As a follow-up to the article on the Houston Rockets formal Introduction of Mike D’Antoni the new Defensive Associate Coach Jeff Bzdelik also addressed the media.
One of the first points Jeff Bzdelik made to the throngs of media assembled was 9 of the past 10 Champions ranked top 10 in both offense and defense. He repeatedly cited offensive/defensive balance and accountability as main issues throughout his answers.
Q: James gets a lot of flack for his defense, what have you seen on film when you see his D?
Bzdelik: pointed out the Rockets were a top defensive team 2 seasons ago, and then said James Harden is extremely competitive which he says in order to defend well you need a competitive spirit.
Notably the mandate from Leslie Alexander and Daryl Morey must have been to make James Harden happy because the love fest for Harden seemed to be the overriding plot line of the day!
He further noted the team slipped last season, but feels the year prior the team proved they can play well defensively.
Q: You’ve been on the other side having to stop Harden, what issues does he pose?
Bzdelik: Speaks to how the game is different now making it difficult to guard the ball especially with the rules today. He notes in the “old” days you could use physicality but now you can’t use your hands, so players have to guard with their hands and arms up and by using your feet which helps the offensive players. He notes you have to shrink the court when you face a player like Harden.
Q: How much can Dwight Howard can help the defense? (note: I’m not sure why reporters are asking these questions because the signing of D’Antoni virtually guarantees Howard will leave, but for the sake of argument let’s say Bzdelik’s response can be applied to Capela).
Bzdelik: with Memphis we had Marc Gasol as a rim protector not necessarily blocking shots, but the verticality and putting your body in front of people. In today’s game if you go back to what I just said (re: how to defend Harden) you have to deal with how to defend broken coverages like when people get beat off the baseline or off the the slot and down the middle how do you defend that. You have to work a lot on getting beat, because that happens.
Obviously the take away here is that he intends to utilize Harden’s offensive prowess to help the Rockets deal with defensive practices.
Q: Define what you bring defensively:
Bzdelik: We can’t be one way runners. We want to run the ball, but you have to get back on d. What you want on offense is to score or get to the line or get a wide open shot. But what you want on defense is to stop those things. You want to force teams to take tough contested shots, outside the paint and inside the 3 point line (NOTE: Morey ball ruling both ends?).
Q: Do you feel you have a lot of challenges or that you are pretty close to being there?
Bzdelik: No we need to get to work right away.
Q: What are the challenges when you are playing in a fast paced offense of being able to play well in transition?
Bzdelik: Well you have to understand number one when the shot is taken you have to get out of the corners. You can’t stare at the ball to see if it goes in. We call it getting back on the raise, as soon as the shot leaves the fingertips we need people getting back, and if you are outside the arc you can’t be running in you have to get back.
Now in defensive transition you want 3 things, number one you don’t want to give up a coast to coast look, you don’t want to give up a lay-up off of one pass, and you want to make them at least reverse the ball with more than 2 passes to the weak side so you can get back and build your shell, again to make them take tough twos outside the paint and inside the arc.
Q: Asked what he saw specifically this past season
Bzdelik: Again cites how good the Rockets were 2 years ago, noting the ability and the talent is there. He says there needs to be a mentality where all 5 guys understand that it takes all 5 guys get a stop, everybody is involved, and if one guy doesn’t do his job he’s an outcast. And so we need to develop that trust, have them understand the schemes, hold them accountable just like we are held accountable. And have them clearly understand what is expected of them. You have to have balance to win a championship.
Q: Asked whether Harden gets a bad rap being left off the All NBA teams
Bzdelik: it was the one question he seemed to back away from saying it’s time to turn the page as D’Antoni said, then said he wasn’t here last year and closes with “it’s a big boy league” where we are all held accountable.
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While there are some wondering if Jeremy Lin may be wooed by D’Antoni who he has a strong relationship with, I’m wondering if the addition of Bzdelik may be also to help with the campaign to bring Mike Conley to Houston.
Either way for those who were concerned about the D’Antoni signing the addition of Bzdelik has to be appeasing some of those questions.
Make sure you check out the current Space City Scoop series including our year end player analysis, draft prospects worthy of Rockets picking or trading for, our best of reader/fan posts and our end of season Rockets Round Table:
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