• Derek Steiner

What Happened to the Houston Rockets?

*Photo via onesecondleft.com

One of the biggest mysteries so far in the 2015/16 NBA season has been the Houston Rockets. This is a team that finished tied for the second best record in the Western Conference, and made it to the Western Conference Finals, losing to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. All signs were pointing to another competitive and successful year. They even had a terrific offseason, signing Ty Lawson, a much needed improvement to their point guard position. So what the hell happened to result in a 5-9 record and the firing of their head coach, Kevin McHale?

Anyone who’s watched a Rocket game this year can see it. It’s become very evident that the team’s struggles are a result of the sum of their parts. On paper, this team is stacked. They’ve got bonafide all-stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard, solid role players like Lawson, Corey Brewer, Jason Terry, and Trevor Ariza, and until recently, a Hall of Famer head coach in McHale. All the individuals to be a successful team. But for some reason when they play together, it’s a staggering mess. They don’t talk on defense. It’s actually eerie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NBA team that quiet on defense. No wonder they’re giving up 107.1 points per game.They’re selfish on offense. They’re not making shots. They’ve got a three point percentage of 29%. Body language is atrocious. On and on and on it goes. Houston’s problem here is that they’re a squad of talented players, but they’re not a team. So what’s the root of the problem?

All signs point to the locker room. This isn’t a coaching issue. Unfortunately, McHale is the scapegoat for a much larger issue. See, you can’t coach effort. You can’t coach players who refuse to be accountable for their play. That’s not a coach putting the team in the wrong situations. Houston has a locker room of players that may be annoyed that their star joined the cast of the Kardashians over the summer. Or maybe it’s a general disdain for their high priced, freak of an athlete center who stopped playing defense and still can’t hit free throws. The answers are still unknown, but what’s clear is that the Houston Rockets organization is enabling this downward spiral. Coach gets fired, players get their way. There’s no foreseeable righting of the ship in Houston’s future. Not with the kind of “effort” they’ve been providing on the court. If they’re going to have an attitude adjustment, it better be quick or they’re going to get buried in the deep, deep, deep Western Conference.

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