The Philadelphia 76ers are nearing an agreement with former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey on a five-year contract to run their basketball operations department, according to multiple reports.
The two sides could reach a deal as soon as this weekend, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported.
Elton Brand will reportedly remain Philadelphia’s GM under Morey, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
After 13 seasons as GM of the Rockets, Morey stepped down two weeks ago, citing personal reasons. The team’s announcement said Morey would serve through the end of the month and assist with their search for a new head coach. Before that arrangement reached its end, Morey has secured his next NBA pursuit.
“Personally, the timing worked for me,” Morey told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon in mid-October of his decision to leave his position in Houston. “My youngest son just graduated from high school, and it was just the right time to see what's next with family and other potential things in the future. It just felt like the right time.”
Morey is a pioneer of the league’s advanced analytics era, stewarding the Rockets to a pair of Western Conference finals appearances in his tenure. Houston reached the playoffs in 10 of Morey’s 13 seasons in the front office, winning 50 or more games seven times during a tenure that spanned the pairing of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming to the current superstar tandem of James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
The Sixers are coming full circle since firing Morey’s former assistant in Houston, Sam Hinkie, in 2016. Hinkie was the architect of “The Process” in Philadelphia, an unapologetic strategy of tanking the franchise to a handful of high lottery picks, two of which became current Sixers stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Hinkie came under considerable criticism, but Morey praised his protégé for exploiting the lottery system.
Morey is no stranger to controversy. It was his Twitter support of protests in Hong Kong that provoked rebukes from around the league, including Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, the NBA’s front office and even LeBron James. The tweet reportedly cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese business and launched a political discussion at home about the ethics of working with an authoritarian regime.
For Morey not to be fired, “He must be pretty good,” President Donald Trump told Fertitta in May.
Conspiracies concerning whether or not Morey’s exit from Houston was connected to that controversy can be quelled by his impending hire by the Sixers. The Rockets also reportedly wanted Morey to remain as GM. Instead, one of the game’s most respected minds accepted the task of finishing what Hinkie started.
First, Morey must fix the misfit roster Hinkie’s successors created. The 76ers hired Brand in 2018, shortly after Bryan Colangelo’s GM tenure ended in his own Twitter controversy. Brand has made several win-now moves, many of which have left Philadelphia bare of assets and roster flexibility. The Sixers failed to recover from the summer of 2019, when Brand let Jimmy Butler walk in favor of signing Al Horford and Tobias Harris for a combined $289 million. The result was a sixth seed in the East and a first-round playoff exit.
Then, there is the pairing of Simmons and Embiid, two elite talents who are at odds with each on and off the court. Simmons is a 6-foot-10 point guard who refuses to shoot three-pointers, and Embiid is a 7-foot center who too often launches from distance. That both will be in an organization led by Morey, whose embrace of three-point-centric small-ball offenses has altered the NBA, is a conflict not lost on anyone.
Major moves could be in store for the Sixers. Morey was not at the helm for the Sixers’ biggest offseason move to this point, the hiring of head coach Doc Rivers. The two do have a prior relationship, as Morey was the assistant GM of the Boston Celtics for three seasons when Rivers was their head coach. Both are now coming from underachieving teams with title expectations to bear the same burden in Philadelphia.
Their work begins now, with preparation for the NBA draft on Nov. 18, when the Sixers own the 21st pick in the first round, followed soon after by free agency and potentially the start of next season before Christmas.
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