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Pressbox: Failure to Launch

The Rockets season came to an embarrassing end in Golden State. The Sideline’s Adam Leightman tells you what went wrong and how the Rockets can rebound next year.

The Rockets did not deserve to make the playoffs this year.

After a home loss to the Suns I had given up. The Rockets have been losing games like this all year. A missed three down the stretch; fouling with four seconds left on the shot clock; not guarding a man on an inbound: these are just a few examples that are examples of the Rockets’ implosion this year.

A season that had championship dreams dwindled down to an eighth place nightmare. Everything seemed perfect at the start of the season. For the first time in the Harden – Howard Era, General Manager Daryl Morey kept the core group of players together. But for some reason the group that made the Western Conference Finals last year could not play together this year.

Via Grantland archives
Via Grantland archives

So after just 11 games, Morey fired McHale. The Rockets (4-7) hired J.B Bickerstaff to coach the rest of the year. Since he was McHale’s assistant, he coached like a less-experienced McHale. As you can imagine, it did not go well. Bickerstaff put up an average 34-34 record. That would be great for the Knicks, but not the Rockets. It was hard to watch, but towards the end of the season it became comical.

After a loss to the Suns, Houston Chronicle Reporter Brian Smith captioned the whole season perfectly in one Tweet: “They’d be embarrassed if they cared.”

As the Toyota Center booed the Rockets out of the season I watched on my TV, I was in disbelief. However, the Rockets were gifted a spot into the playoffs. The team after all of the disappointment could have stepped up and given Golden State some trouble. Instead they lost 3 of 5 games by more than 25 points. Steph Curry played 33 minutes in the entire series…

“They’d be embarrassed if they cared.”

Daryl Morey’s time in Houston needs to be over. He throws away young players for washed up stars with a recognizable name. His ideas have been flawed, and besides Oklahoma City making a mistake (James Harden trade), he has not made a single good move. The Rockets need to find a new coach next year, and Tom Thibideau would have been the perfect fit. However, he signed with the T-Wolves while the Rockets were “playing playoff basketball”.

  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

So with Thibs gone, I would go after the local man, Jeff Van Gundy (great guy). He could build a defensive mindset into this team. The next step would be to dismantle the majority of the roster and build from the ground up.

The Rockets, according to, have 63 million dollars in payroll for next year. It is widely assumed that the Rockets are going to cut ties with Dwight. Therefore, they will only be spending around 40 million next year. I would like to see them find a deal for Corey Brewer, and if the price is right, Trevor Ariza. He does not fit into the system, and is missing open shots that Harden gets for him. Josh Smith and Jason Terry should not be resigned. They also need to get rid of Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas.

That leaves a team of Pat Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Clint Capela. After, it will be time for the GM (hopefully not Morey) to start building the pieces around a new team.

I love the idea of getting Durant, but I cannot imagine him coming to Houston. I hope Harden recruits him harder than he plays defense.

Realistically though, there are three players that can get this team back towards the top of the conference: Hassan Whiteside, Ryan Anderson, and Nic Batum.

Hassan Whiteside could add a presence in the middle that the Rockets thought they had in Dwight Howard. He could easily average a double-double next year and block 2 to 3 shots a game. His post up work would get extremely better with the help of Hakeem in Houston.

Ryan Anderson plays the Rockets style of basketball. He is a pick and pop 3 point shooter, and a good one as well (unlike Terrence Jones). He has good defensive ability and will not try to do too much.

Nic Batum will be tough to sign, but he could be interested for the right price. The French stretch forward has the ability to drain long 3s but also work the floor. He will help the Rockets defensively and give the Rockets a fresh look.

Whiteside is the dominant center that we thought we had in Dwight. Whiteside is a force in the paint and will not get pushed around by anyone going for a rebound. Ryan Anderson can shoot the three well, and also can play down low. He is much better than Jones and Motiejunas. Nic Batum is a long small forward that plays great defense. He can shoot well, but with a new coach next year, you can assume the Rockets will be shooting less threes, so Batum’s mid range game will go a long way.

To fill out the bench, the Kets can look to sign Mario Chalmers and Maressee Speights. I know, realistically, the Rockets cannot sign all of them, but it is just a few ideas to get them back in the right direction.

Hopefully this is just a one-year problem for the Rockets. But the fact that the franchise is based in Houston may make this a multiple year problem.

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