Rockets general manager Rafael Stone offers some tunes on the team’s draft plans


Rockets general manager Rafael Stone took his place among the Houston Food Bank volunteers on Wednesday, helped move 93,666 merchandise meals and gave no clue as to what he will do next week at his day job.

Stone, Rockets coach Stephen Silas and Rockets president Gretchen Sheirr were on staff on the morning shift at the food bank with eight days before they were on the clock with the second pick in the NBA Draft. , one of three selections held by the Rockets. the first round.

Stone, however, left no clue about his plans, insisting that he wouldn’t adjust his preferences until he had to.

“We are working really hard,” Stone said. “Our job is to make sure we leave no stone unturned. We’re just grinding. We keep plowing until we’re on the clock or something else happens.

Stone was careful not to even indicate that he will use the picks he has – second, 23rd and 24th – let alone the ones he’s most likely to pick. He admitted that he’s much more likely to keep rather than hand out his picks, but said even in his own mind he hasn’t determined which players he wants to add.

“I actually believe that’s the wrong approach,” Stone said. “I think the right approach is to get the job done, work as hard as you can, use every minute and keep all options open. There is still no guarantee that we will pick or pick at this location. It is more likely than not. It’s always like that. It is our job to determine what possibilities exist.

Still, with Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham widely seen as likely to be selected first by the Pistons, the Rockets would likely choose from G League goaltender Jalen Green Ignite, USC center Evan Mobley and goaltender. Jalen Suggs from Gonzaga.

Stone was unwilling to describe the kind of prospect he wants, but said it wasn’t out of reluctance to show his hand in final media availability ahead of next Thursday’s draft. He said he would choose the best possible prospect without any fit or style considerations.

“I think it’s talent, it’s talent, it’s talent,” Stone said. “Great players can play with each other. From our perspective, we are always focused on talent.

Stone said it was his “goal” to speak to each team three to five times before the draft to review their options, at least indicating some trade openness, with deals traditionally much more likely in the days immediately leading up to the draft. or during the draft that this week.

Video: Chronicle of Houston

“You want to do your best with every opportunity,” Stone said. “This may not be the occasion; the opportunity is next year. We may already have someone on our list who could be the key. You don’t really know. It’s not like, ‘Oh, this is the one and it has to be perfect.’ No. It’s just that you have to do the best you can every time.

With the current roster in mind, Silas said the focus has been as much on developing the players that he already has as on the talent that will be brought in. He was part of the preparations for the draft. But he and Stone also met their current players, including Stone’s lunch with Kevin Porter Jr. on Tuesday at Silas’ trip to Miami where Christian Wood trained for daily visits with players working at the Toyota Center.

“It’s been a lot of talking, a lot of watching movies, a lot of meetings,” Silas said. “I also thought about the players we have in our roster, the players who are in the gym every day. There is the draft preparation, but we also have to make sure that the guys we have improve, receive services, are attentive to whatever they need off and on the field.

“Getting to know these guys, that they know me, that they know the system and how we’re going to do things and talk to them about the adjustments and the ways that we can improve as a group and that they can improve individually. is what I focused on this summer. I didn’t have that luxury last summer.

This is just one of the many things the Rockets hope to be different from last season when roster transformation and an endless injury streak led to a 17-55 season, COVID protocols limited crowds to home at an average of 3,177 and events like Wednesday’s were limited.

There have been full events at the Toyota Center since the end of the season, but in many ways the draft could represent the start of next season, a welcome change. Stone, however, would not set the next step as final, especially before determining and dividing the player who will become his first first-round pick as general manager.

“I am really convinced that if we do our job well over and over again and our players return the favor, we will get to where we want to go,” he said. “I will never be able to tell you that this is the crucial moment. And I wouldn’t.

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Twitter: @Jonathan_Feigen

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