D-League-O-Rama-Rama: Rockets’ Firing of Clay Moser in Rio Grande Valley Is Indicative Of Imperial Influence

I met Clay Moser a year ago at Summer League after he’d been recently hired by D-League squad and surprisingly deep talent pool Rio Grande Valley as head coach. He seemed like a really nice dude, knowledgeable, with a wealth of experience in scouting and minor league experience. Which he’ll need.

Cause he just got canned.

Moser will land on his feet, since the dude knows just about everyone, everywhere, and if Ruland can get back into college coaching, Moser will find himself a gig.

But here’s where this gets really interesting (with apologies to coach Moser; best of luck, bro!). The article quotes Moser as saying Rockets GM Morey informed him that there wasn’t anything Moser was doing wrong, but they had someone more experience they wanted to install.

For the uninitiated, the Rockets purchased the basketball operations of the Vipers, making them the first hybrid model in the league.

(For more on the hybrid model read here and here.)

Okay, now that you’re up to speed, here’s why the Rockets being the first to try this model is terrific for the D-League AND the NBA and puppies and the world in general.

When I talked to Morey at Summer League last year (about ten minutes after I talked to Moser, actually), I asked him about Houston’s interest in owning a team. He told me in GM pressspeak that he’d like to see some more control before they made the investment. The hybrid system gives them that. Stein reported that the average loss for a team is $1 million. That number is staggering to me. Not for how big it is, but for how little it is. Think about this. For 1/16th of what they’re paying Zach Randolph (that’s Zach!) in a year they have absolutely no immediate goals for, the Memphis Grizzlies could have invested in control over an affiliate to develop all that young talent they have.

Anyway, what the quote from Morey concerning the Vipers head coaching vacancy indicates is that the Rockets take this seriously. An overlooked part of this arrangement is that affiliate teams can send down a young assistant coach and let him develop time with the prospects and how to run the offense. Then when those players and that coach are later promoted, there’s already a relationship. It means that the values and conditioning the Rockets want to instill in their system will be present in Rio Grande Valley.

For the longest time, I questioned why the Rockets invested so much money in a team that’s about five hours away from ANYTHING RESEMBLING CIVILIZATION. Now it’s become clear to me. They’ve built their own basketball lab down there. Remember that the Rockets have had more players with D-League experience in the playoffs than anyone else. Aaron Brooks? Yeah, that guy that torched the Lakers spent time in RGV. Same with Chuck Hayes. And Rio Grande Valley is tucked away, so they can train and condition and work on the playbook without any exposure or risk of visiting team personnel. It’s like Morey’s personal Batcave, only with huevos rancheros.

Most NBA GMs are skeptical towards the D-League because they are terrified of sending down a $10 million investment to work with a minor league coach they don’t know in a system they’re not familiar with being handled by trainers they have not vetted. Or in the case of the Thunderbirds in 2008, no trainers at all (and this was while David Kahn owned the team! Get excited, T-Wolves fans!)

The Hybrid System removes that concern. Morey will know everyone involved in the hands on development of their players. He can install a head coach who’s a part of their organization, someone they want to specifically work on developing their young players (get ready for sprints, Chase Budinger!). And while the D-League annoyingly has a salary cap that limits the amount of money they can spend on players (and the stupid CBA won’t allow for what they should, which is an additional six roster spots for D-League assignment that don’t count against the cap unless they’re activated, but that’s a story for another day). HOWEVER, there’s no cap on what Morey can spend on basketball ops. So if he wants to pay a few hundred thousand on a flight of strength and conditioning coaches and turn the team into a year round training camp, he can. If he wants to install state of the art rehab facilities and get top notch trainers to rotate between there and Houston to work with rookies who get banged up? He can do that. The possibilities are endless. And all of those decisions are up to Morey. Control.

So while it sucks that Moser got booted, this may end up being an egg and omelet situation. And anything that helps push basketball development that results in more cheap, productive young players and fewer overpriced, older players is a good thing. I mean, sure, they’re not 20 and 10 guys, but maybe they won’t do this either.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.