When the NBA season ended with the Toronto Raptors beating the Golden State Warriors, many saw it as an opportunity. The Warriors were hobbled by injuries to stars Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, both of which were set to become unrestricted free agents. With Durant out for the following season and Thompson set to miss a good chink, it was like the scene from Rocky IV when Drago was cut. The machine was made human and looked vulnerable.
Enter Rockets GM Daryl Morey. He saw this as the opening he was looking for to finally take down the bully of the league. With rumors swirling of a Chris Paul/James Harden beef, Morey sought to improve the roster by any means necessary. More rumors circulated about who was/wasn't on the trade block when it was noted that the team was going after Jimmy Butler via sign and trade. Turns out, this was another swing and miss for Morey and the Rockets as Butler was dealt to the Miami Heat.
This was yet another big time talent that Morey failed to bring to Houston. Although his tenure has been an overall success, it has failed to yield an NBA title. That is the true and ultimate goal of anyone involved in pro sports who actually gives a damn. After watching Morey shoot his shot and consistently fall short, it got me to thinking: what does this remind me of?
The marriage proposal rejection guy
This has to be one of the worst feelings of rejection. Here you are poised to pop the question to the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with. You've bought the ring, planned everything about the evening out, and get down on one knee. You're the center of attention wherever you are. But when she says no, your world is crushed! You have to go back to the drawing board because there's no way you can continue a relationship with someone who feels that much differently from you. Some people never recover from this. Morey has been fortunate to recover, but he's damaged goods.
Woman left at the altar
It's finally here! it's your day! You have the ring, the dress, the venue, your bridesmaids, the cake, everything is all catered to you. That is until he fails to show up. You thought your fairy tale life was set to begin. However, he realized that hitching himself to you for eternity would be a mistake because he's not ready to settle down and have kids with someone who has as many commitment issues as you do. Morey sees players as assets instead of individuals. Until he can start to see the more human aspect of trades, he'll continue to get left at the altar.
For years you were the place to be when it came to spring/summer/fall fun in Houston. You could stay open for months on end because of the weather. Generations grew up knowing you were the go-to move when trying to pick up on or impress the opposite sex. But after years of the same ole same old, you failed to make the necessary changes and grew old and tired. Eventually, you had to close your doors and were forced to become a staging area for Rodeo temporary buildings until someone decides how and when you'll be developed. Morey is in danger of becoming old and stale if he can't give this team the proper facelift and wins a title.
Off brand products
Here you are on the shelf or stockroom of a random store or warehouse. You look very similar to the real Nike shoes, General Mills cereal, an Avenger action figure, or a Louis Vuitton purse. In reality, you're just a knock-off Air Max shoe, a box of Frosty Corn Flakes, a Revenger, or a pure imposter LV purse. You look really good in most cases. Sometimes, you can even pass for the real thing when unpackaged and compared to the real deal. But ultimately, you're notwhat most people look for when they want top of the line products. Morey has been the Great Value brand instead of the General Mills brand far too often. He's been the knock-off that people settle for because they've spent their money elsewhere, but they want to "look" like they can afford things they really can't. In other words: he hasn't had the money to sign or trade for top flight talent because he doesn't have the cap space or assets to make moves like that happen very often.
I'm so frustrated by the debacle that this team is in as far as roster flexibility is concerned. It'll take several years before the Rockets are in the position or draft or sign high end talent. Les Alexander told Morey he's not down for tanking and wanted to keep the team competitive while needing to rebuild. Tilman Fertitta bought the team when it was good enough to make the playoffs and already committed to Harden as a super max player. Morey has been known to wiggle his way in and out of sticky situations. He can recover from proposal rejection or being left at the altar. But can he avoid becoming an outdated relic or a knock-off version of the real deal? That is what Rockets fans want to see. For those who have stuck with this team so long and so deeply, I hope that Morey can turn this thing around enough to the point where he can be recognized as a viable brand and not a knock-off. this fanbase deserves as much. Will they get it from Morey is the ultimate question.
The 2023-24 Houston Texans finished the season on a high. They went 10-7, won the AFC South, won a Wildcard playoff game, and generally shocked the world by how well they performed. They were armed with a first time general manager in his third season, a first time rookie head coach, and a rookie quarterback on a team that won seven games in the previous two seasons.
Now that the bar has been established, how will things look moving forward? The roster has some important building blocks, but need more pieces in place. Who, what, when, and how that happens is something we'll have to wait and see. I'm not here to lay out what I think their offseason plans will look like. Not yet. That will come at some point. For now, I'm trying to foreshadow what the Texans will be doing a year from now.
Scene: New Orleans, LA during the pre-Super Bowl festivities in early February 2025
Date: some time before the February 9 game
“The Texans completed another successful season. They finished 12-5 and won the AFC South for the second year in a row. CJ Stroud is set to win his first league MVP award after throwing for over 4200 yards, 30+ touchdowns, less than eight interceptions, along with a surprising 400 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns. They ended with the number two seed and lost the AFC Title game to the Ravens in Baltimore.”
"DeMeco Ryans proved winning coach of the year last season was no fluke. Despite losing 21 different players to various injuries for large stretches of time, he was still able to navigate his second coaching campaign to better results than his first. He was runner-up for coach of the year. No coach has ever won the award one year, then finished that high the following year. Another milestone for the budding star.”
“Will Anderson Jr and Derek Stingley Jr both finished in the top five for Defensive Player of the Year. Anderson had 15+ sacks, 4+ forced fumbles, 3+ fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns. Stingley finished with 6+ interceptions, 10+ pass breakups, and 2+ defensive touchdowns. They both showed up big and bright during the Texans' three national TV prime time games, so that also helped get the word out.”
"The offense took a turn…for the better! (insert running back name here) ran for 1200+ yards and 8+ touchdowns, while (insert running back number two name here) contributed with 500+ yards rushing and 5+ touchdowns. Nico Collins and Tank Dell continued where they left off last season. Both guys were Pro Bowlers, however, Dell made it as a return specialist. He ran back a combo of three plus punt/kick returns. His constant field flipping returns made him more valuable as a returner this season, given the fact that (insert new wide receiver's name here) took some targets away from him. No wonder Frank Ross got a couple token interviews to be a head coach this hiring cycle."
I can totally see me writing something like this next year around this time. While that 28-24 loss to the Ravens in the AFC Title game will hurt, it'll be another speed bump on the road to success. This team is so much fun to watch now that I can't wait to see how they grow and continue to develop!