HOUSTON — Team owner Leslie Alexander wasn’t in his familiar mid-court front row seat for the final home game of the Rockets’ season.
To hear the scuttlebutt, Alexander has already seen enough of coach Rick Adelman and after four seasons is ready to move on.
It will go down as one of the most curious divorce cases in history, where the party that files the papers has irreconcilable differences that are equally inexplicable.
For the second straight season, the Rockets have missed the playoffs. But for the second straight season the Rockets have been without their All-Star center Yao Ming, who broke a bone in his left foot and played in only five games after sitting out the entire 2009-10 schedule. Midway through last season the Rockets traded away an injured and unhappy Tracy McGrady.
“What team loses two people of that stature in basically a two-year type of period?” Adelman asked. “You just can’t lose those types of people. You can’t do it. It’s impossible. It’s like the Lakers losing Kobe and Gasol. I don’t think you’re gonna replace those guys real quick.
“It’s been a real struggle. It’s been a real disappointment for everybody including those two guys who got injured. We tried to just take it for what it is and go with the guys we have in here. There’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you get fortunate and sometimes you don’t. The job is still the same.”
Adelman has kept right on doing the job with aplomb and considerable success. In his four years in Houston, his record of 192-135 (.587) is the best winning percentage in franchise history. In the process he has climbed to 944 career victories, tying Bill Fitch for eighth place on the NBA’s all-time list. And there is no indication that he’s looking to follow Phil Jackson into retirement.
“I don’t think I’ve lost the desire to coach,” said Adelman, 64. “I think I still can do it. I think this team has been a lot of fun. It’s been tough during the season. When you’re going through it, it’s not so easy to go from seven games under .500 and all that. But when you’re working with a group of guys that just won’t quit and they play above and beyond what people expect them to do, that’s a lot of fun when you look back on it.”
What’s shocking is the lack of respect that the Rockets front office has shown Adelman, refusing to acknowledge that he’s kept the team competitive in an almost impossible situation and refusing to talk about the future.
Alexander has a history of chasing big name players and coaches and also chasing hot trends. It says here he’ll look to follow the instant success of rookie head coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago by trying to uncover the next crackerjack assistant ready to move up.
Hello, Mike Budenholzer in San Antonio.
“There’s not a whole lot in this league that will surprise me,” Adelman said. “I’ve seen so many things. Luis (Scola) asked me this morning. He said, ‘It will be my fifth year (in the NBA) next year. How many have you done?’ I said, ‘Luis, over 30 as a player and a coach.’ He looked at me like I was old. And that’s how I felt when I said over 30. So nothing surprises me.
“Every situation is different. You can’t look into things for the speculation. You have to look at reality. That’s what I will do. I’ll do it when the season’s over. But right now, I know it sounds corny and everything, but I want to try to win these games and then everybody will move on.”