Earlier this afternoon the Sixers held an introductory press conference for new President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey. Owner Josh Harris, newly-extended GM Elton Brand, and new head coach Doc Rivers were also on the zoom call with media.
While much of the presser was uneventful, here are six moments worth mentioning:
1. On multiple occasions Morey describes Josh Harris and ownership as “committed”
Obviously this is boiler plate stuff for a GM to say, but it’s important to note that Morey likely believes this. The Rockets new owner, Tilman Fertita, was rumored to have meddled frequently in the front office’s affairs (notably pushing for Westbrook over Morey’s rumored objections) and was also hell-bent on slashing the Houston’s spending—hence, Morey resigned.
Compared to that Josh Harris is pretty much a god-send. For all his faults and mistakes, he’s routinely held that he wants to win championships, he’s routinely said he’ll go into the luxury tax when the time is right (we’ll see if that’s true this offseason), and he went out and nabbed Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers—perhaps the biggest indication of his commitment.
Roll your eyes at Morey describing Harris as “committed” if you want, but it’s the truth.
2. Elton Brand pushed Harris to go after Morey
This was mentioned on numerous occasions, and it’s a little hard to believe, but not entirely implausible. Brand is smart, so it’s possible he recognized the opportunity before him with Morey, Doc, Ben, and Joel; and if this all goes right he and Harris will get due credit for this restructuring. I just can’t shake the feeling that this has all been forced onto Elton by ownership, in which case he and the organization are just trying save face for him in this instance.
3. “How we play is gonna be up to Doc… the best way to win is take your talent and figure out how to utilize them the best. It’s not take your talent and hammer it into a specific type of system. It’s to try to get the most out of who you have.”
A lot has been made of Morey’s influence on the Rockets on-court play-style, but it’s been somewhat overblown. The Harden era was influenced by Mike D’Antoni’s pace and space system more than anything, and Daryl simply worked to identify the best players to fit that.
As he suggests, he’s not predisposed to a certain style of play—his mode of operation is using data and advanced analysis to identify how to best deploy his roster, and which players he needs to add to improve the fit of that roster. He’s not blinded by some allegiance to threes or small-ball, his guiding light is sound decision-making.
4. “The goal is not to shoot three pointers, the goal is to win… I used to get the question what would I do if I had Shaq. I’d give him the ball 100 times a game.”
This obviously goes hand-in-hand with the previous quote, but Morey made numerous references to his early Rockets tenure with Yao Ming, and he uses that in tandem with this point about Shaq to indicate how he’ll lean on Embiid’s elite post-scoring ability. Hopefully this puts to rest the silly questions about Daryl’s plans for someone like Joel.
5. When pressed on what he thought went wrong with the Sixers last season, Morey responds with a chuckle, “Well they were missing one of their best players.”
I’m glad this was mentioned at least once because it’s doesn’t seem like Philly fans consider this enough when discussing the end to last season. While there were obvious concerns around the Sixers roster construction, the banner reason for our tragic end to the 2020 season was the loss of Ben Simmons (an All-Star and DPOY candidate). We’re allowed to acknowledge both this fact and the need for organizational overhaul at the same time—Simmons injury isn’t an excuse, it’s simply reality.
6. When asked for his thoughts on the stigma that Embiid and Simmons can’t play together or can’t win together, here’s how Morey answered, “I think they absolutely can work together, but Doc’s been here a little longer than me [I’m sure he’s thought about it more] I’ll turn to him on that one.”
Maybe Morey is just being measured here, and he could firmly believe—in his wonky way—that Doc can give a better answer (despite the question being posed directly to him). But you could also view this as him punting on the question. Howard Eskin later asked a similar question, in a more direct manner, and Morey seemed to decline to give a vote confidence once again.
Obviously he needs time to evaluate the situation, but don’t tell me he doesn’t have deeper thoughts on their fit than he’s eluding to here. Of course he shouldn’t take any moves off the table in pursuit of a championship, but he’s allowed to give Simmons the same vote of confidence that Doc, for example, has—that won’t keep him from trading him if the move is right.
Again, maybe I’m reading too far into this, but Morey’s initial instinct to defer to Doc on the question, then later dodge it when it was posed by Eskin is a little concerning to me. Perhaps you believe Ben will ultimately need to be moved, in which case this is exactly what you wanted to hear from Daryl, but his insistence on raving about Joel and dancing the dance on questions about Ben is a clear sign to me that he’s more sold on one player’s future here than the other.