Off to a 4-7 start with a terrible defense and with some clear chemistry issues on the team, the Houston Rockets needed to shake things up. The players tried to do that with a players-only meeting on Tuesday.
That wasn’t enough for GM Daryl Morey — he fired coach Kevin McHale on Wednesday. The news was first reported Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and has since been confirmed by the team (you can see GM Daryl Morey talking about it above).
This came as a shock to many both because it came just 11 games into the season — this team had won 56 games last season and made the conference Finals, it’s not like McHale forgot how to coach over the summer — and also because McHale is one of the most liked people around the league. However, reports also say McHale saw this coming after the Denver loss. The Rockets are a win-now team without much patience.
The Rockets host the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night. Houston is entering a softer spot in its schedule which could help J.B. Bickerstaff gain some traction and pick up a few wins.
Bickerstaff was the guy credited with the Rockets’ sixth-ranked defense from last season, he is charged with returning that mindset. The Rockets are giving up 5.4 more points per 100 possessions than they did a year ago, but what was more disturbing was Houston was getting crushed in effort categories — defensive rebounding, contesting shots in the paint and in the rim, just all the hustle stats. The Rockets played listless basketball this season and their body language spoke of a team that was dejected.
That was ultimately what did McHale in — the effort issue suggested he had lost the locker room.
The Rockets’ problems go well beyond defense. Houston has struggled because Ty Lawson has looked a step slow, while James Harden has looked less explosive, and the two have not meshed at all. The Rockets have spent 27.6 minutes a game with Lawson and Harden paired and they are -8.4 points per 100 possessions in that time. The Rockets offense is down 5.8 points per 100 possessions from a season ago.
McHale was certainly not the entire problem in Houston, but management didn’t see him as the solution, either. So he’s gone.
Morey and McHale had their differences early on in McHale’s tenure, but had moved seemed past those problems. The fact McHale was fired with two years left on his contract speaks to how concerned the Rockets were with the start. This is a win-now team that needs to turn this season around — and they decided to shake things up.