Daryl Morey Explains David Nwaba Signing, Isaiah Hartenstein Release

Michael Shapiro

The Rockets were among the teams looking to make an addition before the NBA's restart on July 30, but the signing of David Nwaba was a touch surprising nonetheless. Houston opted against adding an potential impact piece for the 2020 playoffs, instead choosing to sign a player who tore his Achilles in Dec. 2019. 

Then there's the matter of Houston's corresponding move. Morey chose to waive center Isaiah Hartenstein after signing Nwaba, sending away the lone playable center (all due respect to Tyson Chandler) on Houston's roster. Morey's decision was unconventional, though it's certainly in line with his roster manipulation in recent months. The Rockets are committed to their small-ball style for both the upcoming playoffs and beyond. Adding Nwaba fits firmly with the Rockets' vision for the next decade. 

"[Nwaba], we think has really good potential," Morey told the media in a Zoom call on Monday. "You guys have a good sense of how we’re playing now, and the kinds of players we need for that style. We are fully committed to that with [head coach Mike D’Antoni] and the players we have. We think Nwaba think fits that very well."

Waiving Hartenstein wasn't an easy decision for Morey. The 22-year-old center showed an impressive offensive arsenal in a stretch of extended minutes in late December and early January, and he was the only Rockets' draft pick on the roster before late June. With a crowded rotation in Houston, Hartenstein's needed a new location to grow as an NBA asset. 

"I do think [Hartenstein] is going to go on and be a very good player," Morey said on Monday. "But likely not here. I told [Hartenstein] when we moved on, we've sadly had to cut a lot of good players. ...Sometimes players need playing time somewhere they can get it before we can get them back. It's very hard to get into our rotation, so it's hard for young players to show what they can do."

The Rockets made one final move before the NBA's restart on July 1 when they signed forward Luc Mbah a Moute. The UCLA product rejoins Houston after Thabo Sefolosha opted out of play in Orlando, leaving the Rockets with an open spot in their wing rotation.

Houston currently sits No. 6 in the Western Conference at 40–24. James Harden and Co. will restart their season on July 31, kicking off the final eight games of the regular season with a matchup against the Mavericks. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. CT. 

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