Rockets coach Kevin McHale certainly isn’t above making some radical adjustments to his rotation, especially when players aren’t putting out the right energy.
We saw how Chase Budinger got lost on the bench for three games because he wasn’t playing with the right energy. We see how he is playing now.
Perhaps the Rockets first-year coach is sending a message again.
McHale went deep into his bench Monday night to find seldom-used Jeff Adrien after neither Sam Dalembert nor Jordan Hill played well in the post during the first 7 ½ minutes against Denver.
The 6-foot-7 Adrien immediately gave the Rockets a spark with his hustle and energy off the bench. Adrien finished the night with nine rebounds and two blocked shots in 17 minutes of the Rockets 99-90 road win over the Nuggets.
“We had no zip,” McHale explained the benching of Dalembert and Hill to the Houston Chronicle. “Jeff’s been practicing hard. He’s a good kid. He probably deserved to play.”
Like players such as Budinger, Adrien had found himself lost on the Rockets bench. Now perhaps like Budinger, Adrien has played his way into the consciousness of McHale.
Adrien hadn’t played in a game since Jan. 18 prior to Monday night and the minutes he played were by far the most meaningful this season.
Adrien had no idea he would play against the Nuggets but certainly seemed to make the most of his opportunity.
“I’m always thinking I’m going to play, but Coach never mentioned it,” Adrien said to the Chronicle. “I work hard every day with my guy right here, Jonny Flynn, and stay ready. I just did what I do: get out, rebound, give energy and play defense. That’s what my job is.”
Now, McHale could have a dilemma with how to further divvy up minutes to growing bench. If Adrien how now indeed earned more minutes, that means McHale will have a rotation that is 11 players deep and clearly out of his comfort level.
Dalembert, who has been a huge catalyst this season, could lose some minutes but it would seem Hill stands to lose the most if Adrien has earned more playing time. Hill has certainly been inconsistent this season and a severe reduction in playing time could be in store.