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Can J.B. Bickerstaff bring back the Houston Rockets defense?

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J.B. Bickerstaff will get his shot at fixing the Houston Rockets defense and righting a ship that's dramatically off course.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the opening years Kevin McHale coached the Houston Rockets, the defense was never top tier. That all changed when Kelvin Sampson left to coach the Houston Cougars and J.B. Bickerstaff became the team's top assistant.

Last season the Rockets played the franchise's best defense since the Jeff Van Gundy teams of the mid-2000s. The man credited with the turnaround was Bickerstaff.

Wednesday, the Rockets fired Kevin McHale and promoted Bickerstaff to helm the ship.

"I think he's a great leader, I think he's been ready for this opportunity his whole life," Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey said, "I think the team responds to him, I think he has a good plan to lead us out of where we are,"

That plan could include a return to the hard-nosed defense of last year.

"(Bickerstaff) had us as a top 10 defense overall last year, top five when Dwight Howard was on the floor, I believe he can turn around the defense," Morey said.

One of the biggest issues Bickerstaff will face is getting the team on the same page. So far this season the Rockets' 4-7 start is a reflection of their tendency to freelance and play individual basketball. It's on Bickerstaff to bring the defense back and instill a team mentality again.