The Houston Rockets still have a bit of life in them as they are facing elimination tomorrow up in the Golden State.
This entire season has been full of underachieving, inconsistencies and being ineffectual toward the big picture of winning the most games as possible.
There are many people to point to the fingers at for this free-fall of production; but, for the most part, it’s the players that are the most to blame.
In essence, the Rockets have an extraordinary mix of talent but a terrible clash of personalities.
When that particular scenario comes together, regardless of how good the team is on paper, a team will not be successful because of the lack of cohesiveness between one another.
The problem — and I have said this all season — is that you have many players who still care about competitiveness as well as winning basketball games and then you have those whose personal and monetary agendas overshadow the big picture.
Unfortunately, the latter portion of my previous sentence was the mantra that won out.
And hence the position that this team is in…
With horrible regular season culminating with 41-41 record and a less than stellar performance in the playoffs, there should be no surprise the Rockets are in the situation that they’re in.
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I have to admit — Kevin McHale was the best-suited to coach this team of misguided misfits.
He somehow was able to keep it all together — notwithstanding the stress of doing so — by guiding this team to the Western Conference Finals last year.
But 11 games into this season, all of that stopped.
Some players — ahem James Harden — started to tune him out and when the best player on the team does that, McHale officially became the lame-duck.
When you lose the locker room, what’s the point?
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had to make a change to try to give this team — which was 4-7 at the time — a jolt by jettisoning McHale and inserting top assistant J.B. Bickerstaff to coach this team.
Recently, Morey took an unconventional response to Quora, the popular question-and-answer blog and gave his reasoning to fans for letting the Rockets long-time head coach go.
Here’s his response:
"“One thing the Rockets have done well over the years under our owner Leslie Alexander is we have had very good coaches,” Morey said. “All winning coaches and all have stayed for more than 4 years. Kevin’s long tenure with the Rockets by NBA standards was no exception. He was an amazing coach to work with who did a tremendous job. I believe he is the coach with the best winning percentage in Rockets history. Since owning the team, our owner has had fewer coaches than any team in the league except Utah. Bottom line, we have great coaches at the Rockets and they stay a long time.”"
Morey explains his decision here:
"“Obviously, given this history the decision to change coaches was not taken lightly. Our team was reeling at the time of the change — in just our first 11 games we had lost multiple games to non playoff teams, including two at home, and none of the losses were close, most were double digit losses. In the West, you basically can’t do that for any stretch of the season and still reach our goals for the season. The prior year, for example, we had only 2 losses at home to non-playoff teams the whole season – we had already done it in only 2+ weeks. I believed that if we waited until what would be considered a normal timetable to make a change that it would likely be too late. Our only focus is on winning and I felt a material change was necessary.”"
Morey affirms his actions here:
"“Was this decision fair? No. Was it correct? That is unknown as we don’t know what coach McHale would have done if he had stayed. I am comfortable we made the best decision for the team with the information we had at the time. I know this, when Kevin coaches again a team is going to get one hell of a coach.”"
And there you have it…
Bickerstaff was dealt a bad hand in him taking a job that I’m sure he coveted one day but not necessarily on those terms.
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J.B. was chosen because he still somewhat has the respect of the players — more so than McHale — and with that “interim” tag, he’d have no choice but to be a “yes” man.
Although I do criticize J.B. during some critical moments of games, I tend to forget that this is NOT his team, he had been relegated to the role of shepherd, just a guy to keep this team together enough to win some games and hopefully drop some jaws.
That didn’t quite happen and he’ll likely be looking for new employment soon although I’m positive he will get an interview to get the job permanently.
For all that he has done for the organization over the years, he DESERVES it.
Moreover, Bickerstaff is more suited to coach a group of young, unproven talent because his strong abilities as a teacher are just as good as his coaching instincts.
But if he is unable to whet the appetite of his head coaching aspirations elsewhere, I’m positive McHale would be more than happy to add him back to his staff, wherever he ends up.
But with the Rockets on the brink of having their season end tomorrow night, there will be a lot of unknowns going into the off season.
Who will coach this team? What free agents can we get? Will Dwight Howard opt-out?
We’ll have to see…