After 13 seasons with the Rockets, Daryl Morey stepped down from his GM position in Houston. The first thing ESPN's Tim MacMahon cleared up was the first conclusion most people jumped to - this was not a Tilman Fertitta decision. Morey decided it was time to leave.
Two major things likely contributed to Morey's decision. His "Stand with Hong Kong" tweet and all the consequences that came from that whole mess weighed heavily on Morey. He wasn't the most popular guy in NBA circles before that happened, and costing the NBA hundreds of millions of dollars didn't help.
Tilman Fertitta is probably the second reason. The Rockets' owner obviously suffers from "new owner syndrome," and his peak moment was crucial in how their season turned out. The Chris Paul - Russell Westbrook trade was a decision made by a rookie owner who had just published a book titled "Shut up and listen."
That trade was made because Tilman Fertitta wanted it made. He thought Chris Paul’s contract was the worst he’d ever seen in business or sports.
Tim MacMahon, The Lowe Post
If only Fertitta took his own advice. It didn't hurt that James Harden was supporting that decision as well. The Paul - Westbrook trade is the exact opposite of how successful organizations are run. The GM should make the decision, with the coach having the largest impact on his decision. The owner and the star player are included but don't make the final call. Morey and D'Antoni were the biggest Chris Paul defenders, while Fertitta and Harden wanted to bring Westbrook in.
Even before COVID-19, Fertitta obviously wanted to stay under the luxury tax. He overextended himself to buy the Rockets in the first place, and Morey had to cut and trade players the team could've used for financial reasons. The fact his business is based on restaurants, casinos, and bars doesn't help his financial situation. As much as Fertita denies it, his business is under tremendous pressure, and more penny pinching is to be expected.
Morey probably looked at a team with almost zero flexibility, a new owner under financial pressure, and recognized he wouldn't have the independence needed to do his job.
As controversial as he is, during his 13-year tenure in Houston, the Rockets were the only NBA team to finish at least 0.500 in every one of those 13 seasons. A guy like that should get a second chance somewhere in the league, but we will see how much the Hong Kong tweet damaged his chances.
The Rockets are promoting executive vice president of basketball operations Rafael Stone to general manager. Fertitta said he would lean on his new GM to decide who the next head coach will be. Jeff Van Gundy, Mavs assistant coach Stephen Silas, and Rockets director of player development John Lucas are the frontrunners for the job.