Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Earlier today, the Houston Rockets (5-7) fired their head coach Kevin McHale and handed the interim-head coaching duties to J.B. Bickerstaff. The decision by the Rockets to fire McHale took me completely off guard as it did a lot of people who religiously follow the NBA. The main takeaway from this firing is that the Houston Rockets are way more dysfunctional than we realized.
What initially appeared to be a rough start to the season turned out to be something so serious that firing Kevin McHale, one of the smartest minds in basketball, was deemed as the only way to save the season. Trust me on this one: When getting rid of Kevin McHale is viewed as a necessary move to save your season, that's much more of a reflection on you than it is on Kevin McHale.
To say "Houston, we have a problem" would be incredibly cliché, but in truth, it's probably the most appropriate thing to say at this point. The Rockets have a problem and it's unclear what its source is or how it will go away.
What's weird is that this was a team that was in the Western Conference Finals last year and appeared capable of competing with the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. James Harden was a legitimate MVP candidate and Dwight Howard played his best basketball since 2009, which was when he led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals. They added Ty Lawson in the offseason and appeared poised to make another deep playoff run. So, what exactly could have gone wrong?
One possibility is that Rockets GM Daryl Morey overreacted to a slow start. GMs can get quick triggered at times, but usually, it's only the bad GMs that overreact and do something stupid. Perhaps Morey is one of those bad GMs. Or, perhaps there was something really defective in the locker room that Kevin McHale didn't have the ability to fix. But if that's the case, then the solution should be to get rid of what's defective and keep McHale on board.
The weird part about this is that Morey makes it sounds like things between McHale and the Rockets were broken beyond repair just one season after the team was in the Western Conference Finals. I'm really not sure how things could be this badly broken. It truly puzzles me.
Anyways, I could go on and on with speculation about what went wrong or what Morey thinks went wrong, but in truth, none of us know but Daryl Morey and it sounds like not even he knows what's wrong with his team. What I can say for certain is that the Rockets are really dysfunctional and not in a good place. Teams on course to compete for a championship don't fire their head coach midseason. Given that most of us thought the Rockets were a team that was potentially on such a course, we can't help but scratch our heads in befuddlement and admit that we were wrong.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Monta Ellis is perhaps the greatest player in NBA history to never make an All-Star team. He has averaged 19.3 points per game over the course of his career and has certainly been on several Sports Center highlight reels. But for whatever reason, he hasn't ever found a permanent home or been able to play on a championship caliber team.
Some say that this is due to Ellis' selfish play and his inability to play "winning basketball." I personally have always found this criticism of Ellis to be harsh since he never has been on teams that gave him much support. That being said, results don't lie and as of right now, Monta Ellis doesn't have much to speak for in terms of playoff success.
This season, Monta Ellis once again finds himself wearing a new uniform in Indiana with another opportunity for a fresh start and a new beginning. Given his stature and All-Star worthy abilities, it's surprising that more people aren't asking the following question: "Will Monta Ellis make the Pacers better?"
Last season, the Pacers missed the playoffs with a 38-44 record largely due to Paul George's ghastly injury and his lengthy recovery. With Paul George now healthy and Monta Ellis aboard, the Pacers should automatically be better, right? Barring some other serious injury, the answer is likely yes. But, let's not forget that with Paul George healthy, this Pacers team was a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals with the #1 overall seed in the conference just two seasons ago.
What we really should be asking is whether or not the Pacers are now serious threats to win the Eastern Conference by getting Monta Ellis. Upon looking at the Pacers' roster, while it's clear that they've gotten better from last season, it is far from clear that they have what it takes to dethrone the Cavaliers in the East.
A big reason for this is that two of their key players from their previous run to the Eastern Conference Finals are now gone, namely David West (Spurs) and Roy Hibbert (Lakers). Both of those guys, even with Roy Hibbert's mental lapses, were really solid in the paint. With those guys gone and Monta Ellis now present, the Pacers suddenly have turned into a team that will try to win by beating teams with speed and quickness as opposed to size and strength.
The Pacers' whole style of play is undergoing a drastic change that includes Paul George playing a lot of his minutes at the power forward position. Undergoing such a change isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that at this point, we don't know how it will all work out.
Perhaps the change to smaller and quicker lineups led by Paul George and Monta Ellis will benefit the Pacers and make them more dangerous than they've ever been. It's certainly possible. However, it's equally if not more possible that while being perhaps more entertaining on the court, the Pacers won't replicate the same success they had prior to Paul George's injury.
Some of this inability to replicate that same success will of course be due to the departure of Hibbert and West as well as the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers are really good. Still, even with those as excuses, that doesn't change the answer to the question of this article, which is "Will Monta Ellis make the Pacers better?" At the moment, the answer appears to be no. The front court is much thinner and outside of Monta Ellis, Paul George, and George Hill, the Pacers don't have a lot of guys who they can rely on to score the basketball.
Now, what I want to make clear is that Monta Ellis is a nice addition to this Pacers team. It's just that I don't think he's enough to make them "better" than what they've been in years past. He'll help them score the ball and all, but he simply cannot make up for the fact that the front court is thinner and that a lot of core pieces from Pacers teams of yesteryear are gone. I guess what I'm saying is this: Don't expect Monta Ellis to make the Pacers better, but at the same time, don't use that as a reason to think that Monta Ellis isn't as good as other people think he is.
Look at Monta Ellis as a plus that simply doesn't outweigh the negatives of losing Roy Hibbert and David West. If the Pacers still had those two guys, we could seriously be talking about Monta Ellis perhaps being the missing ingredient to an Indiana Pacers championship run.