The Houston Rockets were coming off their 15th loss in a row. They played decent for a half before Al Horford and the Celtics pulled away in the second half to win 108-90. After the game, Eric Gordon understandably was frustrated.
Eric Gordon: “This is hard..We got to understand it’s team basketball. It’s little things. We haven’t been consistent all year playing good basketball. We have to do the little things 1st before we can start winning. Everybody needs to be on the same page for us to move forward.” pic.twitter.com/rV3y4CdENs— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) November 23, 2021
He wasn't the only one, as pressure started to mount (real or fake) on the Rockets and specifically head coach Stephen Silas, as rumors began to fly around about if he was on the proverbial hot seat.
After Luke Walton’s departure in Sacramento, the Houston Rockets are weighing the future of head coach Stephen Silas, according to league sources. More on the complicated dynamic at @BR_NBA: https://t.co/7rXbZzWONG— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) November 24, 2021
If this was true or conjecture from people around the league, we may never know, but it was gaining traction nationally and — let's be honest — in Houston as well amongst some Rockets fans. You can understand to a point the frustration from fans, as the team was never supposed to be this bad. But at the same time, there are levels of frustration, and outright saying Coach Silas is a horrible coach and should be fired less than two years into a massive rebuild was not the correct response.
Criticizing his rotations — absolutely. But saying he is the worst coach in the league (yes, I heard that several times) and saying he can't coach younger players was definitely on the overreaction side. That's why the praise during this six-game winning streak should be just as loud as the criticism.
It’s a long season; Rockets right the ship
Coming off that disheartening defeat versus the Celtics, many people were wondering if the Rockets would even get to 10 wins this year. The problem with that is that some of the numbers did not reflect a 9-73 team.
Even during the losing streak, the Rockets ranked in the top 10 in several categories, assuming that coaching is not the biggest issue. The Rockets, even at 1-16, were top five in points in the paint, rebounding, pace, and free throw attempts per game. This lets you know Coach Silas had them in the right spots, but the players were not executing.
Now I can’t go on without pointing out that at least some of Houston’s performance was on Coach Silas or the front office, depending on who you talked to. The rotation with Daniel Theis starting every game had a hand in the poor shooting and terrible spacing. Even so, Coach Silas had the Rockets playing hard every game, even while they were losing.
Now fast forward over two weeks, and the Rockets are the hottest team in the league, winners of six in a row going into a huge game vs. the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. Of course, some will say the schedule has been a lot easier, but when you’re 1-16, I don't think that matters too much.
Silas has also had to manage his entire backcourt being out for multiple games and integrating players who were on the Vipers to start the year. NBA head coaches aren't known for being flexible and willing to change (do you remember Mike D'Antoni?), so Silas changing his entire rotation and starting a player who no NBA team wanted a year ago in Garrison Mathews says something about his willingness to adapt. The ability to keep the team together despite dropping 15 straight and not losing the locker room shows that Silas can stay cool under tremendous pressure.
When Coach Silas was hired, he thought he would be coaching players like Russell Westbrook and James Harden into the postseason and instead wound up coaching Anthony Lamb and Brodric Thomas into the lottery. No disrespect to the latter, but if you believe you are coaching two Hall of Famers, and you instead end up coaching 40 different lineups, you may be a little shell-shocked.
Even with the sky-high potential of Jalen Green, he is still a rookie and will take time to develop. Yes, the Rockets can’t lose 15 in a row. That is unacceptable. But two of those games came down to last-second shots, and as mentioned earlier, several of the stats showed a different picture than the Rockets’ record.
The Rockets aren't competing for a championship this year, probably not even the playoffs, and there is nothing wrong with criticizing the front office, the team, or the coach. But at this moment, the Rockets are the hottest team in the league, and the praise should be just as loud as the criticism was just two weeks ago.