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Mike D’Antoni: Everybody starts at zero

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The Rockets lacked a chip on their shoulder on Wednesday night, and the coach is calling them out on it.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets were staggered and rocked by the New Orleans Pelicans in Wednesday night’s home opener. They didn’t come out mentally ready, and both Chris Paul and P.J. Tucker have spoken publicly about the group’s issues with communication.

Thankfully, some perspective allows us to remember that the season is young and the Rockets are incorporating some new pieces, but that’s not going to stop head coach Mike D’Antoni from working to get Houston’s issues fixed ASAP. He was honest about those issues in the game’s aftermath, telling the Houston Chronicle:

“It stunned us a little bit. It was like, ‘Oh shoot, we’re not as good as we thought.’ Yeah, we are. We just didn’t prove it. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces. Everybody starts at zero. It’s the hardest thing for teams like us when you win 65 by doing all the work to get there and then all summer you think you’re at 65. No, we’re not. We’re at zero. We just got to get that mentality again.”

It’s a great quote from the coach about what he’s currently working on with his guys from a mental standpoint. Though a little complacency wasn’t quite what I was expecting this season from a team that should be heading into this year with a chip on its shoulder.

If you recall, back in the 1993 season, the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Rockets lost in a tough seven-game series to the Seattle Supersonics and bowed out of the Western Conference Semifinals in overtime of the final game. The loss stung, especially because the Rockets felt they were good enough to win it.

They came back the following season with a major chip, starting off the year with 15 straight victories and 22 wins in their first 23 games. They set the tone for the year with their attitude, and it resulted in a championship.

There’s not a 100-percent parallel here. This version of the Rockets made more changes to their roster than the 1994 team did, as they work to incorporate new players and a new defensive coach. That’s why they do get at least a little leeway at this early point of the season to tighten up the screws a little bit.

And as much as I love that quote from D’Antoni, the players spoke in the offseason about coming into this year with that aforementioned chip on their shoulder due to their tough loss to the Golden State Warriors in seven games. We didn’t see it in the season-opener. We’ll all be looking for it Saturday night in L.A.