NBA Predictions 2011: New Coach Kevin McHale's Impact on the Houston Rockets
Kevin McHale has always been a cat who’s just a little bit different.
As a player, the 1999 Hall of Fame inductee is most well-known for his gangly, almost gawky appearance, three championships and barrel full of low-post moves.
'Twas not always so, though—except for the appearance.
During his first couple of seasons, Boston’s regular sixth man had an evolving though still rather limited offensive move set—hustle points around the rim, the occasional short jumper and a post-up game that pretty much began and ended with that fallaway jump shot, often with a twist.
The point here is not to snub McHale, as player or coach.
Quite the contrary.
The standing in the game held by the new coach of the Houston Rockets was earned and is well-deserved.
Those of us who followed his career closely saw him develop not only that “Torture Chamber” on the low block, but also into an effective one-on-one defender for a guy with limited agility.
Who better, then, to tutor this Rocket squad, which sports eight returning players under contract from a team that won 17 of its final 25 games in 2010-11, an average age of 25 with rookie Marcus Morris from Kansas and a nice core of young, athletic big men in Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson, Morris and maybe even free-agent Chuck Hayes?
Of course, the blessing of roster continuity is balanced by the limited free-agent options it causes, as McHale, GM Daryl Morey and owner Les Alexander acknowledged that at Wednesday’s press conference while setting the modest goal of being a playoff team.
That will require these young players, both individually and collectively, to develop “court sense,” that amorphous commodity of recognizing what you can do and when you can do it.
Coach McHale’s evolution as a player suggests a blueprint with which he is familiar.
But, as with most things in life, the devil is in the details—can McHale and his staff provide the nuts-and-bolts instruction while nurturing some court sense and confidence in these basketball babies, all while enduring the pace of an extra-frantic, condensed NBA schedule?
Unfortunately, Chase Budinger and Kyle Lowry are not yet drawing comparisons to Larry Bird or Nate Archibald.
Those young Rocket legs will help, but a slate of games likely to be weighted to the tougher Western Conference and Southwest Division adds to the challenge.
The ex-Celtic great was a surprise candidate, much less selection, for the Rockets’ coaching vacancy back in May.
How did he get the job?
Well, let’s just say, Kevin McHale has always been a cat who’s just a little bit different.
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