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Daryl Morey taking 76ers job was a not-so subtle message about Rockets ownership

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Daryl Morey had every right to take that 76ers job.

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Wednesday announcement of Daryl Morey’s new position with the Philadelphia 76ers might have been the biggest blow to the Houston Rockets fandom — probably even more so than his decision to leave.

Two weeks ago, Morey shocked the Rockets community when he decided to step down. At the time, he made it clear that it was a personal decision. Morey even noted that it was an opportunity to spend time with his two college-age children who were taking a leap year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Morey, he wanted to step away from basketball and explore his other interests — life, even.

Most Rockets fans felt that a tumultuous relationship with the owner, Tilman Fertitta, led to Morey’s premature departure, but they were probably the only ones to believe that he was actually going to take a break from basketball. In fact, the Sixers started going after Morey immediately after his departure.

He took the job.

Morey didn’t need a “break.” He needed to step away from the Rockets and the disintegrat(ing/ed) relationship he had with ownership. It should have been obvious that a man whose life completely revolved around basketball and advancing the game wouldn’t want a break. Was it hard work for him? Yes. But he loves it and is completely committed.

The sad truth is that the announcement to take a gap year, a hiatus, a break from basketball wasn’t a ruse; he wasn’t pulling the wool over our eyes. In typical Morey fashion, he wanted to protect the Rockets franchise, its reputation, and its fans. Morey, one last time, wanted to assure the fanbase that everything is OK. The organization hadn’t let him down — he really did need the break.

Now Rockets fans are have to deal with an even sadder truth: they’re living in the wake of a tyrannical owner. If you want to be a little less dramatic: they’re dealing with an owner who isn’t going to prioritize winning over money or completely getting their way. Fertitta’s lack of discretion and public frustration led to the departure of the architect of Houston’s basketball philosophy in Morey, and the head coach who implemented it best in Mike D’Antoni.

It’s not all doom and gloom with Fertitta this offseason. As of Wednesday, Rockets fans can celebrate the hiring of Stephen Silas, the former Dallas Mavericks assistant coach and Houston’s first full-time Black head coach hire since Don Chaney in 1992 (and first Black head coach since interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff in 2016).

But once the honeymoon is over, once basketball is back and in full swing, the dark cloud will once again float over the organization. What will it take for things to become tumultuous between Fertitta and the head coach or GM? Was Fertitta comfortable hiring only a first-year head coach and first-year GM, Rafael Stone, because he wants to be surrounded by unvetted yes men?

Those conspiracies may not be true, but Fertitta hasn’t proven otherwise. He has proven the opposite. If he was able to drive out the most important and tenured piece of the Rockets franchise of the past 20 years, then nothing is safe.

For now, until proven otherwise, Rockets fans have to accept that they’re now THAT franchise. Their owner is THAT owner. And because of those circumstances, Morey needed to move on to green pastures.