otherwise. Really, that's the basis for the blog post. Solomon could have addressed the issues surrounding Morey's use of "assets" -- you know, in the sense that he can be tigger-happy at times, something that Solomon either likes or doesn't like, I'm not exactly sure.
But wow, Mr. Solomon. Thanks for taking the rigorous investigative reporting route. You would have made Woodward and Bernstein proud.
To summarize, I wish Jerome Solomon could spend more time handing us better information and making better arguments than those he presented. Should he decide to include Morey as a reason for a team's lack of success... fine. I have no problem with that. Certainly, as the GM of a team who hasn't made the playoffs in two seasons despite striving for that very goal, I think Morey is deserving of skepticism. But for Solomon to make out Morey as his single target, and for an apparent personal vendetta to overshadow his coverage of the Rockets... well, that forces me to produce 3500 words questioning the approach.
Our conversations shouldn't be about me or about Solomon: they should be about the Rockets. Not solely about Morey, either, but about the Rockets. They're the ones who play, remember? It shouldn't take a fourth article to finally address those guys.