Kevin McHale’s Seat Cooling Off?
The Houston Rockets had a rough offseason, losing Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons – three critical pieces in their rise up the Western Conference ranks – while missing out on their top targets in Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. The Rockets’ plan was to try to add one of those two while retaining Parsons, but when they missed out on both of them and the Dallas Mavericks offered Parsons a three-year max deal, the Rockets decided to let him walk and replace him with Trevor Ariza. While Ariza was coming off of a career-year, his addition alone wasn’t enough to keep the Rockets from being labeled as one of the losers of the offseason.
James Harden and Dwight Howard were quick to urge caution this offseason after the losses, stating that they were capable of picking up some of the slack. They’re walking the walk so far, leading the Rockets to a pristine 5-0 start. Harden is playing like a Most Valuable Player frontrunner, putting up 27.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists a game, while Howard has been solid as well, posting a respectable 17.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. With averages of 17.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists, Ariza has also helped form a big three in Houston and proven to be a very serviceable replacement for Parsons.
There’s still an awful lot of the season left and the Rockets’ schedule has been lax to start this season (they only have one win against a playoff team from last year, but that was a 17-point beating of the Miami HEAT), but this hot start has helped ease some pressure from head coach Kevin McHale.
McHale, who has been with the Rockets since 2011, is in the final year of his contract and was the scapegoat for the Rockets’ disappointing first-round defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers in a lot of people’s minds. Without hitting a home run in free agency like they were hoping for, McHale came into the season with one of the hotter seats in the league. If things didn’t go right, he may have been the first to go simply because making a change at head coach is often the easiest, and preferred method, for general managers looking to enact improvement. But, thanks to their strong start, he’s already getting an early vote of confidence from ownership.
“I think the team is playing really well, and he’s done a very good job,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “I like the way the team is playing. We are defending better. Obviously, our star players are playing very well. Everything looks better when you shoot so well, but they’re doing a very good job.”
When probed about whether McHale’s fate will be determined by playoff success, Alexander wouldn’t go to that extent.
“We don’t judge people like that,” Alexander said. “We judge by how good we think people have done during the year.
“I think we are [contenders]. Time will tell, but right now I think we are.”
Had the offseason gone the way they hoped, the Rockets would arguably be the favorites right now in the Western Conference. They were never in the lead for Anthony, but had the HEAT not put down a five-year, max contract offer for Bosh, it’s very likely that he would have been a Rocket and Parsons still would be too. For now, though, the search for a third star continues. And, once they land him, as long as they play up to their potential, McHale could be safe for years to come.
“It was a very difficult offseason,” Alexander said. “There were big decisions that really didn’t go our way. It was tough. It was tough going through it and hoping you’d be able to rebound and have a really good team. I liked the moves that we made. And we still have flexibility to make other moves, which I believe is important.”
Ray Allen Still Undecided
In today’s day and age, a player can’t go on vacation without some kind of rumor surfacing. This offseason, Kevin Love made headlines by the dozens by visiting Boston and going to a Red Sox game that Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo also happened to be at. In the end, it was nothing more than a vacation for Love, who ended up leveraging his way to the Cleveland Cavaliers to join up with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Celtics were never seriously in the picture, as the Timberwolves were always either going to trade him to the Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors. A similar craze happened when Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony were reportedly seen working out at UCLA when Anthony was in the middle of his decision-making process. It turns out that workout, despite being confirmed by UCLA’s athletic director, never happened. Anthony eventually re-signed with the New York Knicks in another example of how stories can be created out of nothing in this era of year-round coverage.
In the latest testament to that, eyebrows were raised by the currently unemployed (by choice) Ray Allen, who has been spotted in Chicago this week. Allen, of course, played for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau during their time together in Boston, including the 2008 championship run. The combination of those factors led to some people wondering if Allen could be considering joining the Bulls. He would be an incredible fit with them, as his sharp shooting ability would be ideal on a team that features Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, but lacks the proven punch Allen would provide out on the perimeter outside of Jimmy Butler. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, there’s nothing more to Allen’s Chicago visit other than just some offseason traveling.
“[It has] nothing to do with the Bulls,” Allen’s agent Jim Tanner told Shams Charania of RealGM.
Allen remains on the fence about playing up to this point. However, several contenders, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, are reportedly ready to make room for him the moment he decides he wants to play.
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