Rockets' Daryl Morey calls trade for Russell Westbrook the 'most intense' of his career
Morey had to give up a whole lot in order to bring Westbrook to Houston
Daryl Morey has made his fair share of deals during his tenure as the general manager of the Houston Rockets. The move he made over the offseason to acquire Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Chris Paul and other pieces, however, was especially bold. The move reunited close friends and former Thunder teammates Westbrook and James Harden, and required the Rockets to forfeit a substantial haul of future assets in order to land the 2017 NBA MVP, including Paul, two protected first-round picks (2024 and 2026, both protected Nos. 1-4) and two pick swaps (2021 and 2025).
The trade aimed to boost the Rockets' title chances in the short term, but it may have hampered their long-term outlook. Considering the stakes, it's not surprising that Morey views the Westbrook trade as the most "intense" of his career.
"Like, it was a really, really intense period," Morey said of the trade in a recent interview with The Athletic. "I've talked about it being the biggest risk ... but people, I think, misinterpreted that I meant Russell [was the risk]. But I meant more like -- whenever you give up a significant chunk of your future, it's [a risk]. If I have any job -- and sometimes I'm the only one worried about it -- it's how do I properly balance the present and the future. When you're giving up future [assets], I need to be really careful that I'm making sure the franchise is protected for [owner] Tilman [Fertitta] and things like that ... I'd say the Chris Paul deal that got canceled [by the NBA] was the most intense after [the deal], but prior to a deal, yeah. I don't think anything was close, actually."
Though there were certainly risks involved, Morey believes that the deal will ultimately be worth it, as he thinks that this iteration of the Rockets now has a chance to be the best team during his tenure, and the best Rockets squad since their titles teams of the mid-90's. Those teams were able to capture back-to-back titles, and Morey is obviously hoping that these Rockets can have similar success.
"We thought we needed to add someone who might have an extra gear," Morey said. "While we were a very good team -- and I've actually been asked, 'Is this the best Rockets team?' and I think we have a chance at that, but I do have to point to our team a few years ago, which won more games than very few teams in history at 65 [regular-season wins], so we've got a ways to prove that we're as good as that team that came very close. But with Russell here, I think we have a shot to be the best Rockets team since I've been here, and maybe since the championship teams [in 1994 and 1995], but we've got a long ways to go to show that."
Morey also shared the interesting detail that Harden initially wanted to know if the Rockets could get the deal done to add Westbrook without having to give up Chris Paul in return; something that was ultimately impossible. Props to him for trying, though.
"His mind is always [going] first to 'How [can we be] completely stacked?'" Morey said of Harden. "When I let him know it probably wasn't going to happen, he was good. He understood. He said, 'Hey, if there's a way to make it happen, let's do it,' but he understands that you can't just snap your fingers and make things happen in the NBA. No one is out there trying to help us. It's always a dynamic when you're trying to get the deal done."
The verdict is still out on the trade. Obviously, if Westbrook helps Houston capture its first title in nearly two-and-a-half decades, it will have been worth it. However, if the opposite occurs, and the Rockets plateau without advancing further than they have in recent years, and then they are unable to build themselves back up due to a lack of assets, history will not remember the move made by Morey fondly. In reality, the trade to acquire Westbrook could be the move that ultimately makes or breaks Morey's time in Houston.
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