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[MacMahon] Why the Houston Rockets are going all-in on their 'very painful' rebuild

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by J.R., Jun 23, 2022 at 7:34 AM.

  1. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

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    https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id...-rockets-going-all-their-very-painful-rebuild



    […]

    Houston also anticipates selecting "one of the three stars" with the No. 3 overall pick in Thursday's draft (8 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN app), as owner Tilman Fertitta puts it, referring to Auburn's Jabari Smith, Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren and Duke's Paolo Banchero, listed in the order of ESPN's most recent mock draft.

    The young get younger, as the Rockets now have three first-round picks in the draft (Nos. 3, 17 and 26), part of a rebuilding plan that requires extreme patience after years of going all-in pursuing a title.

    "The priority is development right now, and along with development comes winning habits and doing things the right way," Rockets coach Stephen Silas says after watching the voluntary workout. "Hopefully, that leads to some wins, but development is the priority."

    "We're trying to build a core of individuals who can become the foundation of a really good team," Stone says, sitting in an office overlooking the practice court the day after returning from Memphis, where he watched Banchero work out and met with the prospect and his representatives before they all met again in Houston.

    "What we want is to see improvement, to see improvement, to see improvement. As long as we're seeing that, we're pretty happy with the rebuild, and I was definitely happy with last year.

    "You don't want to stunt their growth by trying to steal a win here or there. Philosophically, we're very cognizant of that. If your goal is to put together a team that's really growing, it is different than a team that's going to try to maximize every win."

    […]

    THIS SITUATION ISN'T what Fertitta thought he was signing up for when he paid an NBA-record $2.2 billion to buy his hometown franchise in September 2017, when the Rockets were riding high.

    … At that point, the front office made the collective, clear-headed decision to fully commit to a rebuild rather than attempt to continue to field a competitive team. The Rockets decided it was better to become bad than boring.

    "It's very painful, but I know we're doing it the right way," Fertitta says over the phone while peering at the Tower Bridge in London from his yacht on a family vacation. "The future is exciting."

    "The NBA punishes the middle," says Stone, a longtime front-office employee promoted to GM after Morey's exit. "That's just the way the system is set up."

    Patrick Fertitta, Tilman's son who is heavily involved in the Rockets' day-to-day operations, credits Stone and assistant general manager Eli Witus for "making the hard and, at the time, very unpopular decision" to prioritize draft capital in the Harden trade. And they all praise Silas for handling the pivot to a rebuild so professionally, considering how much his job changed in the months after Houston hired him to replace D'Antoni.

    It might have been unpopular, but Stone insists the decision wasn't difficult.

    "There wasn't an equally attractive alternative at the time. Not even close from our perspective," Stone says. "I am a big believer in going all-in. Whether it is to go all-in to rebuild or all-in to win a championship."

    "If you look back at what we would have gotten versus the draft capital that we got, I couldn't be happier with the decision," Tilman Fertitta says.

    The Rockets needed high-end talent to return to relevancy. That meant a lot of losing. They landed Green with the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, sweating out what were essentially coin-flip odds in the lottery because the Thunder owned the rights to swap that pick with Miami's if Houston didn't land in the top four. (Still owed to OKC, a franchise in a similar rebuild with an even larger stockpile of first-rounders, from the disastrous Westbrook deal: top-four-protected picks in 2024 and 2026.) And Houston hopes to add another young franchise cornerstone with the No. 3 pick.

    Stone selected Green over the safer pick of Evan Mobley due to the belief that Green had a higher ceiling. That's a general draft philosophy of the Rockets' rebuild: Take big swings and hope to hit home runs.

    "We made the decision from an ownership standpoint that our goal was to win a championship," says Patrick Fertitta, seated next to his father on the yacht, enjoying the last days of a brief vacation before returning to Houston for the final week of draft preparation. "In order to win a championship, you have to take material sacrifice and pain. ...

    "We made a decision to go forward with that. It hasn't been easy at times, but we're committed to it, and we are aligned from ownership to the front office and on down the line to doing what it takes to give ourselves the highest probability of eventually winning a title.

    "That's the path we've chosen, and we're sticking to it."
     
    #1 J.R., Jun 23, 2022 at 7:34 AM
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2022 at 8:51 AM
  2. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

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    […]

    IT WOULD BE frowned upon for anyone in the front office to admit it, but the Rockets couldn't have scripted the final two weeks of the 2021-22 season much better.

    Green, the rookie who got off to a rough start, finished with a spectacular run, scoring at least 30 points in six of the last seven games, including 41 in the season finale. Porter, the talented, young reclamation project in his first full season as a point guard, averaged an efficient 28.7 points and 7.4 assists during the stretch.

    And the Rockets lost all seven games, most of which were competitive in the final minutes, learning lessons while sealing the best possible lottery odds.

    "You've got to take some L's to get to where you want to be," Green says on his first day back from a brief Mexican beach vacation, the first break he has taken from the voluntary offseason workouts.

    "It's going to take time, a lot of hard work and dedication to get to where we want to get to. I would say it's coming sooner than later, just because I'm in the gym with everybody every day. I just feel like we're coming in here with a different vibe and mentality."

    The Rockets' confidence in Green as a foundation piece never wavered, even after he was one of the NBA's least efficient players in the first month of his career before missing multiple weeks because of a strained hamstring. They "threw him in the deep end," as Stone says, and were encouraged by how Green responded.

    "He had struggles, and then you really find out about the character of a guy when they struggle," Silas says. "What are they going to do? Are they going to pout? Are they going to shut themselves off and shut themselves down and not listen, not try? Or are they going to do what he did, which is just work through it and listen all the way through it and watch film and become laser focused on improvement?"

    Every future scenario the Rockets' brass considers features a starring role for Green, whose primary offseason focus is adding strength to his 186-pound frame.

    They see Sengun, who is bouncing between Houston and his commitments to the Turkish national team this summer, as a key contributor.

    They believe they have a handful of quality complementary pieces with room to grow, including Jae'Sean Tate and Garrison Mathews, mid-20s role players the Rockets found on the fringes over the past two years who were locked into team-friendly deals.

    How, or whether, Porter fits isn't as clear.

    Porter, 22, who was acquired for essentially nothing (a top-55-protected second-rounder) after he wore out his welcome in Cleveland, is eligible for an extension to his rookie contract this summer. The Rockets could also simply allow Porter to play out the season and become an unrestricted free agent.

    There is a line of thought from many around the league, including some prominent agents, that Porter isn't reliable enough to be a key part of a rebuilding plan. That reputation was reinforced when he angrily left at halftime during Houston's Jan. 1 home loss to the Denver Nuggets, prompting the team to suspend him for the next game. There are also doubts about whether Porter is capable of being a quality starting point guard or better suited for a sixth-man role.

    Stone, in particular, praises Porter for drastically improving as a defender and catch-and-shoot threat, the two areas the Rockets' staff prioritized for him last summer. (Porter shot 48.2% on catch-and-shoot 3s last season, according to Second Spectrum tracking, the best among 227 players with at least 110 attempts.)

    "He is not a finished product," Stone says. "He just turned 22. He needs to grow and improve, on and off the court, but we are excited about him and his trajectory."

    The future of Gordon, 33, is likely a more pressing immediate issue. He remains a productive shooter who could help a playoff team (41.2% on 3s last season) and solid defender. There is strong confidence within the Houston front office that the Rockets could receive another first-round pick with a Gordon trade.

    But the Rockets value Gordon, whom Silas refers to as "a rock" due to his quiet professionalism over the rough past two seasons, as a role model for their young players. Gordon says he's content with that role depending on "what kind of commitment the Rockets really want to give me." (Gordon's $20.9 million salary for the 2023-24 season is guaranteed only if he makes his first All-Star appearance or his team wins the title, and he's eligible to sign an extension on Sept. 3.)

    "It's a tough situation," Gordon says. "When you're doing a rebuild, it's a long-term type thing. Guys have to know that this is a long-term plan. If it's a long-term plan for these young guys, then I have to know there's a long-term plan for me, too. That's the realness of it."

    The reality is the Rockets won't measure progress in their rebuilding plan based on the standings again this season.

    Tilman Fertitta says there is "no number of wins" he wants to see this season. He cites next summer's free agency, when Houston is going to have "so much cap space" -- the Rockets are projected to have as much as $70 million in the summer of 2023 -- is an opportunity for the franchise to make winning a priority again. For now, he just wants to "see improvement and watch these young players play hard."

    It's a plan the Rockets' front office has convinced its billionaire boss is the best route back to NBA relevancy.

    "I don't like losing, but we want to get to the right finish line," Tilman Fertitta says. "We do not want to be in basketball purgatory. It's a horrible place to be."
     
  3. kpdark

    kpdark Member

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    -Take big swings and hope to hit home runs.-

    ...hope it does.
     
  4. Reeko

    Reeko Secretary of Defense for the Jabari Tribe
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    the young guys improved under Silas, and he secured the necessary L’s to ensure a top pick for the Rockets…seems like he accomplished his main objectives

    [​IMG]
     
  5. CXbby

    CXbby Contributing Member

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    Say what you will about the Fertittas but cudos to them for handling the rebuild the right way, all in.
     
  6. Bobbythegreat

    Bobbythegreat Member
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    Something Les would have NEVER agreed to because it would hurt his bottom line.
     
  7. TheBeastSystem

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    If we're going to take big swings....Ivey is the man.
     
    BHannes2BHonest likes this.
  8. Verbal Christ

    Verbal Christ Member

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  9. SamFisher

    SamFisher Virtuous

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    "It's very painful, but I know we're doing it the right way," Fertitta says over the phone while peering at the Tower Bridge in London from his yacht on a family vacation. "The future is exciting."

    ***
    "We made the decision from an ownership standpoint that our goal was to win a championship," says Patrick Fertitta, seated next to his father on the yacht, enjoying the last days of a brief vacation before returning to Houston for the final week of draft preparation. "In order to win a championship, you have to take material sacrifice and pain. ...


    America. What a country!

    The pain and material sacrifice of our super yachting classes and their heirs apparent - in brief respite prior to their hard work of draft nighting - cannot be stated loudly enough!
     
  10. Bobbythegreat

    Bobbythegreat Member
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    Well that would certainly help the tanking continue.... but I think they plan to go a route that would end tanking by taking a better player instead.
     
  11. Haymitch

    Haymitch Contributing Member

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    Says the son of a billionaire while vacationing on his dad's yacht.

    ::EDIT::

    Damn @SamFisher beat me to it. That part made me laugh out loud.
     
  12. megastahr

    megastahr Contributing Member

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    Get out there and work 80-90 hour weeks and put every penny you own plus go in debt building your own business and you can have a yacht to. America ! What a country!
     
    Duke Fan, BigMaloe, The Beard and 4 others like this.
  13. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member

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    It's a painful rebuild but it's a necessary pain. I don't want to be the Sacramento Kings of the South and just continue to run on the treadmill of mediocrity.
     
  14. SamFisher

    SamFisher Virtuous

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    Will do - are you the one spotting me an inherited fortune from a regional real estate/construction/casino family empire?

    Or am i just getting a ginormous trust fund and a job as Rockets GM after college graduation?

    Need to be more specific - dynastic wealth has flavors.

    Don't you watch Succession?
     
    #14 SamFisher, Jun 23, 2022 at 8:15 AM
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2022 at 8:23 AM
  15. CXbby

    CXbby Contributing Member

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    Tilman started as a working class and worked smart enough and hard enough to become super yachting class. Once upon a time stories like that were celebrated and revered as the American dream before communists convinced half the country that success was a bad thing, but I digress.
     
  16. CXbby

    CXbby Contributing Member

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    Tilman didn't inherit anything and was in debt at the start of his career. What he wants to do with his wealth and his son is nobody's business except his own.
     
  17. Sep11ie

    Sep11ie Member

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    We get it. Nobody should be rich. We should have equal money.
     
  18. Le$$

    Le$$ Member

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    This progression into a new slate after the "Harden" era is the only way you can go. He compares moving into the right direction starting with youth and future vet talent. It is getting a young foundation and then building the right team to compete for at least a half-3/4 of a decade to make that run again. Well half a decade 5 years? at least once you get your full built roster like the Celtics did. Just to get that 1 chip. I hope we can be good as the Harden and Paul team with younger options. We will see.
     
  19. PWR

    PWR Member

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    Made me chuckle.
     
  20. SamFisher

    SamFisher Virtuous

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    nah, you obviously don't.

    We're just chortling at the obliviousness of our hereditary oligarchs and the way they talk and you and a few bros are butthurt over that because... Reasons.

    You do you friend
     

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