The Houston Rockets‘ head coaching search was one of the lengthier ones, as they were the second-to-last team to hire a coach, with only the Oklahoma City Thunder taking longer. The Rockets interviewed a bevy of candidates, and the finalists were Stephen Silas, Jeff Van Gundy, and John Lucas.
As we now know, Silas ultimately got the job, putting an end to his 20-year NBA career as an assistant, among other roles he held during that time. Silas put together a strong staff, headlined by Lucas, along with Will Weaver, Jeff Hornacek, Rick Higgins, and DeSagana Diop.
Silas’ career as the Rockets head coach got off to a turbulent start, as 2019-20 All-NBA guard Russell Westbrook was dealt for John Wall, who was coming back from significant injuries, that caused him to miss two years on the hardwood. The James Harden experience was even worse for Silas, as Harden opted not to attend training camp, choosing to party in Atlanta and Las Vegas instead.
Stephen Silas doesn’t regret taking Houston Rockets job, despite early challenges
Silas said that Harden promised that he’d show up to camp on the opening day for a private workout, which ultimately never happened. When Harden did take the court, he was noticeably out of shape, while appearing disinterested more often than not, as Harden averaged just 16.9 shots per game, which was the lowest of his Rockets tenure.
In addition, Harden averaged just 7.5 free throw attempts, which was the lowest of his career and a drastic decrease from the 11.8 trips he made to the charity stripe last season. Silas eventually made the decision to keep Harden away from the team during his waning days on the Rockets, before he was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets, in a deal that sent the Rockets a haul of draft picks and Victor Oladipo.
In spite of the not-so-pleasant experience for the first-time head coach, Silas told Rockets general manager Rafael Stone that he doesn’t regret taking the Rockets job, as Stone explained on NBC Houston’s Texas Sports Nation.
“He said to me, ‘Well I didn’t know that when I was being hired.’ And he said to me, ‘I would have taken the job anyway.'”
The Rockets have had the NBA’s best defense since the Harden trade, while Harden’s Nets have been on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Since the Harden trade
– 6-3 record
– Best defensive rating in NBA
– 6-3 record
– Worst defensive rating in NBA pic.twitter.com/wnRPvpC5PF
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 1, 2021
The Rockets are currently riding a five-game winning streak and currently sit 9-9, which is much better than the 3-6 record the team held at the time of the Harden trade. A big reason for the Rockets’ success has been the hunger of Oladipo, who used the trade as motivation, which he explained to TNT’s Inside the NBA crew after the Rockets’ comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“Just coming in here and being myself. Doing what I can on both ends of the floor, being who I am on the floor and in the locker room.
Continuing to uplift my teammates. Without them I wouldn’t have any success. So it’s been great coming to Houston. I feel like all of us are on the same page.
And we all have something to prove and we all want to win. Once you have the same mentality and you put a group of guys together, special things can happen.
It’s unfortunate going through my career, just feels like people keep quitting on me, but it’s a part of life. And I embrace it.”
The Rockets will look to continue their streak on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who took them to the brink of elimination in the opening round of last year’s playoffs, although both teams looked considerably different than the current iterations.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that brighter days are in store for Silas and the Houston Rockets, as he’s plowed through a series of obstacles and lineup adjustments to position the Rockets to make a playoff run.