Houston Rockets Need Culture Change


So far the Houston Rockets 2015-2016 NBA season has been a disaster. Taking into consideration their previous season’s success, it’s hard for me to recall a team that has been as disappointing.

Reasons as to why the Rockets are struggling continue to pile on– James Harden needs to play harder, the coaching staff is inept, their defense is atrocious. All of those reasons are legit. In fact, most of the reasons one hears floating around the internet as to why the Rockets are struggling are real concerns.

Bottom line, there’s no easy fix for the Rockets. If you solve any single problem the Rockets have, their remaining problems will still weigh the team down. The Rockets’ overarching problem– a problem that feeds more specific problems– is that they are undisciplined.

Dec 14, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) drives to the basket against Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) during the first half at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

They currently commit the 2nd most turnovers in the league at 17 a game. Only the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers commit more. Last season it was the same story. They were 3rd in the league in turnovers, behind the Sixers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

On defense, they allow their opponents to score 107 points per game (3rd worst in the league).

With all the talent the Rockets have, there’s no excuse for so many turnovers and poor defense. Whether it be because of the players or the coaching staff, the Rockets are just flat out undisciplined.

How do you solve a discipline problem? There’s two options. One being to blow up the whole thing, and find players who have a better attitude. The other being to start fresh with a completely new coaching staff, and hope that different coaches can instill within the Rockets a sense of discipline that the McHale coaching staff has been unable to.

Since neither option is guaranteed to work, one must ask which option makes the most sense to try first. Obviously, it’s a new coaching staff.

The Rockets roster currently has more talent than any Rocket team has had in years. As Rockets fans know, Morey moved pieces around for years before he could land a superstar duo in James Harden and Dwight Howard. A coaching staff can be fired and replaced within a day’s time.

When news came of McHale’s firing, I was eager to see who the Rockets would hire in his place as I believed the Rockets–even when they were successful– lacked the discipline that a great coach instills.

When word dropped that they would let Bickerstaff finish out the season, I was perplexed. It wasn’t because I have any legitimate idea of Bickerstaff’s coaching ability, but because what I thought the Rockets needed more than anything was a culture change, and keeping in tact a coaching staff that has perpetuated a culture that has obviously failed seemed to me to be a bad solution.

A new coaching staff may not be the answer to the Rockets’ struggles, however. As many people have pointed out, James Harden’s effort is far from satisfactory. Teams often go in the direction of their leader, and if Harden is unable to rise to the occasion and set an example for the rest of his teammates, the Rockets are doomed to mirror the effort of their best player.


Perhaps Harden would put forth lousy effort under any coach he would potentially play for, but sometimes it takes a great coach to transform a great player into a great leader. And that is what the Rockets need, a leader who is able to hold the team accountable night in and night out.

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It may be that Harden can never mold into that player, which only time will tell, but before we write him off as an inadequate leader, the Rockets have to try to start things new with a coaching staff that puts emphasis on discipline.

Culture is as important as talent in the NBA. If you look back at the past twenty years, the teams that have won championships all have one thing in common– great coaches who instill championship cultures.

If the Rockets are unable to turn things around before the all-star break, I hope that they will consider going in a new direction before the season is over.

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