Stephen A. Smith praises Rockets Daryl Morey upon news of departure

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith issued praise for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey upon news of his pending exit from the franchise.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey became an up-and-coming star during his days with the Boston Celtics, which first put him on the radar of then Rockets owner Les Alexander. Alexander hired Morey to be the assistant general manager on Carroll Dawson’s staff, but it didn’t take long for Morey to get promoted, as he became the Rockets GM after one year under Dawson.

Morey inherited a Rockets team that had two Hall of Famers in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, and was at the helm when McGrady and Yao’s Rockets playing days were over. It was shortly thereafter that Morey pulled off the best trade in NBA history, as he reeled in James Harden, who had just nabbed the Sixth Man of the Year award and made the 2012 United States Olympic team.

Morey sent Kevin Martin and a boatload of assets to Thunder GM Sam Presti, not knowing whether Harden was ready to become a star, and rightfully so, as Harden was coming off a disappointing 2012 NBA Finals performance. Harden single-handedly lifted the Rockets to the postseason during the 2012-13 season, which became a sign of things to come.

Morey later reeled in Dwight Howard, who opted to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and left $30 million on the table to do so. Harden and Howard reached the Western Conference Finals in just their second season together, which was proof of Morey having become a success, as he built the roster.

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The Harden and Howard era ended unceremoniously, as rumors swirled regarding Howard and Harden having a falling out of sorts. Within a year after Howard’s departure, Morey configured a deal for Chris Paul, which led to the Rockets having the best record in the NBA during Paul’s first season in Houston.

Paul got injured in the 2018 postseason and Morey dealt him after the 2018-19 season ended, turning to OKC’s Presti yet again, although this time for Russell Westbrook. Morey recently announced that he will be stepping down from the GM role he’s held with the Rockets for the last 13 years, which sent shockwaves throughout the Houston Rockets fanbase.

Morey’s constant desire to pursue stars and his successful ability to land Hall of Famers made him one of the more respected names in the league, which ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith discussed on First Take.

“He is somebody that is very respected. If you know him, he’s likeable. He’s a good man. It doesn’t mean that he’s flawless, obviously he’s made some mistakes with his comments and his tweets about China, but Daryl Morey is a chance taker.

I applaud him for that. He doesn’t stand still, he went for it, and he’s to be commended for that.

The flip side to it is that 12, 13 years at the helm, you went to the Conference Finals a couple of times, and you never got over the hump. And at some point in time, you have to try something new.”

Stephen A. Smith praises Morey upon news of Rockets departure

As Smith stated, Morey became notorious for consistently chasing the biggest fish in free agency, as he made runs at Carmelo Anthony (during his peak), Amar’e Stoudemire, and Chris Bosh, but missed out on all three at the time. In spite of that, Morey consistently built contending teams in the Western Conference, despite Houston not being a large market, like that of New York or Los Angeles.

Morey deserves credit for leading the Rockets to the cusp of the NBA Finals on multiple occasions, but the Rockets couldn’t get past the superteam Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Although Morey will surely be missed, newly promoted Houston Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is well-liked within the organization and has operated in several different capacities, which is an indicator of him being ready for the challenge.

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Stone and the Rockets have several things on their plate this offseason, but he’s well-equipped for this role and this moment, thanks in large part to his time under Morey.