Houston Rockets Don’t Need A “Superstar”
The Houston Rockets are a very interesting team right now. Winning Monday night in Minnesota, they have now won seven consecutive games to pull their record to 10-7. After such a slow start to the season, they are pulling together and finding ways to win. They give all the credit to their new head coach, Kevin McHale, who has been consistent from day one of training camp.
“Every coach is different,” Goran Dragic told HOOPSWORLD. “This is my fourth coach in the NBA and there are always good things and bad things. Kevin was a great player and he’s a great coach because you can see what he’s doing with this team. We still have to work hard and he knows that if we work hard on defense, we’re going to win tough games.”
Even during the rough start to the season after the lockout ended, the message stayed consistent. Defense will lead to offense. Defense will keep this Rockets teams in games. Defense will be a key for this Rockets team to win games.
“It’s just communication,” Samuel Dalembert told HOOPSWORLD. “You have to be with the kind of style of coach he is. He knows how to relate to guys. He’s been great for me because he has a lot to do with my offense and helping me out there. He’s that type of guy that really knows how to push you and motivate you. Sometimes things aren’t falling or guys are struggling in the game, but he’s out there with that positive, optimistic attitude and keeping us and our minds on the right track. He lets us know that we’re getting closer.”
This is a team still looking for their new-era identity, their post-Yao identity. While Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin may be fine players in their own respective rights, they are not ‘super-stars,’ which is why the team concept is much more important. Everyone must buy into what McHale is preaching and they have all done so.
“Especially the defensive end because last year we really didn’t play much defense in Houston,” said Dragic. “From the first day when we got together, he told us that he wanted us to play strong in defense, he doesn’t care about offense and it’s just defense. From there on, our defense improved a lot from last year.”
In a sense, McHale is trying to make an old-school team. While they may lack the star quality of other teams, they will never lack in giving the proper effort. Know your players, know what your team has in each player and put them in positions to succeed.
“It’s just a work in progress,” said Dalembert. “We have communication and that’s what’s happening when Kyle’s (Lowry) up there and up there, running the team and distributing the ball. When he’s doing that, we’re at our best. We do get Kevin (Martin) open and we know that his jumper has a high percentage of going in, so we know that everybody does their role. If we do our jobs, if we work hard to get open, we have to put people in better positions offensively and defensively we have to do a better job of helping each other with our weaknesses.”
Running off these seven straight wins, the Rockets have now put themselves in playoff position about a quarter of the way through the season. While they are happy with that fact, they are focusing more on building on what they have been doing recently, always striving to find a way to get better. As a testament to McHale, they know that comes on the defensive end of the court.
“You know, it’s a short season and we didn’t have a lot of training camp,” said Dragic. “We struggled at first, but then it just clicked together. We play especially better on the defensive end and after that, it’s much easier on offense.”
“I just think that everybody put their egos aside and started to abide by the team’s game plan,” adds Dalembert. “We started buying into our defense and we started to realize that they only way we can be successful with the type of players we have is we have to get stops, get out in fast breaks, in transition and try not to make it too much of a half-court game. I think this is how it has to be with us.”
Even with their recent success, they aren’t becoming complacent. There is a lot of room for improvement and have no desire at this time to even discuss how they stack up against other teams in the Western Conference. All they care about is themselves, which is exactly where they should focus.
“We’re not really looking at that at this point,” said Dalembert. “We’re looking at each game and that’s what we’ve been talking about. We come out there each game and take care of home and we’re going to work to get road wins each game at a time. It’s a short season and with so many games coming up so fast, the main goal is to try to keep ourselves healthy and go out there and utilize everybody. It’s been working for us.”
The Houston Rockets only know one way to win and that’s to grind it out. It may not be pretty all the time, but it works. Winning is the only concern, not the cosmetics.
“Like I tell the guys, we have to go hard out there,” said Dalembert. “We have to go out there and get this game under our belt and basically find any way possible to win the game. Worry about yourself the next game and that’s what everybody is doing. Everybody is coming in and giving us good boosts and quarters when they play. It’s showing that maturity. We have a long way to go as a team because of lack of practice, so we don’t really get to gel as much, but we’re going as fast as we can.”
The Houston Rockets never doubted themselves in the early season, stayed true to themselves and all bought into that team concept. Obviously, they are enjoying the benefits right now.
“I would say it’s the team,” said Dragic. “Everybody is playing hard and it doesn’t matter who scores the most points, who gets the most assists. If you’re going to play together, if you’re going to help each other on offense and defense, we’ll win games. Whoever is playing great will play that game. It doesn’t matter because it’s just teamwork.”
It all circles back to the new voice in the locker room. They believe in their new coaching staff.
“The coaching staff prepares us and tells us what needs to be done and all these things put together into the equation and we’re really starting to see the result of it,” said Dalembert.
Rockets fans are also seeing the result of that equation and if the team continues to strive to improve, this is a team that could make noise in the playoffs.