After just eleven games into a troubling start to the 2015-2016 season the Houston Rockets have decided to fire head coach Kevin McHale, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. The decision comes mere hours after the players held a team meeting to discuss what had been going wrong to start the season – a meeting that Rockets management was present for, but McHale was not.
In the first eleven games of the season the Houston Rockets – a team that has championship talent and aspirations – managed four wins and seven terrible losses. The Rockets have dealt with injuries to key players like Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverley, and Donatas Motiejunas (who hasn’t played in a game since March 25, 2015), but their issues are far more concerning.
First, the Rockets have dealt with chemistry issues with the addition of Ty Lawson into the starting lineup. So far, Lawson hasn’t gelled with his teammates and hasn’t been able to display the full extent of his talents on the court. That, coupled with the plan to rest Dwight Howard in order to preserve him for a Playoff run, has left Houston scrambling to find lineups that could make up for his rebounding and defensive impact.
Defense has also been a major problem for the Rockets to start the season. In fact, they have the second worst defensive rating in the league at the moment. Some of that can be attributed to Dwight playing less and trying to incorporate Lawson (who isn’t known for his defense), but the majority can be attributed to miscommunication and a lack of effort. Even when Dwight plays the Rockets have given up way too many easy baskets at the rim because Dwight hasn’t had much help when he gets pulled away from the hoop. That’s a communication and scheme issue, but what’s more troubling is the obvious lack of effort.
Monday’s game against the up-and-coming Boston Celtics epitomizes this lack of effort. The Rockets got off to a good start and seemed to have shaken off whatever slump was ailing them in the first half, but the Celtics snapped off a 23-2 run in the second half that deflated Houston. During that run the Rockets repeatedly turned the ball over, gave up wide open three-pointers, left the rim completely unprotected, and failed to get back on defense in transition. The consistency of those kinds of mistakes is indicative of a lack of effort and the Rockets needed something to change.
On Tuesday morning the newest member of the Rockets, Ty Lawson, called a team meeting to discuss what had gone wrong to start the season. The players seemed to ‘get on the same page’ after the meeting, but Lawson admitting that the players would run different plays from what the coaches had called proved to foreshadow Kevin McHale’s future with the team.
Coach McHale took over as head coach in 2011 and had recently signed a three-year $12 million contract extension to stay in Houston, and will be paid that amount in full after only eleven games. His replacement in the interim will be Houston’s head assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, who has been largely credited with last year’s defensive success.
McHale’s firing may be a knee-jerk reaction, but Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey states that ‘there is no time to turn it around’ in the NBA’s brutal Western Conference. McHale’s coaching style also conflicted with Morey’s analytical philosophy, and maybe that clash of styles finally reached its boiling point. In any event, the Rockets making this move early in the season gives them a chance to right the ship with plenty of time to make a championship run.
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