Daryl Morey thinks of himself as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

At first glance, this tweet is merely amusing in its sentiment and delivery. Daryl Morey likes a popular song! A song with rap! And cursing!

Sorry for stereotyping, but the reserved Romney-funding Morey would not seem to be the demographic for “Thrift Shop.” He even tweets it as some kind of confessional, almost as though he’s embarrassed to like what he does. There’s more here, though, in my opinion. The lyric Morey tweets says a lot about why the song might appeal to the NBA’s Moneyball representative: ”Ice on the fringe, it’s so damn frosty!”

The song, if you haven’t heard it, is about Macklemore’s predilection for finding and flaunting the coolest clothes at a discount. The idea is that, even though these accoutrements got discarded by society, they still possess the ability to dazzle in the right setting.

Macklemore also finger wags at the people who mindlessly blow their money on brand name items like a Gucci shirt:

“I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt’s hella dough
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t”

In essence, it’s a song about bargain hunting, a theme with obvious resonance for a bargain hunting NBA General Manger like Daryl Morey. I think that’s an over simplification, though.

The song exults in the face of group think. To outshine your peers by using perceived trash, you must be embracing a message more subversive than merely “bargain hunting is good.” You have to believe that your peers make dumb decisions based on the arbitrary whims of conventional wisdom and its labels.

Macklemore and Morey can’t pursue their bargains without tacitly insulting the people who believe in the system. It’s the not fault of the clothing hunter or the stat geek. The very way they perceive life is a threat to those who so strongly cling to certain assumptions. The difference is that Macklemore can exude confidence while bragging about it, and Morey cannot. Nobody wants to be told that their $50 shirt purchase is money wasted, but Macklemore can do it to a general audience in an artistic medium. Daryl Morey has to bottle up whatever pride he feels and possibly just relive it through the words of a musician.

If Daryl Morey is feeling the flow and feeling himself right now, that’s understandable. The Rockets are winning, and the James Harden trade looks like a home run. Though valued before the deal, Harden’s bench status undermined his reputation. Today, it’s hard to find more than five players whose trade value eclipses that of the Beard.

Many observers assumed that Harden’s production would plummet because he was merely a “Sixth Man,” thrust into a higher strata. The NBA is full of brand names like “Gucci,” titles that inform conventional wisdom as to a player’s value. There are expensive brands like “Top-5 Pick,” “Starter,” and “All Star.”

The brand names are often indicators of quality but they can also be deceptively empty symbols. “Top-5 Pick” gets you cashing out Jeff Green, five seasons after the 2007 Draft. “Starter” can keep a player in the first unit, long after he’s outlived his usefulness.

Morey believes in seeing past the labels and giving guys a shot beyond whatever preconceived conventional wisdom had them restricted to. James Harden can be a superstar if freed from the Sixth Man role. Omer Asik’s defense can matter all the more so with more playing time. Yes, Jeremy Lin went undrafted, but he can still be a quality player–not a novelty act.

It’s a liberating feeling, the idea that you can find and free great players from group think. At a 21-15 record, the Rockets are doing a fine job bringing frosty ice back from the fringe.

Related posts:

  1. Daryl Morey’s blameless failure
  2. Daryl Morey and Houston’s Big Freed Three
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