Daryl Morey Watches Rookies Shine In D-League
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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On a night where his Houston Rockets picked up their biggest win of the season against the New York Knicks 131-103 at home, general manager Daryl Morey was six hours south in Rio Grande Valley for the season opener of the Vipers. The Vipers, the Rockets’ D-League affiliate, kicked off the 2012-13 regular season against the Bakersfield Jam with rookies Scott Machado and Donatas Motiejunas down on assignment from Houston.
“We consider it one of our key assets,” Morey said to HOOPSWORLD. “We have a great partnership. I think over time people are going to see minor league basketball like Triple A baseball. It’s not much different than Major League Baseball where most players are one step away from the pros. The first three or four guys on every D-League bench are really not different from guys 11-15 on NBA benches. The quality of basketball is super high, way higher than college basketball. Pretty much every D-League team would have a chance to challenge for a NCAA title. These are really great teams playing every night and I think over time people are going to see how high the quality is.”
Machado and Motiejunas not only started for the Vipers, they each played over 35 minutes.
The Jam featured Renaldo Major, who scored a team-high 20. Damion James and Brian Butch were stout up front for the Jam, combining for 32 points and 22 rebounds. The Vipers fell to them 115-113, but the Rockets rookies shined.
Motiejunas was the star of the game, scoring 31 points while tallying eight rebounds and three assists.
“[Motiejuans] is a very skilled offensive player so we’re hoping he shows that and I think he really did show that in the first half here,” Morey said. “We’re focused on him a getting a lot of minutes so he can get his game shape up cause we want to see him impact in transition at our level and this level. We want to see him as he gets tired continue to impact the game defensively, rebounding wise and be solid on defense without fouling. And, it’s over time. It’s not overnight. We want him to get stronger, deal with stronger guys in the NBA. There’s quite a few bigs down here like a Jeff Adrien on his own team, but on other teams where he can get a real good sense going against these bigger, stronger guys than he’s faced in the past.”
Machado came on strong late and flirted with a triple-double. He finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. The ability to produce across the board is exactly what the Rockets sent him down to develop.
“Scott is a guy we really believe in,” Morey said. “The highest assist guy I think in 20 years in college basketball. Really skilled passer. Obviously he has has, we look for a guy with an elite skill in one area and then see if they can round it out in other areas. I think his time with the Vipers we’re really going to see can he take that passing an elite skill and add to it defense, rebounding and getting his own offense, things like that. Over time we’ll see that but we really think he’s a great prospect for us going forward.”
There was speculation last week that fellow rookie Royce White was going to be joining Motiejunas and Machado, but they’re utilizing a different plan with White that does not currently involve playing for the Vipers.
“We had never said anything about Royce White coming down here,” Morey said. “Royce is someone we’re working through the issues with and we’re optimistic that we’ll get things back on track with him.”
The Vipers will have another chance at the Jam on Saturday night.