Report: Stephen Silas, Rockets Finalizing HC Contract After Mike D'Antoni's Exit

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2020

Charlotte Hornets associate head coach Stephen Silas argues a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Dallas Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas is finalizing a contract to become the next coach of the Houston Rockets, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Mark Berman of Fox 26 added the hiring is "imminent" and that the Rockets are in the process of building a "strong" staff around Silas that could potentially include two former NBA head coaches. Former New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek and former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan have already engaged in talks to join the Rockets' coaching staff, per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen

Houston player development coach John Lucas—who was a candidate for the head-coaching job—is reportedly expected to receive an offer to remain with the franchise in some capacity.

Mavs star Luka Doncic and owner Mark Cuban were among the first to congratulate Silas:

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Silas is the son of former head coach Paul Silas. The 47-year-old started as an assistant for his father with the Charlotte Hornets in 2000 and followed him to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.

After working as a scout for the Washington Wizards in 2005-06, he returned to the coaching ranks with the Golden State Warriors and returned to Charlotte in 2010. Silas spent the past two seasons as an assistant for the Dallas Mavericks.

Silas is joining the Rockets at a time when they might be at a significant crossroads, though.

Trading Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook didn't get Houston any closer to a third NBA title, and it might have taken the franchise backward. Not only does Paul appear to be a better win-now asset, but Rockets also sent their first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 to Oklahoma City.

The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote how general manager Daryl Morey backed the franchise into a corner by focusing so much on the short term. The approach was admirable but not without obvious consequences.

Now, the roster is left with little in the way of young players who could be leveraged to land more established stars:

"You will rarely see a team with such a defoliated player pipeline. The closest thing Houston has is House, who is 27 and on a very favorable contract ($3.7 million next year, followed by $3.9 million the following year). He's not 'young' per se, but he's both the Rockets' youngest viable player and their best trade asset. Alas, this incarnation of the Rockets can only stay afloat by having inexpensive role players like House outperform their contracts.

"The other way for Houston to improve the team is by taking one more ride on the asset treadmill. After the draft, Houston can trade either its 2021 or 2022 first-round pick (but not both). Could dangling that pick and/or House be enough to convince another team to take on Gordon, perhaps with a less expensive contract coming back?

Morey won't be around to see the next phase through after stepping down in October.

This offseason has the feel of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. No amount of trades can hide the fact the Rockets are pinning a lot of their hopes on a player who seems incapable of adapting his game to account for his gradual physical decline.

Westbrook shot 25.8 percent from three-point range over 57 regular-season games in 2019-20. Even from the mid-range he only hit 40.7 percent of his attempts, per NBA.com.

He has never been a good shooter, and he will be less effective attacking the basket as he ages and slowly loses his trademark explosion.

Contending for a title at a time when floor-spacing is paramount is extremely difficult if the 31-year-old is supposed to be your second-most important player.

Perhaps Silas will be able to get the 2017 MVP to make the necessary adjustments and figure out how to improve his jumper.

Likewise, Silas may have slightly diverging strategic viewpoints from Mike D'Antoni, who utilized super-small lineups as his last tactical ploy following the trade of Clint Capela. In lieu of reshuffling the squad, changing tactics is the most obvious way to hope for a different outcome in the playoffs.

Outside of Houston, expectations for the Rockets in 2020-21 will probably be as low as they've been at any point during the James Harden era. Within the organization, the goal will once again be the NBA Finals because the championship window is rapidly closing.

One thing in Silas' favor is that he almost certainly won't catch the bulk of the blame should Houston fall short since Morey was the architect for what's shaping up to be a major quagmire.

The Thunder traded Westbrook after having sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, when a rebuild looked preferable to keeping Westbrook as the centerpiece. Should another disappointing playoff exit beckon, the Rockets might face the same dilemma.

Based on how the upcoming season unfolds, the scope of Silas' job could change drastically in 2021.