HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The most intriguing question about what should be the most intriguing team in the NBA this season has already been answered by the one man who will have the most control over the situation.
Coach Kevin McHale — not Dwight Howard, James Harden or Jeremy Lin — will have the final say on how the Houston Rockets play now that Howard is in the mix. If McHale decides that the Dwight-in-the-middle approach that helped the Orlando Magic to The Finals in 2009 is the way to go, it will be. But if he has other plans, that’s his call, too.
Howard’s coach in Los Angeles last season, Mike D’Antoni, made it clear that he would not change his style fit his superstar personnel. We all know how that turned out for the Lakers.
There will be style changes for the Rockets this season and McHale is already laying the groundwork in advance of the start of training camp. He went into detail with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Q. A lot of last season’s success was based on the team’s clearly understanding how it needed to play. Can there be carryover, or do you have to change how this team needs to play?
A. I think we’re going to play basically the same style. We have to get better defensively, and with Dwight we have to have more of an emphasis on trying to get the ball in the post. Through Dwight running and Dwight doing different things, I think we can do that without really having to change our identity. We still want to get the ball up and down the floor. We still want to be aggressive and run and attack offensively. I think we have two of the top rim protectors in Dwight and Omer [Asik], so we have to use those guys. I’d like to use them together. It gives us a chance to have a defensive presence and run off our defense a little more. Our style will change a little bit because our personnel changes, but it won’t change dramatically. At least I hope it doesn’t.
Q. You put so much emphasis on spacing the floor last season with range shooting. Are you confident you can play Dwight and Omer together?
A. I’m definitely going to give it a shot. Your job is to try to put your best players on the floor. Omer is one of our best players. We have to figure out how we’re going to get him on the floor. That’s going to be a big thing where we’re able to get them on the floor together. We’ll rebound very well. They have to space each other. There’s going to be some challenges. I’m really looking forward to see. I want it to work. We’ll see if it does work.
Even better than McHale’s brutal honesty about how things will have to change for the Rockets is his no-nonsense approach for Asik (or anyone else) who isn’t ready to adapt to whatever style changes are coming:
Q. Have you had a chance to see how Omer feels about the addition of Dwight?
A. I have not.
Q. Are you concerned about how he reacts to all this? There were indications he was not happy about having another center coming in.
A. I didn’t know Omer was the general manager. That surprises me. He’s a player. His job is to come in and play. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk with him about all that, but Daryl (Morey‘s) job is to try to improve the team. Omer’s job is not to wonder how that affects him. His job is to figure out how they can play together and be effective.
If things don’t go as planned this season in Houston, it won’t be for the lack of clarity on the front end. McHale’s making it easy for everyone on the roster to stay in their lanes this season and let things evolve naturally.
Any tweaks to the way the Rockets play will handled accordingly, by the man in charge.