In the world of sports today, General Managers and owners of teams tend to justify their player transactions with the phrase: sports are businesses. The NBA is no exception to that mantra due to the capitalistic motivations that drive the sport and also expand it to the corners of the globe.
But even in a competitive atmosphere, which is professional sports, and the pressing need to sell tickets or win championships, there is a professional way of conducting business. One key example of this archetype of a “class act”is the San Antonio Spurs, who bring together pieces of humble backgrounds and help them rise to the occasion on the biggest stage known as the playoffs. Historically, teams of this professional mindset enjoy the greatest success, which becomes evident upon examination of the Celtics, Lakers, and Trail Blazers.
The Rockets, however, have become notorious for ruthlessly treating players not named Dwight Howard and James Harden as expendable parts. This aura of unprofessionalism stems from the top which, in this case, is unproven, inexperienced, and dogmatic GM Daryl Morey. Morey, who has never been able to emulate the successes of his peers like Pat Riley or Mitch Kupchak, is only fixated on adding additional star power via free agency to form a top three combo, while neglecting to recognize the existing talent on the roster and trying to implement them into the playbook.
But despite the ambitious yet foolish management style promoted by Morey, what’s more degrading towards the Rockets brand is the manner in which the management and team treats players that depart through either free agency or trade. Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, two valuable contributors who remained loyal to the Rockets for the entirety of their tenure there, were met with harsh words and derogatory remarks by Howard, Harden, and Morey, such as statements implying that the team is better off without them.
Recently, Harden expressed that Howard and himself were the cornerstones of the franchise and that everyone else on the team is merely a role player or piece. This patronizing and condescending attitude permeating this franchise has blinded management from improving the status quo and not overhauling it. The Spurs and Thunder sit atop the Western Conference, not because they attempted to sign a marquee player every summer, but because they were patient with the talent they had.
The faster the Houston Rockets get over its fixation on obtaining star power and start to build up the supplemental personnel to surround the core stars will it begin it truly embody a winning culture. Yes, the Heat model worked for a while, but in order to build a dynasty, patience and time are two key components to sustained success.
Image Credit: Schipul, Ed. “Rockets Playoffs at Toyota Center.” Flickr: Creative Commons. Flickr, n.d. Web. 28 July 2014. <https://flic.kr/p/6mBtvF>.