Daryl Morey and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly failed to address any fallout over the Hong Kong tweet controversy that took the NBA by storm last year.
According to The New York Times, Morey and Fertitta were asked about the controversy Thursday over China but “abruptly ended the interview after receiving questions about it.” Morey told the newspaper he left the organization under his own volition, and Fertitta said their relationship wasn’t affected by it.
“We’ve never had a cross word over it,” Fertitta told The New York Times.
Morey stepped down from his role as the Rockets’ general manager. The Rockets had gone 44-28 in the shortened 2019-20 season and lost in the Western Conference semifinals after Morey made the shrewd move of trading for Russell Westbrook to pair with James Harden in the previous offseason. ESPN reported Thursday that Morey had stepped down.
“After returning from Orlando and reflecting on what has been an amazing 14 years with the Houston Rockets, and after discussing my thoughts with family and close friends, I’ve decided I’ll be stepping away from the Rockets organization effective November 1st. Tilman and I have had many conversations since I returned, and his unwavering support and counsel during our time together has been critical to our success,” Morey said in a statement. “It has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life to lead the Rockets basketball organization, and I look forward to working with Tilman and the management team on the transition. I am very confident that the future – for the Rockets, and for our incredible fans – is in great hands, and that the Rockets will continue to perform at the highest level.”
Fertitta added: “On behalf of the entire Rockets organization, I would like to thank Daryl Morey for his hard work and dedication over the past 14 seasons. Daryl is a brilliant innovator who helped the Rockets become a perennial contender. I have truly enjoyed working with Daryl and couldn’t have asked for a better general manager to have at the start of my ownership. I wish him and his family all the best.”
Morey had come under fire more than a year ago for his support of the Hong Kong protesters. The tweet led to China pulling the NBA games off the airwaves and the Communist regime pulling down banners advertising preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.
Fertitta had publicly supported Morey despite the wave of backlash it brought the NBA, including the increased scrutiny over the league’s ties with China and players failing to speak out against China despite dipping their toes into social justice waters.
Morey took over as general manager of the team in 2007 and is one of the people credited with valuing the three-pointer over the two-pointer, which led to a massive increase in long-range shots being taken. However, the idea never translated into championships of any kind for the Rockets.
Despite having teams with Harden, Westbrook, Chris Paul, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard, the Rockets never made it to the NBA Finals and haven’t been to one since 1995. The team has the longest active streak of playoff appearances at eight consecutive years.
Rafael Stone is expected to take over as general manager, ESPN reported.
The team is also in search of a new coach.
Houston and Mike D’Antoni parted ways earlier in the fall.