Exclusive 1-on-1 with Thomas Robinson
Daryl Morey complimented Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, but it was clear everyone's post-trade focus was on Thomas Robinson.
The Rockets picked up the trio from the Kings on Wednesday in exchange for Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas, and Cole Aldrich. They made another Wednesday deal, shipping Marcus Morris to the Suns for Phoenix's 2013 second-round draft pick.
From the very beginning, the Rockets' GM stressed that his top goal is always to bring a title contender to Houston. A playoff berth this season would come after that. He feels the moves made do not conflict with those goals. Robinson's upside was something too enticing to pass up.
"Thomas is a guy people are going to love," Morey said. "High energy, runs the floor, led the country in rebounding when he was at Kansas. He's a guy we really think has the potential to be our starting big man.
"When the coaches feel Thomas is ready to unleash him, I feel he's a guy who's really going to screen and roll, finish, very athletic, super high energy, runs the floor. I'm really excited with Thomas."
As the trade deadline approached, Morey had said he felt like nothing would happen during this year's trade front. He apologized for that on Thursday, but said he really wasn't actively looking: of course he would listen to what other teams would have to say, to explore all options. And Robinson's upside was something too enticing to pass up.
"They always liked Patrick Patterson. We always said no," Morey said. "We expressed interest in Thomas since the draft. We tried to move up (in the draft) for Thomas Robinson. So Sacramento knew we liked him. It just came up in natural diligence. I thought, for sure, they weren't ready to move on, but they're getting, for their situation, Patrick (Patterson) is a very quality guy to step into that environment. I think they (the Kings) have so many guys who are still finding their ways in their career to get established for Patrick to step in and be solid. He obviously knows Chuck (Hayes), knows DeMarcus Cousins, knows Aaron Brooks, knows a lot of the people there. I think, absolutely, this could be a great move for both sides.
"We feel like Thomas Robinson has a lot of upside for the bigger goal of getting back to being a contender."
Morey said the move is expected to leave the Rockets with between $15-20 million dollars in cap room for next season, but that the exact figure can't be decided yet because the league decides that figure in July. That could leave the Rockets enough room for another max-contract player. However, Morey said on Thursday that his Wednesday trades weren't really cap motivated. They were to give more minutes to those who were ready for it. How soon Robinson is ready for those minutes, though, is up to the coaches.
"I'm not going to suggest to the coaching staff: play this guy or play that guy," Morey said. "What I would suggest is that they should try to win as many games as possible, and I hope Thomas and his talent is the guy to play. I think that's what we'll choose, most likely, but if we choose Greg Smith or Donatas (Motiejunas) and we win, I'll be thrilled. Terrence Jones. We've got a lot of young guys who can play and whatever's the best mix to get us in the playoffs, I'm in for."
In his rookie season after being selected fifth overall out of Kansas, Robinson is averaging 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in an average of 15:54 of playing time.