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Sources: Houston Rockets Weighing Future of Head Coach Stephen Silas

Jake Fischer@JakeLFischerContributor INovember 24, 2021

Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas reacts to the team's play against the New York Knicks during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New York, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

The Houston Rockets have lost 15 straight games since their Oct. 22 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even for a franchise clearly trying to rebuild, such a drought can erode morale and optimism among players and team staffers. 

Now, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation have indicated to B/R that Rockets brass are weighing the future of Stephen Silas, who may become the league's next coach to be terminated, following Luke Walton's exit in Sacramento last weekend. 

But unlike Walton, there were no playoff expectations for Houston. Instead, GM Rafael Stone's front office has directed the coaching staff to develop and feature Houston's younger prospects such as Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green, sources said. 

Silas, though, was not hired to steer a rebuild. When Silas, Jeff Van Gundy and Rockets assistant John Lucas interviewed with former GM Daryl Morey for the position during the 2020 offseason, each were required to meet with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Morey is now the president in Philadelphia. Harden and Westbrook, of course, are gone as well. 

After Morey stepped away from the organization, Stone was elevated and hired Silas while the franchise still intended to convince Harden to stay. The Rockets, for example, declined Minnesota's offer for PJ Tucker that would have brought back a first-round pick. But Harden only played eight games under Silas before he was traded to Brooklyn, and then Houston pivoted into rebuild mode. 

"They put him in a tough position," said one assistant general manager. "[Silas] is genuinely one of the nicest people in the NBA. He actually cares about people. To put him with a bunch of really young dudes who probably don't care about anything but their numbers and playing time, he's just not the right fit."

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When the Rockets and former All-Star point guard John Wall, acquired in exchange for Westbrook, agreed to sit the veteran towards the end of last season, and continued that arrangement this fall, it appeared clear that Houston once again set its sights on a trip to the lottery. While no Rocket staffer expected to start 1-16, there was little forecast that Silas' team would fare much better. 

"What was he supposed to do this year, exactly?" added a Western Conference executive. 

But Silas' coaching performance has been met with some critics around the league. Rival coaches characterize the Rockets offense as disorganized and undisciplined, with chronic turnover issues and poor shot selection. They boast the league's worst offensive efficiency and assist-to-turnover ratio.

D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

It's fair to blame their inexperienced roster. The Rockets are one of the youngest teams in the NBA this season. The team's return for Harden, which could have netted Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle from Morey's Sixers, did not leave the Rockets with a blue chip cornerstone. Houston rerouted Jarrett Allen, sources said, after deeming him and forward Christian Wood a suboptimal front court pairing.

Silas has recently made greater efforts to be firmer with Houston's young core, quicker to yank players for shot selection, turnovers, and defensive breakdowns. 

By all accounts, Stone and Silas remain close, riding on team flights and evaluating game film together. But Stone is more hands-on than the typical NBA general manager. 

On one occasion, Stone walked onto the practice court to preach defensive philosophy, sources said, and is known to consult players on tactical improvements. If he were to make a change at head coach, it seems Stone would maintain a similar level of influence over the coaching staff and Rockets' rotation, an increasing trend around the NBA. 

Multiple sources suggested Lucas as the likely interim head coach in any event Silas is dismissed. Lucas, the longtime Houston assistant and player development lead, is known to hold a particularly strong connection with Stone, and even trains Stone's kids. 

Rockets staffers are not waiting for this shoe drop the same way Kings personnel anticipated Walton's dismissal in Sacramento. Still, the rumors circulating Houston have grown louder this week, where Silas has just one year remaining on his contract following this season. 

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