Morey Q&A: Secrets of the Rockets' GM
Just two years into his tenure as general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey has already left an indelible imprint on the NBA. The 36-year-old is basketball's answer to Oakland A's GM and "Moneyball" protagonist Billy Beane, using elaborate statistical research and technological innovations to help make personnel decisions -- only with an academic background at Northwestern and MIT and an athletic career that ended long before the pros.
After years of first-round disappointments, the Rockets finally broke through in April, knocking off Portland to advance to the second round.
With Houston now battling the Lakers in the conference semifinals, Morey talked about finding bargain players, dealing with an economic recession, riding a statistical revolution and being willing to try new and different things to build a winning team. You can find the wide-ranging interview below.
Ed. note: This interview was originally conducted at the start of the Lakers-Rockets series, with a few questions added thereafter.
Jonah Keri: What did the Rockets do to beat the Blazers?
Daryl Morey: Obviously a lot of things went right. I'd call out our defense, we've hung our hats on that. One thing I've learned is that Brandon Roy is an unbelievable player. Shane [Battier] and Ron [Artest] had more trouble with Roy than with anyone this year
Keri: even more than with Kobe?Morey: and Kobe. LeBron had an off night the last time we played Cleveland, so maybe we were lucky. But we did do a pretty good job of controlling LeBron when we played him, especially the second time. [Against the Blazers], we won the rebounding battle, which was a big factor coming into the series. Either Yao dominated, which he did in Game 1, or we did a good job of taking advantage of opportunities that opened up when they focused on Yao. Keri: When Yao was healthy, we heard so many people saying that fronting him was a must, that if you let him catch the ball in the post, he'd kill you. If you're a coach preparing to play the Rockets, is that the magic bullet -- just deny Yao the ball? Morey: I do think [we've seen] the extension of Yao's game. In the past if he was fronted, he was much less effective. We've also seen an improvement in the rest of the roster, in the quality of our role players. A lot more attention was paid to Yao, especially in Games 2 and 3 [versus Portland]. They were essentially doubling him before the catch, and it's very rare to see any player double-teamed continually like that. We've been able to take advantage of those situations. We have better perimeter shooters now. We've also got a guy like Luis Scola at or near the top of the league in terms of taking advantage of what you give him. He won't beat his man one-on-one. But give him space to operate, like he had when he played with the Argentinean team, and he'll take advantage. [Aaron] Brooks, [Kyle] Lowry and Von [Wafer] can really put the defense in jeopardy, by beating their guy to the basket.
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