Two days ago, I said it wasn’t time to panic in Houston, but apparently the Rockets’ front office feels differently. Starting the season 4-7, general manager Daryl Morey and Co. decided it was time to part ways with head coach Kevin McHale.
After leading the Houston Rockets to their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 1997, McHale’s firing feels a bit premature. While many of the same pieces from last year’s 56-26 squad are still there, the departure of Josh Smith, the addition of Ty Lawson and the injury to Donatas Motiejunas means it will take some time for this team to gel.
There’s no denying how terrible the defense has been, but that can’t be attributed to McHale. Acquiring Lawson to start in the backcourt with James Harden was essentially a death sentence from a defensive perspective. Morey cannot be the least bit surprised that Houston is currently allowing the second most points in the league (108.5). Even with defensive behemoth Dwight Howard protecting the rim, Morey meticulously constructed this roster with the intention to outscore teams.
It’s the offense that should be considered Houston’s biggest concern. Defense is effort-based, and the Rockets should improve on that end as the offense finds its groove. The issue is that the offense appears out of sorts with Lawson and Harden sharing the floor. Both ball-dominant guards appear uncomfortable without the rock in their hands, and will need to improve their spot-up shooting if this offense is to flourish.
Of course, these offensive and defensive woes can’t solely be blamed on McHale. The only justification Morey gave for the decision to change coaches was that “the team was not responding to Kevin [McHale].” It’s a rash move on the heels of such a successful season, but like Morey went on to explain, “there is no time in the West.”
That couldn’t be truer, and interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is going to learn that the hard way. There’s no time to install new schemes and game-plans in the uber-competitive Western Conference, making Morey’s decision to change coaches all the more confusing.
Photo Credit: Fansided