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Daryl Morey believes Rockets were “close” to trading for Dwight Howard

Aug 14, 2012, 7:35 PM EDT

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The Rockets made plenty of personnel moves this summer, but it’s hard to argue that any of them were geared toward making the team better in the immediate future. The plan was to acquire multiple lottery picks and clear cap space in the hopes of trading for a superstar that the franchise could finally build a legitimate contender around, and Dwight Howard just happened to be on the trading block.

Howard landed with the Lakers, of course, and the Rockets ended up with a team that’ll be hard-pressed to even compete for a playoff spot. But it was close — at least that’s what Rockets GM Daryl Morey was selling to local sports talk radio listeners in Houston today (via Sports Radio Interviews).

Whether he feels the Rockets ever got close to getting a deal done for Dwight Howard:

“I do, yeah. I do feel like it was close but they did their diligence and they were searching for something they thought they liked even more and they liked this trade better than anything we could offer. I promise you Rob knows what he’s doing and he thought this was best for Orlando and I think people will see over time that he’s a very good executive.”

Morey clearly did everything he could to assemble an attractive package for Orlando. So while the jokes about “things Morey also may believe were close to happening” practically write themselves, the fact is that he’s likely correct in his assertion.

Here’s the problem: There didn’t appear to be a backup plan in place.

Like the Rockets, the Nets tried everything to trade for Howard, and with Deron WIlliams already in the fold and a new arena opening this fall, you could hardly blame them. But when reality set in that the Magic weren’t going to deal Howard to Brooklyn, they made other moves to compete — including trading for offensive firepower in Joe Johnson, and re-signing center Brook Lopez to a max contract once he became a restricted free agent.

By contrast, Houston blew up a team that was competitive last season and elected to start from scratch. Starting point guard Kyle Lowry was traded to Houston for a future first round lottery pick, and backup point guard Goran Dragic was allowed to leave in free agency. Marcus Camby was traded to New York for young players and future second round draft picks. Luis Scola, who was more than solid in Houston but carried with him a less-than-desirable contract, was amnestied simply to get him off the books.

The Rockets did grab Jeremy Lin from the Knicks and Omer Asik from the Bulls in restricted free agency, but neither are likely to be franchise cornerstones. And the rest of that (21-players-deep) roster is loaded with nothing more than rookies, unproven talent, and guys who may, possibly, have some upside someday in the semi-distant future.

The plan in Houston was to acquire Dwight Howard, and sure, the Rockets may have been close to making it happen. But since that dream has now died, Morey appears to be content to stay in rebuilding mode until the opportunity to acquire another superstar comes along.

  1. dylude - Aug 14, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    There’s a dynamic between the owner and the GM at play.

    Morey wants to rebuild and tank after losing Dwight but the owner Les refuses to accept tanking. But after striking out on Deight the owner knows the team has to go young.

    The backup plan is this:
    Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons

    Tank and use our 6 extra draft picks to take shots on future stars whenever possible.

  2. timb12 - Aug 14, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt because he is a GM and, you know, I’m not. But it’s really hard to see what the big picture is when they look like they’re trying their hardest to stay mediocre. Clutch city is now Mediocreland.

    • borderline1988 - Aug 14, 2012 at 10:19 PM

      I like his moves.
      In today’s NBA, you need star firepower. Otherwise, the absolute best you can get to is basically what Denver is…a 5th or 6th seed and likely first round exit.

      They have a ton of young players and picks that they could trade in the future, and they’ll tank next season, which is good for grabbing a star out of the draft. That is the backup plan…

      • timb12 - Aug 15, 2012 at 8:17 AM

        I would be fine with the Rockets tanking, I’m still an Astros fan. But then they signed Lin and Asik? Those moves don’t make too much sense. I remember when they signed Ariza to that big deal to try and make him a star, it didn’t work out. I think if they need a legitimate star then they should wait, and not throw money at these average guys and expect them to carry us. Or use any more picks on forwards.

      • madnova - Aug 15, 2012 at 12:12 PM

        If they are looking to grab a star in the next draft, I call into question their talent evaluation skills.

      • borderline1988 - Aug 15, 2012 at 2:57 PM

        You’re right about Asik.

        Lin was probably more of a marketing thing..and if they don’t care to spend the money, then whatever…up to them.

        Asik doesn’t make much sense to me. But either way, Lin and Asik aren’t going to prevent the Rockets from tanking. So the road of “let’s try to get lucky in the draft” is happening either way.

        I’m sorry about the Astros thing though. Not only is that team terrible, they have a crappy farm system.

  3. gaykegayden - Aug 14, 2012 at 11:43 PM

    Oh well, Jeremy Lin allows them to tank while selling tickets. The worse thing that could happen is they fight for a bottom playoff seed again.

    Gayke Gayden

  4. doctorfootball - Aug 15, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    There’s no points for second place, Morey. You’re not going to get 20 plus points and 14 rebounds a night by being “close” to acquiring Howard.

  5. omie34 - Aug 15, 2012 at 2:04 AM

    I’ve always given morey the benefit of the doubt but I really think he’s undeserving of it now. He went into the draft thinking he’d come out with dwight instead he luckily comes out with 3 nice players which wasn’t his doing anyone would’ve taken those guys where they were taken. Then he gave away 2 good pgs and got lucky jeremy lin fell in his lap because knicks ownership sucks. We still don’t have a good center. Daryl never had a plan b so now he’s stuck in a situation thats gonna be hard to get out of. Goodluck.

  6. bobspad - Aug 15, 2012 at 5:40 AM

    No worries, things aren’t as bad as they may seem in Houston. It’s good they didn’t get Dwight Howard, who would have ended up leaving anyways. They’ve needed to into full on rebuilding mode if they want to stop treading water and just barley missing the playoffs every year. OKC built themselves into a contender through the draft, now it’s the Rockets turn. As a long time Rockets fan I support Morrey.

  7. thesixersbench - Aug 15, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    “Daryl Morey how’s my ass taste?” – Rod Thorn

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