Rockets GM Daryl Morey insists it was his decision to duck luxury tax this season
The Houston Rockets tried to make a big splash on the cheap in 2018-19, reloading with Carmelo Anthony on the roster — a fantasy that lasted for one offseason and 10 games before he was exiled into NBA limbo. The Rockets never used their mid-level exception and made cost-cutting moves during the season, with the James Ennis trade to the Philadelphia 76ers the final move needed to avoid the luxury tax.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has taken a lot of heat for the frugal nature of the past year, but general manager Daryl Morey insists it was his call to get under the tax line:
“I think the focus on the tax is sort of a strange focus,” Morey told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “People should focus on: How do you make the best possible team? When that requires us to go in the tax, we’re going to do it. Tilman’s fully authorized me to do whatever we can to make the team better.”
“If we’re competing for a championship, I can promise you I don’t see how we’re not in the tax the next two years,” Fertitta added.
Fertitta later added that “the only reason we weren’t in it last year is because people said no.” This is referring to the Rockets’ failed attempts to trade for star swingman Jimmy Butler and give the pro-rated mid-level exception to buyout market target Wesley Matthews, who joined the Indiana Pacers for a chance to start once Victor Oladipo went down with an injury.
Morey trusts the Rockets will sign a “high-quality, rotation player” with the $5.7 million mid-level exception available this summer.
It was no accident that Morey received a sizable contract extension shortly after this year’s trade deadline, as he had managed to shave over $21 million in luxury tax payments from the start of the season to mid-February.
Yet the problem remains the same, as the money tied up in the trio of James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela will give Morey some wheelin’ and dealin’ to do as he tries to improve the roster. Fertitta claims a main goal was to avoid the repeater tax in the next few seasons, so cheaping out on the roster can’t be an excuse moving forward.
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