The Houston Rockets have the third-best record in the NBA heading into the final week before the All-Star break, behind Golden State and San Antonio.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey, the architect of a club that's rebounded after a disappointing season a year ago, recently gave ESPN some time to discuss the resurgence.
How do you think the season has been going?
Morey: The third-best record in the league -- not bad. I can’t complain.
Do you feel any justification of the moves you made, the hiring of coach Mike D’Antoni and those kinds of things?
Morey: I’d say it’s too early. Yeah, you get judged on the totality of things, but it’s a little early for anyone to be declaring victory.
The schedule has been brutal. What are your thoughts on how your guys are handling the schedule?
Morey: It’s been great. I think we had the toughest schedule early, and it's softening up. We did well in December and had a bunch of great wins, and it’s tightened up recently. We need to stay focused on the home games coming up.
Is James Harden the leader for the MVP?
Morey: Yeah, I think he’s the clear leader, and we have home-court [advantage] in the West [first round, if the playoffs started today] and he is the engine that makes us go. It’s pretty straightforward.
Did you envision this for James when you see the type of numbers he’s putting up?
Morey: No, I think, obviously, we were in the Western Conference finals two years ago, so we knew the level that he can play at. Mike and James really came up with the idea of going from 85 percent on the ball to 100 percent, and it's great vision for both of them and it’s really worked well.
Morey: We’ve had guys step up -- [Sam] Dekker, Harrell, obviously Nene has been fantastic, Patrick [Beverley] lost some weight to get back to his quickness. It’s been fantastic, all year, pretty much.
Do you want to keep this team together through the trade deadline, or is that hard given how you always want to upgrade the talent?
Morey: I think if we do anything, it will be for depth. I don’t see any big things happening. We got a good thing, a good rotation, good chemistry. I’m pretty reluctant to make any changes there.
But is it hard not to make a trade?
Morey: It all depends on the opportunities that are out there. Until you know what’s out there, it’s hard to say if something will or won’t happen. I think our [goals] going in: Is this a good group? We want to keep it together.
Were you surprised that Dekker and Harrell didn’t get named to the Rising Stars game?
Morey: They would have been in it, except they changed the format to be international and domestic, which skewed the numbers. I don’t read too much into that. If it was in the old format of rookie-sophomore, they would have made it easily.
Are you happy with the way things are going?
Morey: Yeah, we have to stay vigilant, but our goals before the year were to get home-court in the West and have a deep playoff run, and we’re on pace for that, and it’s nice to be on pace for something. Now you got to do it.