With head coaching options becoming more and more limited each day, it’s time for the Rockets to start making decisions.
The hiring rush that’s taking place now was somewhat unexpected, but nevertheless it is taking over the league. In the last few days, many of the coaches that were on the Houston Rockets‘ radar signed contracts with other teams.
First, Tom Thibodeau went to the Minnesota Timberwolves to head up on of the best young cores in the league, then Scott Brooks signed with the Washington Wizards in what seemed more like a Kevin Durant marketing ploy than it did a coaching decision, and as recently as yesterday, Luke Walton inked a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to coach the team with which he won two titles.
It’s no secret that the Rockets are in need of a new face as the head coach, and the once lengthy list is being trimmed daily. There isn’t much time to waste; Daryl Morey needs to start making decisions.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
Thankfully, the guy who is arguably best for Houston’s head coaching job is still available. Jeff Van Gundy has only missed the playoffs once in his coaching career and led the Rockets during a four season stretch of having a top-7 or better defense. As Space City Scoop’s Joshua Van Horn argues, he’s the most viable option for this defensively-struggling team.
Maybe I’m off base with this, but from what I’ve gathered of Van Gundy’s personality as an analyst as well as a former head coach, it seems like Van Gundy would do good for the Rockets in challenging Harden and company by telling them the blunt truth. Again, not for the sake of breaking down, but for the sake of building up.
That being said, the Rockets wouldn’t be able to bring in just anyone to start offering constructive criticism to the players. Management will have to make sure to hire a head coach with a proven track record. Again, Van Gundy fits that criteria.
The Rockets, as I’ve mentioned today and many times before, are in desperate need of defensive improvements. Last year, the team finished eighth in defensive efficiency compared to this year’s ranking of twenty-first. I don’t know what exactly went wrong considering the roster similarities over the past two seasons, but something must change over the course of the summer. Red94’s Rahat Huq took a Morey-approved analytical look at the defensive inefficiencies that caused the Rockets to digress so dramatically this season and plans to look at which players are to blame.
"Why the drastic decline defensively after bringing back essentially the same group? Houston’s most-used five-man combination last year was Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas, with 360 minutes played together. This year? It was…Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas, with 295 minutes played together. Last year, the quintet posted a net rating of +10.7. This year? +11. Naturally, we’ll need to dig much, much deeper beyond the surface, in later installments, to glean any understanding."
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The Rockets have most certainly fallen off this year, but they are also the recipients of some unwarranted criticism. Houston was not the only team to come up short this year by any means; it speaks volumes that they made the playoffs with a 41-41 record considering how dominant the Western Conference was a year ago. According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Daryl Morey fired back at the media for painting the Rockets in such a negative light all season.
“It’s been disappointing – and obviously we’re all disappointed – that people are painting the season we just had and trying to make it into a larger thing than it is, which is one season that was disappointing in a sea of a lots of seasons that were successful,” Morey said. “Not as successful as we want, but for sure not the entire negative environment that people are trying to paint.
“It’s smart for other teams to try to paint us in a negative way. It’s a very competitive free-agent situation. All the articles you see out there are other teams I think very smartly trying to paint our situation as negative. Being kicked while you’re down is a smart situation by teams leaking things, trying to put stuff out there to make us look bad.”
Either last season or this season was an anomaly; no team would normally have such drastically different results one season to the next with minimal roster changes. The 2016-2017 season for the Rockets will be very telling as to which of the two seasons was the irregular one for Houston. Hopefully, with a coaching change and a culture improvement, the team can prove the skeptics wrong.
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