October 15, 2020 | 1:27pm
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is stepping down roughly a year after his controversial Hong Kong tweet before the start of the 2019-20 season, according to ESPN.
The report details that Morey approached Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta with the idea of leaving the job following the Rockets’ playoff ouster from the NBA’s Orlando bubble, with both sides quietly organizing an exit agreement to put an end to his 13 seasons running the franchise’s basketball operations.
The 48-year-old Morey isn’t ruling out a return to the league on the team side, per ESPN, but he reportedly has an increasing interest in exploring a different professional path. It is also an opportunity for Morey to spend more time with his two children, who are taking a gap year from college during the coronavirus pandemic.
Per ESPN, Morey will remain in an advisory role to help the team complete its coaching search; Jeff Van Gundy and Ty Lue are candidates for the coaching job. The report also says executive vice president of basketball operations Rafael Stone is expected to be promoted to GM, with Eli Witus stepping into the assistant general manager role.
Morey helped establish the Rockets’ longest consecutive playoff appearance streak with eight, winning at least one round in Western Conference playoffs in each of the past four years behind James Harden and most recently Russell Westbrook. However, this past season Morey was heavily scrutinized for a since-deleted tweet which said, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” That led to China pulling the NBA off its airwaves and suspending sponsorship with the league.
During the NBA Finals, China finally put the league back on the air. Morey had commissioner Adam Silver and Fertitta’s support despite China’s calls for dismissal, even though Silver estimates that the league lost nearly $400 million in revenue due to the scandal.
Morey, who had been the Rockets’ GM since 2007-08, has the league’s second=best regular-season record over his 13 years as general manager and 14 years with the franchise. He signed a five-year contract extension in March 2019. Under Morey, the Rockets made the Western Conference finals twice, losing to the Warriors in both 2015 and 2018.