Structure, stability and order will be the emphasis for a Rockets team that lacked all three during its rebuilding process, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Sporting a roster filled with young players, Houston ranked 27th and 26th in points per possession during the past two seasons, and Iko notes that former coach Stephen Silas’ philosophy of giving his guards the freedom to improvise didn’t work out the way he hoped.
Rockets management signaled an end to that approach by replacing Silas with Ime Udoka and offering big money to free agent Fred VanVleet, who is one of the league’s most efficient ball-handlers. At Monday’s media day, VanVleet said he wants his professionalism and work ethic to become “contagious” with his new teammates.
“A lot of that comes down to systems and schemes, seeing what sets we’re going to run, how coach puts us out there and who’s gonna do what,” VanVleet said. “But ultimately, it’s just having that poise and presence to slow things down and get guys where they need to be. It’s time to rein it in and get some structure and figure out how to maximize these guys’ potential. I think I can be key there.”
There’s more from Houston:
- Dillon Brooks, the Rockets’ other significant addition in free agency, mentioned “baby steps,” “learning lessons” and “slow process” when talking about revamping the team’s defense, Iko adds in the same piece. Brooks, a second-team All-Defensive selection with Memphis last season, also vows to be a “second voice” to emphasize the messages delivered by Udoka. “You always need a second voice after the first voice commands it,” Brooks said. “I’m gonna do everything I can on the defensive end — if it’s guarding the best player, diving on loose balls, getting physical with another player. I’m about all of that. … I’m just a competitor. I love to compete at a high level. I just feel like a lot of guys want to play in their bubble, and then when the heat gets turned up, they start feeling a way. I do everything to get into a player’s head, make him tired. I’ve been pretty good at it, been working that trade for a while.”
- Reggie Bullock should have a “significant role” in Udoka’s rotation after reportedly committing to the Rockets following a buyout with San Antonio, Iko states in another story with Shams Charania. Houston has been looking for more shooters, especially with Kevin Porter Jr. unlikely to return, and Bullock is a proven three-point threat.
- The main message coming out of media day is that rebuilding is finished and it’s time for the team to be competitive, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston made several veteran additions in the offseason to try to speed up the process, but Udoka said the most important factor will be progress from the young core. “Internal growth is going to be the biggest step for us,” Udoka said. “The guys that have been here and have gone through the rough times, we need to see growth and improvement from them.”