Just a few hours after announcing that he signed James Harden to a record-breaking contract extension, Daryl Morey was walking through the halls of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas with his son and his son’s friend.
Unfortunately for him, he ran into me, and graciously agreed to a quick interview as we went from the elevator to the arena to watch Lakers vs. Celtics, about 90 minutes before the Rockets were set to play the Cleveland Cavaliers for their second game of Summer League action.
We spoke for only a few minutes — Saturday was the first sold-out day in Vegas Summer League history, and the main event was about to take place, so it was chaos all around us — so what follows is a complete transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity.
The Dream Shake: You just signed a record contract extension, just a couple of hours ago. You didn’t really have to do it this summer, so what message are you trying to send?
Daryl Morey: Anytime a Hall of Famer, eventual, you can lock him up it’s a good thing.
TDS: Obviously it’s been a huge offseason so far, and I know you’re not done. You’ve still got to fill out the roster, but…
MOREY: We like our eight[-man rotation]. Obviously we want to add some depth in case of injury and things like that. But we feel like our eight is very solid.
TDS: We’ve got a bunch of interesting prospects in Summer League this year. I’m fascinated to watch Zhou Qi.
MOREY: Yeah, so am I.
TDS: Can you tell me what you saw the first game and what you’ve seen in practices so far?
MOREY: How quickly he integrated himself into everything. His defensive ability is something we really are confident in, especially at the 4 spot. On the offensive end, his shooting is really coming on. He’s been working very hard, both in China and back here on that. He just knows how to play, he makes the right pass, he makes the right shot, he can handle the ball even at 7-2. We’re pretty excited about him.
TDS: Last year when you drafted him, you said the plan was to bring him over this year. What did you see in his growth in China this past season?
MOREY: That was partly him. He really wanted to win a championship in China, which he accomplished, and he was defensive player of the year. Generally, young players need at least one year of seasoning before they’re ready. It was a win-win I think.
TDS: I keep getting a lot of questions around here asking how the CP3-James Harden combination is going to work. I know it’s very early, you haven’t practiced, but do you have an idea of what it will be? Chris at the 1, Harden at the 2?
MOREY: I don’t think those labels mean much anymore. I think we’re a pick and roll heavy attack, coach D’Antoni, Chris and James are all very confident it’ll work as they played together, they played on the same team together. So, we’re really not concerned about that. I think it’s something that will continue to evolve throughout the year. It’s mostly going to be good, going to great hopefully.
TDS: How does the organization see Clint Capela?
MOREY: We think he can get to near All-Star level over his career. I don’t know when. I think he’s got some steps to go. He’s working hard, he’s stronger, he’s bigger, he’s keeping that bounce, and all of it’s good.
TDS: How is his stamina?
MOREY: Stamina, he’s fine with. One of the reasons he didn’t play as much last year is because Nene played so well. I think, we’ll see how that minutes split happens this year, but we’re blessed to have two really good fives.
TDS: Behind Harden, Paul, Gordon, Isaiah Taylor is the only other guard under contract. What did you see of him yesterday? He got 10 assists. Do you see him getting minutes this season?
MOREY: He was one of the best point guards in the D-League last year and really knows how to run all of coach’s stuff, and we think he’s got a real good chance to be the guy behind James and Chris handling the ball.
TDS: Troy Williams scored 29 points yesterday, too. I didn’t realize he was unsigned.
MOREY: Yeah, we’re hoping to bring him back.
TDS: Isaiah Hartenstein, I couldn’t believe how polished he looked yesterday.
MOREY: He looks good at 19. I think he’s played at a high level overseas already. A lot of good training over in Germany. We’re excited about him.
TDS: Last question: are you going to break the wins record this year? Fifty-eight, it’s not the hardest record to break, considering the talent.
MOREY: I hope so. We want to get coach another 60-win season. That’s one goal, and hopefully that gets us a good seed to take a deep playoff run.
TDS: Thanks so much for the time, I appreciate it.
MOREY: Yeah, of course, I enjoy your stuff.
Daryl, if you’re reading this, thanks again for taking the time. I enjoy your stuff, too.