Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s coaching substitutions are hurting the team’s performance. Further they do nothing to build confidence or establish consistency in terms of what each player’s role is.
Can somebody explain to me what kind of in game player substitutions J.B. Bickerstaff is inserting?
The newly appointed Houston Rockets head coach looks completely incapable of adjusting lineups to counter mismatches on the court. J.B. is also playing his superstar James Harden way too many minutes which is causing fatigue and inefficient play late in games.
I have never seen so many inconsistent starting/bench lineups ever by a NBA head coach. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear every Rocket player say, “I have no idea what my role is on this team”. This is an immense disadvantage and as Rocket fans we want answers!
Let’s just say there is no stable/consistent rotation by J.B. and his coaching style. He is a rookie coach that is playing less talented vets over younger and more athletic role players. J.B. continues to play this 8 to 9 man rotation with Corey Brewer, Jason Terry, Michael Beasley, and Clint Capela.
The Rockets head coach stubborn refusal to insert the right rotations is costing the Rockets games. When a player is having a bad night shooting, effort issues, or even having a hard time guarding his own man on defense, then it might be best to go deeper into your bench to counter the mismatch. J.B. likes to play small ball with guys like Ariza, Beasley, and Brewer at the power forward position. That is not their natural position which causes handicaps on defense.
It puts the Rockets at a disadvantage size wise which affects the defense. Specifically:
- Offensive rebounding – Houston rank 28th giving up 11.7 offensive rebounds per game
- Points In the Paint: Houston gives up the 7th most points in the paint to opposing teams for an average of 45 points per game
- Plus it makes the center’s job that much harder guarding the paint and rim.
Next: Back to Back Issues?
Mar 19, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shows emotion against the Atlanta Hawks in the third quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Roster Management in Back to Back Games
J.B doesn’t understand when his team is on a back to back game he has to go deeper into his bench to find fresh legs and energy. When players are running marathon’s nightly, fresh legs play a big part in your jump shot motion. It’s not like these professional athletes are machines running 100 yard sprints each game. Players are constantly running full speed anywhere from 30-40 minutes a night.
Basically they are running a couple of miles per game. That puts a lot of pressure on your legs and can lead to fatigue and sometimes injury if you don’t get the proper rest. For example Harden sprained his ankle versus the Atlanta Hawks on 3/19/16 which was the 2nd game in two nights. Not to mention on 3/18/16 vs the Minnesota Timberwolves Harden played in 38 minutes out of a possible 48 minutes.
Harden also leads the league in total minutes played for the second straight year and it just so happens the beard is also leading the NBA in total turnovers for the second straight year. Coincidence? I think not. Fatigue causes carelessness mistakes. Plain and simple J.B. is taking a huge risk by not going deeper into his bench searching for fresh legs on back to back games.
Next: What's the Line?
Nov 6, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) goes up for a layup between Houston Rockets guard Marcus Thornton (10), forward Trevor Ariza (1), guard James Harden (13) and center Clint Capela (15) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Houston Rockets defeated the Sacramento Kings 116-110. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Now let’s take a look at the 5 man starting rotation’s Bickerstaff has used over the course of his tenure as the Rockets head coach, along with the wins and losses.
- Beverley, Harden, Brewer, Ariza, Howard: In 7 games starting this small ball lineup the Rockets have a record of 1-6 with a winning percentage of 14.3%.
- Beverley, Harden, Ariza, Motiejunas, Howard: In 14 games starting this lineup the Rockets have a record of 7-7 with a winning percentage of 46.2%.
- Beverley, Harden, Ariza, Smith, Howard: In 5 games starting this lineup the Rockets have a record of 2-3 with a winning percentage of 40%.
- Beverly, Harden, Ariza, Capela, Howard: In 21 games starting this lineup the Rockets have a record of 12-9 with a winning percentage of 57.1%.
I’m no genius, but if I was an interim rookie head coach I would play the starting lineup that generates me wins to secure my job for the future. Unfortunately the 5 man starting lineup that produces a winning record of Beverly, Harden, Ariza, Capela, and Howard is not playing together right now. If your 5 man starting rotation is not working, why not try something else new?
When I think about Bickerstaff’s style of coaching I think about this Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Not only is the rotation bad in the 1st half, but according to Jason Terry it gets worse in the 4th quarter when it matters:
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) March 24, 2016
Well when your so-called captain of your team calls out the players and coaching staff on executing down the stretch, I keep seeing a whole bunch of red flags passing by my eyes. Especially knowing Terry kinda plays the role of player/coach of this team.
Take at look at this shot by Harden down two points coming out of a timeout by Bickerstaffs with 1.6 seconds left:
I mean this might be the worst play call coming out of a timeout I have ever seen. First, you don’t necessarily need a 3 pointer. Second, why in the hell is Harden playing ring around the rosy with Howard (who is setting a very poor screen to try to free up Harden)?
Third, this exact play call is probably the least efficient shot attempt by Harden I have ever seen! I mean a step back fade away contested 3 point shot was the best option down by two points with 1.6 seconds left? It just boggles my mind that this is what a so-called professional NBA head coach would call. Now you can see why this team is a below .500.
Next: Undeniable Stat Truths
Oct 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Miami Heat small forward Justise Winslow (20) tries to pass as Houston Rockets power forward Montrezl Harrell (35) and shooting guard K.J. McDaniels (32) defend during the second half at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Men Lie, Women Lie, But Numbers Don’t!
Bickerstaff can try to hide and not play Montrezl Harrell because this coaching staff has deemed it unnecessary to play rookies. He can tell himself Harrell isn’t important even if he fits the system and needs of the team to help secure a win. But, no matter how many times he says it, every Rocket fan knows Harrell should be starting at the power forward position. And, the stats and numbers seem to back-up this statement.
Let’s take a look at the positives when Harrell is inserted into the game on the defensive end:
- On Court: 106.5
- Off Court: 108.7
- The opponents offensive rating drops -2.2 when Harrell is in the game opposed to being off the court.
Now let’s observe the benefits of Harrell on and off the court on the offensive side:
- On Court: 112.1
- Off Court: 107.1
- The Rockets offensive rating sky rockets up to +5.0 when Harrell is inserted into the game versus out.
The sad part about this is Bickerstaff knows every time he plays Harrell good things seem to happen. Check out Bickerstaff comments to the media on Harrell impact:
Unfortunately Bickerstaff only plays Harrell (a natural power forward) that the Rockets have been missing all season 9.8 minutes per game. It’s frustrating because I feel like Bickerstaff just told me a bold face lie during that post game interview!
Don’t punish a kid for being a rookie and playing well. Harrell gives the Rockets what they are lacking at the power forward position. A guy who can spread the floor, a rim runner, and gives 150% energy and effort when on the court next to Harden and Howard.
Another player being under used by Bickerstaff’s ridiculous rotations is K.J. McDaniels. McDaniels has played so well on the defensive end that Bickerstaff deems it necessary to leave him out the rotation most nights. K.J. averages 5.8 minutes per game. When McDaniel’s is on the court the opponents offensive rating drops -14.0 points. Again, check out this remarkable stat that is being ignored by Bickerstaff:
- Opponents offensive rating with McDaniel’s on the court: 95.1
- Opponents offensive rating with McDaniel’s off the court: 109.1
- Opponents offensive rating with McDaniel’s on/off the court differential: -14.0
I’m guessing we will never get an answer from Bickerstaff on why McDaniel’s can’t contribute on the defensive end for a Rockets team who currently ranked 22nd in defensive rating?
Next: Rockets Need a New Coach
Jan 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets head coach J.B. Bickerstaff reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Daryl Morey has to understand when you fire a coach you have to fire the entire coaching staff! You don’t want the same philosophies being incorporated that lead to the firing of the head coach. You must clean house and start fresh. Bickerstaff was an understudy of Kevin McHale from back in their days in Minnesota college/professional.
The talent is there and now all they need is a great coach to maximize the talent. Morey has provided a mixture of veteran and young talent. As a coach it’s your responsibility to play who ever gets you the best chance to win – – period. Do you agree or disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
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