GM: Rockets had tough year, but still capable of deep playoffs run

HOUSTON -- Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told ESPN.com in an interview Thursday that responsibility for the team's struggles this season lies first with him, but called his team "a confident group" and insisted he still believes it's capable of a deep playoff run.

"It's been a tough year for everybody, not just me but also [Rockets owner Leslie] Mr. Alexander, the coaches, the players all the way down, the fans," Morey said. "I think that responsibility lies with everyone and it starts with me.

"It has been a very tough year in terms of a lot of the things we were hoping [to] take us to the next level, didn't and we also took a step back on top of that, so far. The season is not over but to this point we underperformed from what we did from last season."

The Rockets awoke Thursday to a three-way tie for the seventh seed in the Western Conference at 37-38 after winning 50 games last season en route to the No. 2 seed and a spot in the conference finals.

"Often our results haven't matched our confidence, but we're a confident group going into the end of the season. We feel like we can make a run and make a real impact in the playoffs," he said.

The Rockets haven't finished below .500 since the 2005-06 season.

And no matter what happens in the postseason, Houston faces several major decisions this offseason, starting with the status of interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff. Bickerstaff has not spoken with management about his job status, but Alexander has said he will make a decision about the next coach once the season ends.

Morey has come under intense scrutiny as well after the decision to fire coach Kevin McHale just 11 games into the season, which was the first of a new three-year deal for McHale. Morey's ever-aggressive personnel moves also have failed to create the desired spark, starting with last summer's trade of a first-round pick and four reserves for Ty Lawson. The Rockets ultimately bought Lawson out when they were unable to move him before the trade deadline, with Lawson subsequently signing with the Indiana Pacers.

Back in January, Morey traded the draft rights to Maarty Leunen to the Los Angeles Clippers for the opportunity to reacquire Josh Smith in addition to cash considerations and the draft rights to Sergei Lishouk. Smith made an immediate impact, sparking a three-game winning streak shortly after his return to Houston, but he has since been benched in favor of Donatas Motiejunas and Michael Beasley at power forward.