Lance Zierlein's Z-report

Carmelo and three other bad Houston sports decisions

Houston has dealt with a fair amount of misses. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Thoughts and prayers to Carmelo Anthony as his “illness” continues to deter him from getting back on the court with your Houston Rockets. I haven’t heard specific details of the illness, but it has to be pretty bad if it’s kept him off the court for three straight games (2-1). Okay, screw it. We all know he’s not sick and the Rockets and Carmelo are going to mutually part ways. I love that the Rockets have always been willing to swing for the fences in order to try and win at the highest level, but Melo was obviously never going to be a fit at this point of his career. Let’s relive some Houston sports decisions that went sideways.

Carmelo to Rockets

If you discard the “Hoodie Melo” narrative where people wanted to believe he was secretly still a great player based on how he played in video footage of pickups games while wearing a hoodie, you can see that Melo is over. At least the version we once knew is over. It’s been years since Melo was a factor for a winning organization and his inability to defend never matched with the newfound mindset the Rockets adopted last season. Did we mention he’s doesn’t shoot 3’s well?

Pippen vs. Barkley

In the 1998-1999 season, the Rockets added 33-year old Scottie Pippen to the duo of Charles Barkley (34) and Hakeem Olajuwon (35). The old got older. While age was a big problem, the personalities of Pippen and Barkley were bigger issues. Barkley had a hard time getting along with Clyde Drexler by their second year together, and it took even less time for his relationship with Pippen to implode. Pippen started trash talking Barkley publicly to basically force the Rockets to deal him before the 1999-2000 season.

Brokedown Ed Reed

Coming off of a season of injury and game tape that was below par, the Houston Texans decided they needed to add the Patriots killer, Ed Reed, to the roster in order to finally get over the hump against New England. Now, it’s worth noting that Ed Reed had a tear in his hip labrum that he did not disclose which meant the Texans couldn’t check for it during the free agency period. Of course he was hurt most of the year, wasn’t good when he could play, and bad-mouthed Wade Phillips on the way out. Quick question. Why did the Texans think it was a good idea to let a young safety in Glover Quin go so they could add a guy who was basically finished? Smart move, guys.

GoGo a NoNo for Astros

The Astros were used to being extremely terrible when 2015 started, but all of a sudden, they found themselves in the midst of a surprise season with young talent bolstering their improvement. The Astros decided that adding Carlos Gomez, another bat, to the outfield would improve their chances of making the playoffs. “GoGo” was a high strikeout player with just average power, but the Astros apparently saw something they felt should be added to their young core. Gomez had just 385 at-bats as an Astros with 9 homeruns and 131 strikeouts. And….. they traded Josh Hader as part of the package for him. Hader is pretty, pretty good. We all know that Jeff Luhnow turned the Astros into a World Series winner, but this move? Not so great. At least we got to see GoGo’s helmet fly off on missed swings at least seven times per game.

It started out easily enough. Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted out support for protestors in Hong Kong, a since-deleted missive that stated "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

The reaction was immediate. Owner Tilman Fertitta tweeted out his own response: "Listen....@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://twitter.com/dmorey/status/1180312072027947008"

James Harden apologized. The NBA apologized in its own statement, saying Morey's comments "have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable."

Their statement added:

"While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the support individuals' educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together."

Morey himself had to dial it back. In a two part tweet, he said: "I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA."

That, of course, would not be the end of it.

Swift response

The Rockets immediately lost Chinese sponsors. Their games have been dropped from Chinese TV. The Chinese consulate in Houston weighed in. "We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact,'' the office said in a statement.

Even more backlash

After the NBA apologized, the issue got political in the U.S. It even managed to unite politicians on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Republican Ted Cruz tweeted out this:

"As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party's repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong. Now, in pursuit of big $$, the @nba is shamefully retreating."

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke, who ran against Cruz for senator in Texas, tweeted: "The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights. What an embarrassment."

Imagine an issue where these two are on the same side.

Political firestorm

Nets owner Joseph Tsai ripped into Morey as well. "When I bought controlling interest in the Brooklyn Nets in September, I didn't expect my first public communication with our fans would be to comment on something as politically charged and grossly misunderstood as the way hundreds of millions of Chinese NBA fans feel about what just happened." He said expressing one's opinion "is an inherent American value and the NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues. The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities. Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China. The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country's sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable."

The Chinese market is very important to the NBA and its ownership, as the league is heavily invested. China pulling out of the league would be damaging. The NBA knows this. But many see the league's backtracking as a way to preserve the business relationship, a move that seems to contradict most of the league's political stances in the United States, hence the responses from U.S. politicians.

The Chinese government has been very sensitive to the outside interpretations of the protests, and their response to this is in no small part due to that.

What does it all mean?

There are many on the Chinese side calling for Morey to be fired in order to do business with the Rockets again. This won't happen; as much as Fertitta was displeased with the tweet, he is a big Morey supporter. And to fire him would likely cause a serious backlash in Houston, where Rockets fans revere Morey. It would also give the impression that he is siding with Chinese interests over the United States, fair or not. Fertitta is too smart for that. Morey in no way intended to cause such a firestorm. Had he known the response, he would have never tweeted that out.

The problem is, the freedoms we enjoy in the United States do not translate to other countries, especially China, where social media and political views are restricted.

Now what?

Realistically, sports fans - especially the ones in Houston - don't care about any of this. It will only matter to them if Morey were fired, which is not going to happen. Fans care more about the Astros playoffs, Texans with a big win, and how the Rockets will look with Russell Westbrook and and James Harden. The problem is the story has gotten outside the realm of sports, with politicians weighing in and CNN reporting on it. When that happens, hyperbole and political stances become the order of the day. You would hope it would blow over, but time will tell.

One thing is for sure: Morey did not want this. Fertitta and the NBA did not want it. But it has become a firestorm, one that has a lot of levels.

It also goes to one of the dangers of social media; a high-profile person might have a personal Twitter account, but you also represent your organization, and your tweets reflect on them. It also shows the danger of "bumper sticker" tweets, where complicated issues are often foolishly reduced to buzz words. If there is a mistake here, it's that Morey did not recognize he represents the Rockets and NBA. It's obvious he does now.

What happens next is anyone's guess. But if this is like other politically charged topics, it probably will not go away anytime soon.

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