The Rockets Could Have Easily Beaten the Lakers If…Their Coach wasn’t McHale

I just wanted to go through a laundry list of mistakes in the Rockets loss to the Lakers. I’m not usually someone who looks back at all the things that should have happened, but there were so many of these “should have happened” situations in last night’s game that it’s forcing me to look back at all the things that could have made a difference in Rockets winning or losing. Even when the Rockets were down by 20 or so points, there was no doubt in my mind that the Rockets would win the game. The Rockets are just a better team. The problem is, the Rockets have a very bad coach and they got totally out coached in last night’s game.

Some of the mistakes are unique to last night’s game, others are ongoing. I blame McHale for most of the mistakes. The more I see McHale coach, the less confidence I have in him as a coach and the more I want Lin to be traded. I’m beginning to feel strongly that this team is not the right fit for Jeremy Lin, because they are severely under-utilizing his talents. Of course, the caveat is that the season has only just begun, but I don’t see a lot of these issues changing–especially for Lin. Things can’t go anywhere but up from here for the Rockets, but I don’t see things changing much for Lin. At least Lin has been consistently one of the best three players on the court in every single game so far this season. In last night’s game, Lin was the best Rockets player. Now onto the list of atrocious mistakes:

  • McHale is still mismanaging his player’s minutes, over-using some players and under-using others and taking away minutes from players who deserve more minutes. This is an ongoing issue with McHale. I think the Rockets have a deep enough bench for them to have at least a 10-man rotation, but McHale can’t seem to figure out how to do this. Last night, Beverly went 1 for 10 from the field and was pretty much ineffective overall, but still played more minutes than Lin. While Lin was arguably the best player in a Rockets uniform. Even though Harden scored 35 points, he did it very inefficiently. Lin was highly efficient and effective on both ends of the floor. If Lin had gone 1 for 10 from the field, he would have been benched by McHale with a quickness, yet Beverley is allowed to play significant minutes even though it looks as if he’s still recovering from his injury. McHale’s favoritism of Beverley at the expense of Lin is sickening. Instead of Beverley, we could have had Casspi or Garcia out on the floor. I think having one of these guys rather than Beverley could have made a difference in winning or losing. Beverley made a defensive mistake in the play that caused Blake to hit a three pointer to win the game for the Lakers. Beverley had no business of being on the court last night, but McHale appears to be blinded to Beverley’s weaknesses. Also, McHale is still severely over-using Harden. I think Harden would be much more effective if he’s given some rest and he’d make better decisions. I think some of Harden’s turnovers are due to fatigue. Of course, a lot of them are just him making bad decisions. Also, the Rockets have a very deep bench. They would be a lot tougher to beat if McHale actually uses some of the players on the bench. When he over-uses one or two players and under-uses the rest, the rest of the players lose their rhythm. I think this is a huge mistake in the NBA to over-use your stars at the expense of your role players. But, of course, this is something that’s very difficult to prove. I just think it’s better to have every player on the court full of energy at all times than to have a very fatigued superstar on the court most of the time. This is not true in all cases, but when you have a deep bench like the Rockets do, it’s your job as a coach to use them. McHale just lets most of his players sit on the bench and rot.
  • I understand the need to make the Asik/Howard lineup work in order to keep Asik happy, since Howard will be playing significant minutes. So if Asik isn’t allowed to be on the floor with Howard, then he’ll be playing 15 minutes or less a game. So this is a tough situation. THE solution, to me, is to play Howard about 32 minutes a game and Asik 20 with two minutes or so per game in which they overlap and are on the court a the same time. Now there are certain teams where you would want them to be on the court at the same time more often, but this should be the general way to use Howard and Asik if the Rockets are all about doing what’s good for the team, rather than some crazy experiment to keep Asik happy by keeping Asik as a starter. By the way, Asik is not happy with this situation, since he ends up not playing that much anyway. I haven’t looked this up, but I think Asik is playing less than 20 minutes a game as it is, even with this sham starting lineup. One of the issues with my solution is that Howard will be playing fewer minutes, so this is probably unacceptable for a Max guy. BUT if we’re all about doing what’s best for the team, then this is THE solution in my eyes (often times a lot of coaches and general managers forget that doing what’s best for the team is not always what’s best for the superstar). Asik comes off the bench and plays 20 minutes or less and Howard starts and plays 32 minutes or less. Now I don’t know who exactly is responsible for this Howard/Asik experiment, but McHale has to take the blame for this one. As a coach, it’s one of his most important jobs to manage player’s minutes. He’s doing an awful job of this–especially with respect to this absurd and laughable Howard/Asik experiment. Every coach worth his salt would be able to figure out a solution that makes sense for the players and is good for the team. McHale is, apparently, incapable of this. The more I think about this, the more I really really want McHale fired. He does not deserve this team that he’s coaching and he DEFINITELY does not deserve a player of Lin’s abilities and character. In last night’s game, if McHale hadn’t stuck stubbornly to this laughable starting lineup and continued to stick with it in the second half–even though there was overwhelming evidence that it hurt the Rockets in the first quarter, then Rockets would have EASILY won last night’s game.
  • McHale doesn’t know how to run an offense and doesn’t know how to play to his player’s strengths. This is an ongoing issue with McHale, but it was most apparent in last night’s game against the Lakers. The Rockets played superbly against the Blazers. They used a lot of PnRs and they utilized Howard in the post extensively. But then suddenly, all that went away completely in just the next game. The level of inconsistency of offensive execution is mind boggling. This is not even just the case from game to game. It’s also the case from quarter to quarter. I think it has a lot to do with McHale’s marginalization of Lin. The Rockets don’t have a Point Guard. There’s no one really running the show, so this is why their offense is so inconsistent. This should be Lin’s role, but because of McHale’s blindness and marginalization of Lin, the Rockets end up without a consistent Point Guard presence and this is a major reason why their offense is so inconsistent. And for the life of me, I still can’t figure out why any coach in their right mind would have Beverley run the offense over Lin. And this is a major reason why I want Lin to be traded. McHale either doesn’t understand how to use Lin or he doesn’t care to understand and the Rockets suffer as a result. I don’t understand why they would use PnRs with much success in one game and then do away with them almost completely in another game–especially when they have three of the best PnR players in the NBA. Howard’s inconsistent post up game can be blamed partly on Howard, but as a coach–especially one who was a preeminent low post player–it is up to McHale to make Howard a low post presence. I cut McHale some slack here, because it’s one of those things that takes time. But I cut McHale no slack for misusing or under-utilizing Lin. If McHale had let Lin be the primary play maker–especially when he’s on the floor with Beverley, then the Rockets would have won last night’s game easily.
  • If McHale can actually draw up end of game schemes, Rockets could have won last night’s game. Parsons made a critical error by throwing an inbound pass to Howard during one of the last few possessions. This was a critical mistake, because it allowed the Lakers to foul Dwight Howard to put him on the line. So when Parsons in bounded the ball to Howard, this was like giving the Lakers a gift wrapped in a purple and yellow ribbon. Howard missed both free throws and Lakers had possession down only two points with a chance to win the game (which they did). You can certainly blame Parsons for a boneheaded move, but if McHale could draw up schemes to free our guys for in bounds then this would have never happened. In last night’s game, if Parsons hadn’t in bounded the ball to Howard, Rockets would have EASILY won the game.
  • There’s a lot of talk about Howard’s lack of seriousness. Well, in general, I think this talk is overblown. But in last night’s game, I did see where his critics are coming from. During one of the last Hack-A-Howard possession, when the Rockets were in transition, Howard tried to run away from the Lakers players so they wouldn’t foul him. I have no complaints about this, but he did it in a very comical way, laughing, as if he’s playing tag. Of course, I understand and can relate to Howard’s humorous state of mind at the time, because it is pretty funny trying to evade being fouled by the opponent. But I think that took his focus out of the game and after that possession, he looked totally out of focus and missed four straight free throws. As a professional, you have to maintain focus–especially when you’re on the court. Again, McHale should have recognized this and should have called time out to let Howard regain his focus. The way he was behaving was inappropriate for the do-or-die situation that the Rockets found themselves in. That’s another ongoing issue with McHale is that he neglects to call time outs when he should during critical junctures of the game. If McHale had called a time out and let Howard regain his focus, Howard could have hit at least one of those four free throws and Rockets could have won in overtime (Rockets had momentum in the fourth quarter, which likely would have carried over into overtime).
  • Harden keeps wasting possessions when there’s one or two possessions left in a given quarter by doing the same thing over and over, which is to dribble out the clock and force up a shot, rather than actually making plays. Again, I’ve said this last year, but Lin should be the one with the ball in his hands during these types of situations. Not Harden. The Rockets are a lot more dangerous with the ball in Lin’s hands–especially during these situations and especially this year, now that they have another superstar on the team. I don’t know why the coaches continue to let Harden do this and continue to waste these critical possessions. Again, the blame is on McHale, for either not recognizing that this is a serious problem or for not knowing how to resolve this problem.

There are more issues, but I think I’ll end here for now. I’ve always favored Lin staying with the Rockets, but have now changed my mind. I think this is the wrong place for Lin as long as McHale is the coach. McHale has marginalized Lin on this team and severely under-utilized his talents. As a result, Lin’s teammates respect Lin less and less and Lin is not allowed to do what he does best, which is to be THE floor general. I’m sure Lin will have a good season, but if he was on another team, I have no doubt that Lin would have a Linsanity 2.0 type of season or close to it. Lin is ready. He’s been playing well and, more importantly, he has been very consistent. He’s been the most consistent Rockets player so far this season, actually. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if people within the Rockets organization recognize this that Lin has been one of the best three players in every single game so far this season.

 

 

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  • Laurichu

    glad to have such a objective and detailed analysis. Bit tired of the negativity these 2 days, but still, I still hope that the Rockets can come together as a team with Lin staying. They can be very dangerous.

    • Thanks, Laurichu! Although, I have to admit that this is definitely one of my more negative posts. I’m usually more objective and have more of a positive outlook. But I can’t help but feel more and more like this is not the right team for Jeremy Lin. I do believe that Lin is critical to this Rockets team, though. So as long as Lin is there, Rockets are a dangerous team. But if I was thinking of Lin and not the Rockets, then I would want Lin to be traded. He deserves a place where he can run the offense and be the floor general. Problem is, I’m not really sure exactly what that place is.

      • MrPingPong

        Exactly, Philosopher, where can Lin go? So the Rockets that is for now, at least until his contract runs out.

        When Lin’s career as an NBA player is over, there will be a (based-on-a-true-story) Hollywood script about an Asian basketball player who has to fight against all odds to make it in the NBA. Along the way, he has to deal with a coach who does everything to make it impossible for him to succeed. But in the end though, the player triumphs.

        On a related note, Larry Bird, when he quit his coaching job, said something like he believed he would be a better coach had he started as an assistant coach. I wonder what McHale thinks of that.

        http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-06-04/sports/0006040151_1_reggie-miller-nba-finals-knicks/2

  • keldraco

    at first i thought mchale just dont like lin … i’m more worry now knowing he is just not a good coach overall.

    • Yeah, McHale is still very new to coaching, so he has a lot to learn. The problem is, he’s very stubborn, so I’m not sure how quickly he can get up to speed. I’ve never heard him admit making a mistake. That’s a bad sign. In order to learn and grow, you need to admit when you’ve messed up.

  • ashley

    So could it be his thick brain that beats us?

  • pistolpete

    Well said. I believe you’re right that for Lin’s sake he would be better off if he were traded. Even if McHale is fired it seems like there is a chemistry issue with Harden and possibly Howard. If a strong coach is hired who puts Jeremy in charge of the offense then maybe this can be corrected but it seems to be primarily a player’s league where the coach must cater to the superstar or risk being fired. This also happened when Jeremy was on the Knicks and Woodson catered to Carmelo. Unfortunately for Jeremy the situation for him is worse in Houston than when he was on the Knicks with a jealous Carmelo. I give a lot of credit to Jeremy for keeping his head and dealing with these difficult situations. A lot of his composure I believe has to do with his strong faith which helps him prioritize what is truly important in life. At any rate for the sake of his career and for the enjoyment of his fans who love to see him play I hope he is traded to a team that appreciates his talents and where he can grow as a player.

    • Thanks, pistolpete. Yep, superstars definitely rule. And it appears that Harden can do whatever he wants whenever he wants without consequence. The situation in Houston is different than with the Knicks, so it’s hard for me to determine which is worse. Lets hope Jeremy finds a place that respects him and appreciates what he brings to the table.

  • John Lai

    It is crystal clear on the video that Harden dislikes Lin and tries not to let Lin run any play on the court with him.
    Paradoxically when he’s off the court, Jeremy must check in. Then McHale let Beverly run the play. The result is deplorable.
    Nobody can do anything about it if it’s the coach who makes things happen. When the game is lost, the coach has to be responsible. If they won the game, every unfair practices would be forgiven. That’s life.
    The game was lost. McHale was the one responsible. A few more games like this, he would definitely be replaced. Les has been watching these games and they certainly didn’t earn their pay.

    • I’m not sure if Harden dislikes Lin as a person, but he definitely prefers for him to have the ball in his hands, rather than Lin. This is very unfortunate, because I actually think Harden does better when Lin is the primary play maker.

      I doubt McHale would be replaced anytime soon, unfortunately, even if he has a few bad games. They seem to like him in Houston. I think at first, it was because Morey felt that he’s a new coach so is willing to put up with anything, including a lot of shuffling of players to rebuild the team. Now that they’re done rebuilding, it does make sense that they SHOULD go out and look for a coach that is ready to win a championship. But maybe they feel like they owe McHale something. I don’t know. If I was Les, I’d be trying to get rid of McHale as soon as possible, now that the rebuilding is over. It might be a callous move, but if he’s thinking of winning a championship, then this is what he needs to do.

  • Peter

    Amazing. JLintel, could you somehow tweet this to Daryl Morey?

    Beverley goes 1-10 and messes up on defense on the last play. He is in for defense, right?

    Lin goes 5-8 – extremely effective (essentially brought the rockets back), yet

    BEVERLEY PLAYS 34. LIN PLAYS 31.

    I guess McFail likes seeing Beverley brick.

    • Thanks very much, Peter, for the kind words. I will tweet Morey and company right this instant. I had planned on doing it, but forgot, so thanks for the reminder.

  • Peter

    JLintel,

    In previous posts, you said Lin would play with the second unit. However, he is almost always playing with the first unit *with* Harden. What’s the point of him coming off the bench if he’s playing with the starting unit?

  • Forthelin

    I’m not sure what McHale is thinking, but Lin is 8 and 2 when he has started in the preseason and in the regular season. Beverly is 1 and 2, if you don’t count the first game when he was injured in the first quarter. With Lin starting all 82 games last year, the rox made it to the playoffs. Of course, Harden had something to do with that, but facts are facts. Lin seems to find ways to win. Beverly does nice things out there, especially disrupting the flow of the other team, but it’s streetball when he’s running the show. What’s ironic about all this is that McHale became a HOF by playing team ball with the Celtics, but seems to prefer Ruckers style play to John Wooden’s style. Go figure.

    • Yeah, Lin is all about the team and he’s a great floor general. He’s actually exactly the type of point guarded needed to balance out Harden and Howard, but McHale fails to see this. The thing is, there’s a good argument to be made for using Lin as a sixth man. The reality is Lin is needed both with the starters and with the second unit. Yep, without Lin on the court, the Rockets offense does turn into street ball, since McHale doesn’t have any actual plays. This is another reason why Lin is a perfect point guard for McHale, since Lin doesn’t need any actual plays to be successful. Unfortunately, McHale is oblivious to all of this due to his being a Lin doubter. He’ll always see Lin through doubter glasses and that’s why he makes decisions about Lin that aren’t rational.

  • George

    Oh man, I loved and so much excited watching Lins games. But since last January when mchale started misusing lin and asks give ball to harden all the time makes me sick and now I lost my interest watching nba games as well as Lins play.
    What a goofy coach.
    I Wish they hired doc rivers or some experienced and well educated coach this summer.
    I see rockets has big threes there right now which has potential to win conference final at least. Howard lin James. Just needs a man who can help them find right chemistry. Just like we saw Boston’s three (Allen Garnett pierce) or heats big three (lebron wade bosh)

    • MrPingPong

      Well George, since you haven’t been following Lin lately, the Big Three in H-Town is actually Howard-Harden-Parsons! Houston fans do not embrace Lin like the Knicks fans did.

      I live in Houston and have gone to numerous Rockets home games and can attest to that, just by trying to spot the few Lin 7 jerseys in the crowd.

      Parsons’s new found fame with Seventeen magazine has gone to his head, so it seems. He thinks he is the second coming of Larry Bird or something, and tries to play like a super star, which he is not.

      Like many of the Lin fans, I am disheartened by the way Lin is being marginalized by his own coaching staff. But I am 100% certain that Lin will figure out how to deal with it and triumph in the end!

      • Lin is starting to regain his big three status on the team. We’ll see how long it lasts. This past week, he has been THE BEST Rockets.

        • MrPingPong

          No question about who the best Rockets this week is! But then, McHale will keep starting Bev, messing up the chemistry, blah blah blah…

          I boldly predict that Lin will boss again tomorrow against the Nugs and earn Player of the Week award!
          🙂

    • Thanks for your comments, George. I feel your frustration. Last season was, indeed painful and McHale has no business coaching any team, for that matter, much less Lin and this Rockets team which has a chance to contend for a title. McHale is messing it all up. We’ll see if Lin can do enough to fix things and set this team on the right course. Right now, this Rockets team is playing well below their potential and it’s really McHale’s fault.

    • Doc Rivers would have been a DREAM COACH for this team!

  • George

    If lin asks to be traded like Omer did the mchale will definitely loose his job as a looser lol
    Sorry but it’s true
    People won’t be happy and realize well with what mcgoof doing

    • I don’t think Lin will ask to be traded. Things are actually going well for LIn now, so I think he’s pretty happy with his situation. If he does ask to be traded, Les, the owner of the Rockets, is going to be really angry at McHale. I think within the Rockets organization, Les is probably Lin’s biggest fan. So at least Lin has the owner of the Rockets behind him.

  • George

    Can you find a way to tweet about mchale’s poor coaching?
    We want to see tweets on TV like espn TNT or nbatv

    • I tweet Morey somewhat regularly on my posts, but I haven’t tweeted the guy who reads the tweets on CSN. I should start following him on Twitter, but can’t think of his name. Will look into it.

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