It was a big weekend for Daryl Morey. His Houston Rockets have won four of their last five games, including last night's rout of the depleted Memphis Grizzlies. But closer to his heart was seeing the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference celebrate its 10th birthday.
The mammoth nerd conference began with Morey and Jessica Gelman teaching a 39 student class at MIT. It took 10 years for those 39 people to grow to the 3,900 packing the house this past weekend.
I told Morey that Michael Beasley made history Friday night by jacking up 19 shots in 15 minutes, but he didn't believe me. After a brief moment of disbelief, he said, "I expect him to contribute with whatever helps us win. Obviously scoring is one of his main skills."
"I'm happy for him. He really deserves his shot and he's obviously a player who shouldn't have been out of the NBA, but for various reasons was. And we think he has a chance to contribute," Morey added.
On Zach Lowe's podcast, Morey reiterated his thoughts on Beasley, adding that the decision to bring him in was mainly based on "good intel" as well as his lifestyle changes.
"Michael has turned his life around," Morey told Lowe. "Obviously he has to prove it on the court, but this guy deserves a chance.
"The intel is very good on Michael. Two years ago, I think before Miami signed him, our players on our team wanted to get Michael Beasley. He's obviously an extremely talented guy. He's well-known among the top players in the league because he was a guy they went against.
"We did not bring him in at the time, didn't pursue him because frankly our intel was not good. Our intel is the opposite now. We have great sources in China. Obviously our history with Chinese basketball has given us an edge there we believe."
While Beasley is contributing, the acquisitions of both him and guard Andrew Goudelock were largely met with harsh reviews. Despite Houston's clear weakness being defense, Morey and the Rockets targeted Goudelock and Beasley, two players not known for their defensive abilities, to round out the roster.
"When you have an opportunity to add a player with an empty roster spot, and we have created a few lately, it's about getting the best option at the time," Morey said.
"Obviously our defense is not good, but we did not feel the available options there were the best [options]. It's sort of silly to force less optimal options just because you have a weakness. We didn't think any of the options out there would solve our defensive issues," he added.
Another hugely popular convention, South by Southwest, was also last weekend, and it has begun a sports analytics category to compete with Sloan. SXSW poached NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who was a panelist in the past at Sloan, from SSAC. Morey acknowledged the conflict, but says that "the scheduling is out of our control."
In the "Negotiations: Past, Present, and Future" panel, Morey compared making trades in the NBA to buying and selling real estate; value isn't determined by advanced metrics, it's all about the market.
"The data and analysis is done by both sides, but in my experience it's used to create plausible first offers. At the end of the day, at least in my world, it's all about leverage," he told the crowd. "Just like if you're selling a house, you can do analysis of what it's worth, but the only thing that matters is what someone will pay."
To continue this analogy, the Donatas Motiejunas trade was the equivalent of selling your house and the buyers calling you days later with some bad news.
Even though the Rockets are regaining some of their mojo, Donatas Motiejunas is playing well, and Michael Beasley is making an impact, Morey still concluded his interview with Zach Lowe with this simple, but sharp thought. He said, "We cannot lose many more games, let's put it that way."
If they want to make any noise in the playoffs, the Rockets need to catch the Grizzlies and secure the fifth seed in order to avoid the juggernauts. Even after the big win, they are five games behind Memphis with only 15 games remaining in the regular season. The injury-plagued Grizzlies are faltering, but the margin for error is slim.