There is a book called The Long Game written by Dorrie Clark that was released last September. The basis of the book is as follows.
We all know intellectually that lasting success takes persistence and effort. And yet so much of the relentless pressure in our culture pushes us toward doing what’s easy, what’s guaranteed, or what looks glamorous in the moment. In The Long Game, she argues for a different path. It’s about doing small things over time to achieve our goals—and being willing to keep at them, even when they seem pointless, boring, or hard.
This, to me, summarizes what the Houston Rockets are trying to achieve as a team and organization. Unfortunately, the Rockets had to tear down the team last year entirely. It started off the court when Mike D'Antonti stated he would not be coming back to coach the Rockets after their lackluster showing against the Lakers in the 2020 NBA playoffs.
The subsequent departure was when Darryl Morey, the longtime General Manager, stepped down officially on November 1 that same year, citing.
Personally, the timing worked for me. My youngest son just graduated from high school, and it was just the right time to see what’s next with family and other potential things in the future. It just felt like the right time.”
Of course, a few weeks later, he joined the 76ers front office, and spending time with his family didn't last long.
Russell Westbrook, who already had an idea a certain number 13 was also asking to be traded, requested a trade of his own during the off-season. The Rockets agreed and sent him packing to the Washington Wizards for John Wall.
Then the anvil dropped on the Rockets when its franchise player, who had been requesting a trade behind the scenes, made it clear that the team he was on was not good enough to win. So James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a multi-team deal that brought in Victor Oladipo and multiple picks.
Since then, the Rockets have traded away Oladipo, let walk the player they got in that trade Kelly Olynyk, came to a mutual agreement to sit the player they got in the Westbrook trade John Wall and drafted Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, and Usman Garuba.
While also finding diamonds in the rough in KJ Martin, Daishen Nix, and Jae' Sean Tate. So what is the Rockets’ long game?
This rebuild will ride in the slow lane, not the express lane.
When you draft four players in the first round of your first draft after your first season of the start of a rebuild, it will take time. This doesn't even include Nix, who was undrafted but is tearing it up for the Vipers down in the G League. In addition, the Rockets are near the bottom of the standings again this year and will be, in all likelihood, drafting another top-three player.
Before the trade deadline, the Rockets did not make any significant moves, opting for a minor deal that saw them send Daniel Theis back to Boston for Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando. The Rockets already waived Freedom and are deciding what to do with Fernando. The Rockets are talking as if Schroder will be on the team, but there is still a chance he is bought out to clear room for the younger players.
The Rockets also had to cut D.J. Agustin and Armoni Brooks. The Rockets front office, specifically Stone, mentioned that the Rockets were not pressed to make trades in a previous interview. So it should come as no surprise that Houston did not trade players like Eric Gordon or Christian Wood. As a result, they are not competing this year for the playoffs, and its a chance it won't happen next year, even though the hope is that they are at least in the picture for a playoff spot.
You also have to factor in the most significant trade of the day that happened yesterday that saw Harden traded to the 76ers for Ben Simmons, which directly affects the Rockets’ future draft picks.
That's why the Rockets are taking their time when it comes to trades or developing their young players. Yes, it's about winning at the end of the day, and even the most patient fans will grow tired of watching a losing team, but the Rockets don't want to make the same mistake as some other teams by rushing along the rebuilding process. If you trade away picks, for instance, to bring in an older, more established player, you may win a few more games, but that's not the ultimate goal.
Like the book, I mentioned earlier in this article states:
It’s about doing small things over time to achieve our goals—and being willing to keep at them, even when they seem pointless, boring, or hard.