Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whose tweet last year supporting Hong Kong freedom led to a China rift with the National Basketball Association (NBA), is stepping down.

He is leaving on his own accord after guiding the Rockets basketball operations since the 2007-2008 season, making the decision after the Houston were beaten in the second round of the NBA play-offs in the Covid-19 bubble in Orlando.

“After returning from Orlando and reflecting on what has been an amazing 14 years with the Houston Rockets… I’ve decided I’ll be stepping away from the Rockets organisation effective November 1,” Morey said in a statement.

His final campaign brought severe scrutiny, after a tweet one year ago regarding Hong Kong protests that led to China suspending sponsorship deals with the NBA and pulling NBA game telecasts off Chinese television for a year, resuming only with last Friday’s fifth game of the NBA Finals.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta both backed Morey, the 2018 NBA Executive of the Year, despite Chinese calls for his dismissal and what Silver estimated were financial losses to the NBA of about US$400 million (S$543 million).

After the Rockets were eliminated in the Western Conference semi-finals by eventual champions the Los Angeles Lakers, Morey approached Fertitta about leaving and an exit deal was completed.

The 48-year-old, who signed a five-year extension in March last year, remains to the end of this month to help the Rockets complete their search for a new coach.

Separately, Tyronn Lue, who coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA title, has agreed to become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, according to multiple reports on Thursday.

ESPN and USA Today reported that Lue has agreed to replace Doc Rivers, who parted ways with the Clippers just over two weeks ago, with ESPN saying the deal was for five years.

Lue, 43, served as the lead assistant coach for the Clippers the past season, when they lost to Denver in the Western semi-finals.

The Clippers have never reached a conference final but, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading a talented squad, they are seen as contenders next season.

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