Houston (CBS Houston) – Hero ball. If you follow the Rockets, it’s a term and a style of play you know quite well. On some nights, it leaves Rockets fans in awe of James Harden’s individual skills. On others, it destroys all semblance of an offense and prevents the Rockets from developing into a team capable of challenging the elite teams in the Western conference.
Last season Kevin McHale had to squeeze as much as possible out of a middle of the road team, meaning a little bit of ‘hero ball’ was needed on nights where the Rockets faced a talent discrepancy. But this season it has held them back. Players may be living up to their individual potential, but the team has failed to reach its potential.
After defeating the Trail Blazers Monday night 126-113, McHale spoke openly about the need to combat what he called the ‘home run mentality’.
“You fight that. The group is made up of a lot of guys who feel they are home run hitters.” McHale said. “Every time you tell them to play conservative and just lay it off to the right side, they look at you like they are crazy.”
Every good team needs its superstars. Having elite players like Dwight Howard and James Harden means the Rockets have the credentials to be an elite team. But in order to lay claim to that title, they must come together on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Right now they are nothing more than a collection of great parts, not a whole team.
“There are times I tell our guys you just got to hit the ball to the right side of the infield and advance the runner.” McHale said. “You don’t have to go for a home run every time. But we have a lot of home run players.”
On Monday night, the Rockets played as one. They did the little things and ‘advanced the runner’. Their ability to do that consistently will likely determine their fate.
“They understand,” McHale said. “They just have to do it when it gets tight.”
Getting them to ‘do it’ is McHale’s job. He seems to have identified the problem, but can he fix it?
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