It would be easy to forget, in light of what came afterward and just how glowing the praise has been since his resignation, that Daryl Morey was once very much on the hot seat as the general manager of the Houston Rockets. When Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were lost to injury, Morey was tasked with building the team back into championship contenders without tanking for high draft picks. For three seasons, it didn’t work. The Rockets missed the playoffs from 2010-2012, and also made no great strides towards high-level winning. Morey could do nothing but accumulate assets however he could and wait for the chance to use them. 

That chance came in the 2012 offseason, when the Oklahoma City Thunder made James Harden available for trade. Houston pounced, and even without a championship, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. The Rockets made the playoffs eight years in a row, won seven postseason series and came a single victory short of the NBA Finals. Morey went from the hot seat to 2018 Executive of the Year, and should he decide to re-enter the NBA world, he will be one of the most sought-after GM candidates on the market. 

With his time as Houston’s GM now behind him, Morey took the time to thank the single most important person behind his success there. In a full-page ad taken out in the Houston Chronicle, Morey said simply: “James Harden changed my life.”

“An entire page could be dedicated just to James,” Morey wrote. “He not only transformed my life but also revolutionized the game of basketball — and continues to do so — like almost no one has before. The game is played differently because of James, and on every playground in the world, the next generation of talent is studying and imitating his game.”

In closing, Morey confirmed that his rooting allegiance will still be with Harden. “I will be rooting for James to win a championship in Houston,” he wrote. “It’s how this story should end.”

When Harden arrived in Houston, he essentially became Morey’s on-court avatar, representing almost everything his former GM believes about the game of basketball. He never took mid-range jumpers, instead relying on 3-pointers, layups and free-throws, and while that may have led to some issues in the playoffs, it made him one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history. 

In that sense, Morey and Harden both owe each other a great debt. Their partnership didn’t lead to a championship, but it led to just about everything else the two could’ve asked for. Harden is an MVP in large part because of Morey. The two will be linked forever in basketball history as a duo that changed the game.  

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