Rockets fire assistant coach Dean Cooper

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The season prior to hiring Dean Cooper in 2012, the Rockets finished 17th in defensive rating.

With Cooper, Houston improved to 16th and then 13th.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Kevin McHale (right) and/or Rockets management.

Fran Blinebury of NBA.com:

Houston’s biggest problem defensively was James Harden’s total lack of interest. Dwight Howard no longer defends like he did in peak form, so he can’t cover completely for Harden’s disinterest.

The Rockets need a coach who convinces Harden to at least try defensively. Maybe that wasn’t Cooper and will be his replacement.

But when one player ignores his responsibilities to that degree, even the best-designed defenses can break down.

That’s not to place all the blame or even of a majority of it on Harden. He gets a plurality, and let’s leave it at that.

In the Rockets’ first-round loss to the Trail Blazers, Harden actually defended with effort at times, but Portland still torched Houston. The Rockets’ problems run deeper and maybe this is a start toward fixing them, but at most, it’s only a start.