Last season, the Rockets’ “switch everything” defensive system had them sixth in the league in defense, and within one half of reaching the NBA Finals (and likely winning a title).
This season, the Rockets have started 1-4 after a loss Friday night at home to the Clippers, and Houston’s defense is the problem. They are allowing 9.1 more points per 100 possessions than last season, and they are really struggling to defend the pick-and-roll, allowing 113 points per 100 possessions on that play. The switching is not working, in part because Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute are gone, and in part because assistant coach in charge of the defense last season Jeff Bzdelik retired.
Rockets players and coach Mike D’Antoni said after Friday’s loss it’s time for a change, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and figure out what’s going to be the best solution for this team,” guard Chris Paul said after a 133-113 loss to the LA Clippers on Friday night….
“We’ve got to make some adjustments,” D’Antoni said. “We were switching, and obviously this team is different than last year, and they were busting us. We weren’t tied together. We’ll have two days of practice, so we’ll put some other things in and try to figure it out a little bit better. Our defense was just awful.
“We don’t have any continuity. We’re not figuring it out, and then the dam breaks and everybody struggles. But we’ve got two good days of practice. We’ll figure things out. We just dug ourselves a hole, and we’ve got to dig it out.”
Making sweeping changes midseason is difficult because NBA teams don’t practice that much. While the Rockets are off through the weekend until next Tuesday, that time should be more about rest and recovery during a long season than going over new defensive schemes.
Watch the Rockets and it’s clear their communication and recognition are just not the same as a year ago, it’s more than just a personnel issue. They look like a team that just hasn’t practiced defense that much, that isn’t focused on that end as an organization. Trading for Jimmy Butler — if that were to happen, which seems unlikely — would help the roster issue, but the focus one is something else entirely. That’s on the locker room leaders, Chris Paul and James Harden, along with Mike D’Antoni.
A lot of people expected the Rockets to take a step back this season, but it may end up being a bigger one than anticipated.