HOUSTON - It was media day for the NBA on Wednesday leading up to the NBA finals. For the Houston Rockets, it was also media day, to a certain extent. Head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey met with the media about 48 hours after their very painful exit from the playoffs following their seven-game Western Conference finals series loss to the Golden State Warriors.
“It was a record-breaking season in many ways,” Morey said in his opening comments. “Rockets fans and coach (D’Antoni) and myself are going to feel like there was for sure more there in (having) double-digit leads in two elimination games, but what the coaches and players accomplished this year was truly incredible.”
The Rockets led the defending NBA champs 3-2 before not being able to claim wins in either Game 6 or 7, both played without Chris Paul, who injured his hamstring in the final minute of their Game 5 victory at Toyota Center.
“All day yesterday and today in talking to the players, it’s all about how we’re going to battle this back and not have this feeling again and get all the way next year,” Morey said. “Generally, we want to bring our free agents back.”
Morey wouldn’t rule out making changes to the roster.
“The better you get, the more expensive the team gets, the more cap exceptions go away to help you improve the team,” Morey said. “We’ll have to get creative and do whatever is possible to get better."
Five of the Rockets' key rotation players during the regular season will be free agents this offseason. Guards Chris Paul and Gerald Green, along with forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, and center Clint Capela are free agents with all but Capela unrestricted.
All signs continue to point to the Rockets resigning Paul, which has been the plan since he opted into the final year of his previous deal to help facilitate last offseason’s trade to the Rockets from the Clippers.
Both Morey and D’Antoni described a very distraught Paul after his injury forced him to miss the final two games.
"He took it the hardest I thought, because he knew if he hadn’t had the unfortunate injury, that he’s dragging us the last (over) the goal line,” Morey said. “I think he took it the hardest.”
“He’s been there before in those moments and (you) just get injured sometimes, freakishly,” D’Antoni said. “Stuff happens, yeah, he took it hard. But you know what, he’ll be back and he’ll be back 100 percent and we’ll be ready to go.”
It was an emotional ending to the season for the other veterans players, too.
“The emotions were high in the (exit) meetings,” Morey said. “It was painful, especially for the guys that have been in the league for 10-plus years. They know you don’t get many opportunities and that was a real good one. They’re all very hungry to get back and do it next year.”
Morey expressed optimism in having the team back in a similar if not better position next season.
“We’re going to have the pick of the free agents out there,” Morey said. “We do feel like we are very well-positioned to win that free agent battle to get over that last hump.”
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