“After returning from Orlando and reflecting on what has been an amazing 14 years with the Houston Rockets, and after discussing my thoughts with family and close friends, I’ve decided I’ll be stepping away from the Rockets organization effective November 1,” Morey said in the statement.
“Tilman and I have had many conversations since I returned, and his unwavering support and counsel during our time together has been critical to our success. It has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life to lead the Rockets basketball organization, and I look forward to working with Tilman and the management team on the transition. I am very confident that the future — for the Rockets and for our incredible fans — is in great hands, and that the Rockets will continue to perform at the highest level.”
The Rockets began their postseason run — the longest current streak in the NBA — in the 2012-13 season after acquiring guard James Harden via trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Previously third fiddle to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Harden was given the green light to shoot three-pointers in Houston on the thinking that those shots, along with shots from inside the paint and free throws, are the most efficient way to score.
Harden has been an all-star in each of his eight seasons in Houston and earned MVP honors in 2017-18, the first of his three consecutive years leading the NBA in three-point attempts. Since Houston acquired Harden, only the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs have posted better overall regular season records than the Rockets.
But Morey’s Rockets never reached the NBA Finals, falling to the Warriors in both the 2015 and 2018 Western Conference finals. And this past season, Morey was at the center of a controversy involving the NBA’s relationship with China, where professional basketball is hugely popular and with whom the NBA has lucrative financial agreements.
In October, Morey aired his support for protesters in Hong Kong via a tweet that read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” and even though he quickly deleted the message and said he did not mean to cause any offense “to friends of mine in China,” the backlash from China against the NBA was swift: The country pulled NBA games off state television and suspended sponsorship agreements with the league, moves that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said could cost the league as much as $400 million in revenue. (China resumed airing NBA games during this year’s Finals.)
The Rockets will promote Rafael Stone, their executive vice president of basketball operations, to general manager, ESPN and the Houston Chronicle reported. Morey will stay on as an adviser to the team as it conducts its search to replace Mike D’Antoni as head coach.
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