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Numbers game

Rockets hope GM-in-waiting turns out to be money

Posted: Tuesday April 25, 2006 3:21PM; Updated: Tuesday April 25, 2006 6:46PM
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The Rockets hope the marriage of their traditional scouting methods and GM-to-be Daryl Morey's statistical analysis leads them back to the playoffs next season.
The Rockets hope the marriage of their traditional scouting methods and GM-to-be Daryl Morey's statistical analysis leads them back to the playoffs next season.
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The news that Yao Ming underwent successful foot surgery last week and is expected to make a full recovery by training camp is certainly good for the Rockets. With Yao and a healthy Tracy McGrady (and maybe Bob Sura as well), Houston can expect to be back in the postseason next year.

But do the Rockets have enough to take it to the next level and compete for an NBA title?

That's where the Houston front office comes into play. The job for GM Carroll Dawson and his staff this summer is finding the right pieces with which to surround T-Mac and Yao. With a high draft choice and a mid-level exception worth $5 million, they have some options.

They also hope to get an assist from new assistant GM Daryl Morey.

Morey is the whiz-kid stats analyst who made news last month when he was hired from the Celtics, where he worked on the business side, to take over as Dawson's eventual replacement. With his background as a Bill James disciple, Morey's hiring was hailed as the NBA's first venture into "Moneyball."

"Fair or not, that's the label that's going to get attention," says Morey, 33, who admits he has James and Oakland A's GM Billy Beane on his speed dial. "But at the end of the day it's about looking for an edge wherever you can find it. It just so happens that I bring a different background and perspective."

The Northwestern and MIT grad spent the last three years in Boston analyzing statistical data on everything from Celtics attendance to rebound rates. That's why he has been compared to Beane, whose use of statistical analysis and traditional scouting made him the subject of the 2003 best-seller Moneyball.

Unlike Beane, Morey has never played professionally. He hasn't scouted. He doesn't have relationships with fellow GMs around the league.

That has led to some predictable scoffing from media and fans alike. He has heard the sports talk radio pundits and read the comments on Web blogs. He knows there are plenty of people wondering how a guy who never played basketball past high school and has never scouted a game in his life could become GM of the Rockets next year.

You know what? He understands.

He just wants folks to give it a chance. For one, Morey says he has more experience on the basketball side than many think, since he worked closely with Celtics GM Danny Ainge in Boston. Also, he will not have to start immediately making trades and signing free agents. He will serve as assistant GM in Houston this season before taking over for Dawson in 2007.

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