Rockets Trading On Patience This Time

VIDEO: Brent Barry breaks down the Rockets’ recent success in this version of ‘Breaking Bones’

HOUSTON — Birds fly. Fish swim.

Daryl Morey trades.

Underneath all the talk of the Rockets adding a wing shooter and perimeter defender at the deadline — they landed Jordan Hamilton from the Nuggets — was a huge, hard-wired part of Morey’s DNA that said: Do something. Something big.

Surely, Morey would have leaped at the chance to, say, reel in Rajon Rondo from his old Boston stomping grounds, if Danny Ainge had been so inclined. But the truth was the Rockets never really had the chips to the put onto the table — a premium first round draft choice or two — to even get the Celtics thinking seriously.

Daryl Morey, James Harden (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

Daryl Morey, James Harden
(Bill Baptist/NBAE)

There was the one rumor that Boston would have very much been interested in Chandler Parsons. But who wouldn’t be? Parsons is young, athletic, talented and still plays on a rookie, second-round pick contract. That’s the kind of real value that is very much at a premium in today’s NBA.

Morey’s jumping-the-checkers-all-over-the-board approach has been on display for more than a half-decade now. He landed the All-Star pair of James Harden and Dwight Howard with it. So, if he couldn’t wallop another another home run this time around, it surely wasn’t because he didn’t wear out his beloved Blackberry trying. You can’t hit the pitches you don’t swing at.

Yet for the first time since he began calling the shots in the front office in 2007, the Rockets’ general manager didn’t feel the same sense of urgency.

“We feel like as a team as we are coming together at the right time,” Morey said. “We had a lot of opportunities to mix things up. But we feel like we have a core with stars in Dwight and James and we have a good group around them that we feel good about, and we feel like when you have that core you want to keep the guys around them.”

A seemingly endless of string of nagging injuries since the start of the season had prevented the Rockets from developing any cohesion or consistency. Even with Howard back close to his pre-back surgery, pre-shoulder injury level of fitness, there was also the matter of trying to blend his low post game with Harden’s one-on-one skills.

While the two of them can sometimes look like would-be dancers with no sense of rhythm, there is a feeling that the pieces are growing together. And the Rockets’ record is showing it.

As they close out a five-game road trip with a back-to-back at the Kings and Clippers that starts Tuesday night, the Rockets are now an NBA-best 17-5 since Jan. 1. They have climbed solidly into the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference and now set their sights on the No. 2 Spurs, whom they have already whipped three times this season.

It is a wholly different attitude for Morey, to let the pot he’s filled come to a slow boil rather than just keep grabbing for new ingredients. Inside he believes his team still needs that third All-Star level player to stand toe-to-toe with Miami, Indiana and Oklahoma City. But with Howard and Harden contented in their roles on the team, their place in Houston and locked into max-level contracts, patience is probably the most prudent path.

The Rockets were able to trade veteran guard Aaron Brooks, a fan favorite, to Denver because they feel they have enough talent in the pipeline. Last year’s draft pick, Isaiah Canaan, plucked in the second round, has been simmering in the NBA D-League and earned his chance to contribute significant minutes with the Rockets. Hamilton is another below-the-radar talent that the Rockets believe can flourish if give the opportunity to play. And it is that cycling through of young players that has kept the Rockets both moving forward steadily in terms of overall progress and flexible enough with their payroll to remain open and available to make that next big deal. As sure as summer follows spring, they’ll be standing on the high dive looking to make another big splash in the talent pool in July.

The Rockets would likely be a tough out in any best-of-seven playoff series in the rugged Western Conference, the Thunder included. But with an offense that relies so heavily on the 3-point shot, the question is whether they can perform consistently enough over eight weeks of the playoffs — or even two rounds — to be taken seriously yet.

We’ll find out. Sometimes, the answers do come when you sit and wait.

VIDEO: Daryl Morey discusses the Rockets’ trade for Jordan Hamilton


  1. Max R says:

    As good as the rockets are today, they still need to beat a few teams that consistently outplay them. Rockets lose mostly when facing OKC, it only takes one offense scrub known as Kendrick Perkins to shut down D12. Harden’s most valuable skill is drawing fouls (like he did in the game vs Kings just now), which matters little in playoffs where the refs keep quiet. The rockets as a team still have lots to improve, I don’t expect to see them going far this season.

  2. dustydreamnz says:

    Their defence has really picked up which is why they’re winning consistently now. I think it’s wide open this year, 7 or 8 winning chances at this stage.

  3. Eric Yang says:

    Here’s the 7.5 million dollar question: The rockets released two all-star caliber guards in kyle lowry and goran dragic, is jeremy lin better than both?
    My answer: 100% NO

    • Next Man Up says:

      lowry is not an allstar. contract year is the name of the game

    • allaroundballer says:

      I don’t know if lin is better than both of them. BUT all three aren’t better than harden. Let say dragic stayed and share the ball with harden. Do you think dragic would flourish as today? There are no two dominant guards playing together in any contender. chalmer-WADE, hill-STEPHENSON, WESTBROOK-sefolosha, PARKER-green, see?

  4. Jorge says:

    Rockets need a better team. They will not go far in playoffs. Their bench is not working good, they are not trustful, start players all playing too much time and it will have some bad effects in postseason. I think this change was bad, and they better concentrad in try to form a real team and to bring one more superstar to the roster to be really competitive, not just a playoff team, as they are rigth now. I just want to say that I am a huge and old rockets fan, and I really wish them the best, but as far as I can see, they will need two more seasons and one more superstar to get what we all want: the champions ring.

  5. okc2014 says:

    I think the Rockets are in good shape and ready for takeoff….next season.

  6. but sad for that kind of team which build a great line up! how ever great they are
    they still cant win it all! its MIAMI ERA and the west is full of great teams
    i think rockets is lucky if they reach conf finals(my prediction only)
    but im a huge rockets fan i wish them the best but lets face the reality
    championship is hard for them at this point

  7. Melo says:

    Wait next year when I’ll be at LA..

    • Harden says:

      What are you talking about, Melo? We’ll see you in Houston. Jones is happy for you to take his spot in the starting lineup.

  8. jdro says:

    this writer needs to edit his work better. I have found 3 mistakes just reading for 30 secs

  9. Lee says:

    If the No. 3 seed team is a joke then what’s the Bobcats?

  10. Leo says:

    Madair, I agree with you that championship teams must make some trades to win championships. Although I don’t think trades can replace the importance of nurturing and developing your players. One big problem I see with the Rockets is their coaching staff. McFail is no Popovich, his ability to make the star players to play team ball is limited at best (unless you count Jeremy Lin as a star player, I sometimes do although others might argue that he’s not). What’s the point of having a good roster, if you can’t make the best out of it? The rockets’ ranking in the western conference has gone up-and-down a lot this season. I do hope they can maintain a good position. Having followed the team for years however, experience tells me that I might be too optimistic, again.

    • Sounds like you have a grudge against the Rockets, who by the way are currently a better team than the Spurs. Either that or you hold a grunge against Mchale. I highly doubt the Rockets will turn into a joke.

    • Getting Harden was a smart move, not a joke. Just like Bulls trading for the draft rights to draft Pippen was a smart move. And the Rockets are no where near a selfish team. They’re not the Lakers, where one player hogs the spotlight. They play team ball. The Morey and Mchale combo has turned out to be a good one so far. The Rockets will not turn out to be a joke.

  11. nelson says:

    /rockets are a complete team jeremy lin is palying his best season averaging 13 ppg. James harden averaging 23.9 ppg. dwight also is playing well , rockests are one of the best teams

    • BlazingTrails9 says:

      Its hard to believe it took them so long to play consistently well.

      We’ll be fighting for that third seed the rest of the way on it seems. I doubt either of us wants to play the Clips when we could play GSW or Phoenix, maybe Dallas or even Memphis by getting that 3rd seed.

  12. Leo says:

    Daryl Morey will NEVER trade his way anywhere close to a championship! It takes lots of nurturing and team building to get your contender team, something Morey NEVER seems to have understood. Getting James Harden was a lucky draw, and having him on the team was useful to attract Dwight Howard. Problem is, both of them are very immature as players. They play selfishly, they fight each other over the ball, and they do not play team ball. With the Morey-and-McFail combo, Houston Rockets will become one big joke in the NBA history.

    • Madair says:

      Leo, less than 2 years ago the Rockets began rebuilding by signing Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to “poison pill contracts”.
      Now they are the 3rd seed in the Western conference ahead of the Clippers, Blazers and Warriors and only 2 games behind the Spurs. Morey must be doing something right. I agree with you in that simply trading players won’t necessarily get you a championship in the end, but that’s exactly why he didn’t make significant trades this year! Every championship team had their core star players and still made trades to get that complimentary player, let it be Posey for the celtics, Gasol for the Lakers, Birdman and Jesus for the Heat, there’s no such thing as a championship team that doesn’t make any trades.

    • jake says:

      You sound bitter.You must be a Laker fan. The chemistry is finally coming around which means our defense is finally stating to mesh. Only team in the NBA top ten in offensive and defensive efficiency rating. and pace. I don’t think there is a team in the NBA right now that wants to play the Rockets in a 7 game series.