When the NBA gets started and the Houston Rockets take the court, they are going to look very different from the teams of years prior. Not only did their most popular and recognizable player, Yao Ming, retire early due to numerous injuries, but the Rockets pulled off a trade midseason that saw point guard Aaron Brooks go to Phoenix. On top of these two changes, the Rockets decided it was time for a new voice in the organization. After four years in Houston, Rick Adelman was fired following the Rockets second straight season without playoff basketball. So now Kevin McHale will take over a young, inexperienced roster that will look to get back to the playoffs in the tough and deep Western Conference. McHale has limited experience as a coach and doesn’t have a great record as a head coach, but it became apparent that Houston wanted to go in a different direction and McHale will give them that opportunity. Kevin McHale joined KILT in Houston with Josh Innes and Rich Lord to talk about what the goal is in Houston, what the Rockets need to add this season to reach their goal of making the playoffs, whether or not the Rockets will change offensively this season, and how tough it will be for him as a first year head coach with a shortened offseason.
What the goal is this season in Houston:
“To make the playoffs. That’s our goal is to make the playoffs. Anything can happen. Memphis proved last year you make the playoffs and anything can happen. They beat the Spurs in the first round to get to the second round and they gave Oklahoma City a run for their money so we gotta make the playoffs. You gotta get into the playoffs to give yourself a chance. That’s our goal. I’m not sure how many wins in a 66 game season that’s gonna take but however many that is that’s how many we gotta go get. The wins and losses always take care of themselves. If you play hard and you play tough, if you compete every possession, you go out there and get after it then good things happen. If you don’t then bad things happen.”
What the Rockets need to ass this season to reach their goal of making the playoffs:
“We gotta get better defensively. I don’t know if we have to add anything. We gotta get better defensively. No question we gotta become a better rebounding team, we were 18th to 20th in the league type rebounding team and we gotta improve on that, which means all five guys gotta rebound. We’re not the biggest team in the world but I tell our guys all the time if you’re not taller then you gotta be tougher. Being a long, lanky player I loved getting in reaching contests. For me that was my advantage but our team is not really long and lanky. We don’t have a lot of the huge size so we’re gonna have to carve out space. We’re gonna have to put our bodies on people, get ‘em out of there, rebound the ball very well and get better on defense. In all the film I watched last year I just felt there was too many breakdowns, too many straight line drives, and too many what I consider just a ‘B’ move by a player getting by his guy and just breaking down the defense and causing things to happen. Offensively, offensive basketball is pretty simple. You gotta space the court and move the ball. If you space the court and move the ball and have guys that can make plays which I do believe we have some guys who can make plays your offense should flow and should run but we gotta get better like I said defensively and rebounding.”
Whether or not the Rockets will change their style of play:
“We will change offensively just because I think Rick is unique and a very good coach as far as running his corner series. He ran that almost exclusively. I would say 75 or 80 percent was just a read and react corner. We have that in just because they are so familiar with it but we’re gonna get a little bit more with traditional sets into an organized break. I’m a big fast break guy, we gotta push the ball, especially with our size, speed, and ability. Our bigs can run and you gotta use the fact that (Luis) Scola, (Patrick) Patterson, and Jordan (Hill), these guys are gonna have to spring the floor, get down there, beat their man down, and get some early offense. It will be different. I can’t coach like Coach Adelman. You gotta be who you are. I value the corner offense, but I value defense, rebounding, toughness, and pushing the ball, spacing, ball movement, that’s kinda where I come from.”
On how tough it is for him as a first-year head coach in a shortened offseason:
“I will tell you what, if you have a 28 day training camp as in a normal season you’re always saying geez did we cover this and cover that? In a shortenee time, I believe those anxieties as a coach will be a little more. You just worry all the time. That’s why when you coach you age in dog years. You worry about everything. We will be putting in stuff as the year goes on but we gotta put in basic, simple things early. When good athletes play slow, play sluggish, and not to their level of athleticism and movement they are thinking too much. When you put too much stuff and you think too much you get slow. Athletes that are free, know their assignments, and are comfortable in what they’re doing, they play very fast and I want to play fast offensively and defensively.
We can’t overload them with stuff and that’s gonna be up to me to really monitor myself and my staff and say ‘hey if you don’t have everything in then so be it,’ but let’s get really good with what we do. Basketball is no different than life. In life a guys New Year’s resolution that is 50 things, that guy never gets anything done. A New Year’s resolution where a guy has one thing, he’s got a good chance of getting that one thing done. If you try to do 50 things it’s very hard. In basketball, with this team and a short amount of time, we gotta get better defensively. That’s priority number one. We gotta get better rebounding and we gotta go after offensive rebounds which means more people to the glass and more effort. Then spacing and ball movement. Those are my three top priorities that we have going in. With a shortened preseason are we gonna be perfect? No. Do you wish you had more time? Yes. I can tell you after 28 days next year I would be saying I wish we had more time too. Coaches are always looking for more time to be with the team and in practice.”