Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whose tweet last year supporting Hong Kong freedom led to a China rift with the NBA, is stepping down, according to multiple reports Thursday.
ESPN and the Houston Chronicle, citing unnamed sources, reported that Morey was departing of his own choice after guiding the Rockets basketball operations since the 2007-2008 season.
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His final campaign brought severe scrutiny after a tweet one year ago regarding Hong Kong protests led to China suspending sponsorship deals with the NBA and pulling NBA game telecasts off Chinese television for a year, resuming only with last Friday’s fifth game of the NBA Finals.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta both backed Morey, the 2018 NBA Executive of the Year, despite Chinese calls for his dismissal and what Silver estimated were financial losses to the NBA of about $400 million.
After the Rockets were eliminated from this year’s NBA playoffs in the Covid-19 quarantine bubble at Orlando, Morey approached Fertitta about leaving and an exit deal was completed.
Morey, who had signed a five-year contract extension in March 2019, will remain as an advisor for a brief time to help the Rockets complete their search for a new coach.
Rafael Stone, the Rockets’ executive vice president of basketball operations, will be promoted into Morey’s old job while Eli Witus will be promoted to assistant general manager, according to the reports.
The Rockets have made the NBA playoffs for each of the past eight seasons, the league’s longest active run. They lost to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semi-finals.