HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It’s not unusual to get inside of one’s thoughts through words.
But you can also learn a lot from what is left unsaid. In the case of Rockets coach Kevin McHale, his economized use of words spoke volumes when the subject Tuesday turned suddenly youthful roster.
Two weeks ago, the Rockets were hoping to simply re-tool a veteran team with the influx of a star player via a trade and an additional rookie acquired in last month’s NBA Draft. But when those plans fell through the fire sale of veteran parts started and now McHale is looking at going into the 2012-13 season with six first or second year players and maybe two veterans whose contracts are too inflated to unload this off-season.
Certainly this wasn’t what McHale envisioned when he joined the Rockets a year ago.
“It’s interesting,” McHale said during Tuesday’s final Summer League practice in Houston before the team heads to Las Vegas.
So is this what you signed up for?
The answer to that is of course not. McHale came here from Minnesota hoping with a few pieces added here and there that he would be coaching a team capable of making a run in the Western Conference. And for a couple of days prior to the draft it seemed like general manager Daryl Morey was going to deliver on his pledge to bring in a perennial All-Star with heavy speculation he was gathering first round draft picks in hopes of being able to pry center Dwight Howard away from Orlando in a trade. But when that didn’t happen, Morey was left with three first round draft picks and no choice but to begin the inevitable youth movement that had been resisted for so long.
Veterans Chase Budinger and Samuel Dalembert were traded away in pre-draft deals, disgruntled point guard Kyle Lowry was traded last week while there was no real effort to keep restricted free agent Courtney Lee and free agents Goran Dragic and Marcus Camby. There is no secret the team would love nothing more than to unload Kevin Martin and Luis Scola but their bloated contracts may make them the Rockets veteran presence by default.
No one in the Rockets organization has uttered the dreaded “rebuild” word, perhaps because of faint hopes of still landing Howard, but that is where we are.
Instead of being bench players, it’s realistic that this year’s first round draft picks Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones will be significant contributors this season. Even crazier, second-year player Chandler Parsons and third-year reserve Patrick Patterson could be looked to to provide veteran leadership both on the floor and in the locker room. You might well throw in last year’s first-round pick Marcus Morris, who saw most of his significant minutes in the D-League last season, into the leadership mix, too.
“We joke about that downstairs all the time,” Patterson said Tuesday after he observed the final practice. “Chandler and Marcus are semi-leaders, as well. They’ve been here only for a year and I’ve been here only for two but already I’m being called a veteran and it’s blowing my mind right now. But it’s something I’m just going to put on my shoulders and roll with it and just have fun with it.”
The idea sounds good right now but it will be a different story during the season when 7-foot forward Donatas Motiejunas can’t find his aggressiveness or White finds that at 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds he won’t be able to muscle his way inside the way he did in his one season in the Big 12.
Patterson still hasn’t figured out how to be a consistent threat in the paint. And while Parsons was certainly the biggest rookie surprise last season the youngster still has some battles to go through before he can lead someone else.
“The biggest fear right now is we’ve got youngsters leading youngsters, teaching youngsters,” said McHale. “That’s just a really hard way to go for the young guys learning. It makes it hard on them, doesn’t make it any harder on me.
“It’s hard on them because I can tell you from experience that I learned my from my fellow teammates than I did my coaches. When you have veteran guys they hold you accountable. That means a lot more to players. Right now I don’t know who those guys are going to be. Pat and Chandler, I guess.”
What McHale does know is that he doesn’t plan to alter his coaching approach much. He is straight forward and blunt. He also wants to win, though the playoff talk has been tempered considerably.
“The guys have got to improve and we’ve got to improve as a team and we’ve got to find a way to win so it doesn’t change,” McHale said. “You have to win basketball games.”
After three days of practice in Houston, McHale seems to at least like the effort he is seeing even if the skill level isn’t quite what he is accustomed to.
“They’ll compete. They’re playing hard for the most part,” he said. “We are showing them some new stuff and they are having to do some stuff they haven’t done before so we are trying to keep it fairly simple.
“But they are out there running and competing and I like what I see so far.”
It’s not what he anticipated he would see.