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A TDS interview: Matt Bullard’s next step

Matt Bullard discusses his time in Rockets’ television, the future of possibly working in NBA management or coaching, and how the Rockets should handle Christian Wood.

Denver Nuggets v Houston Rockets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Matt Bullard got a chance to sit down with The Dream Shake to discuss his ideas of becoming a coach or working in the front office in the NBA. On June 2, Bullard announced on Locked on Rockets with Jackson Gatlin that he wasn’t returning to AT&T SportsNet after working with the Houston Rockets for 16 years. He was able co-host next Bill Worrell, who he referred to as “the Hakeem Olajuwon of Rockets’ TV”.

Bullard never mentioned why AT&T SportsNet decided to not bring him back because he didn’t care to ask. He is looking forward to next chapter of his career, but would love to stay with the Rockets’ organization. After playing with the Rockets for nine years, starting a family in Houston, and being part of their TV channel, Rockets red still runs through his veins. Bullard said:

“Life is crazy, and I lived a lot more years than you have. One of the things I know about life is the only constant in life is change. My wife and I really learned how to embrace change. And for me, moving on from TV and looking to get into management, and I’ll tell you there are several teams that I’m currently talking with, and for me, it’s a welcome change and I’m looking for a new challenge.”

What do you want to deal with inside of management and why would your brain be so good for that?

“The NBA has been my life, and I’ve been in the NBA for 27 years. It’s a blessing to be in the NBA for that long. Moving into the management side with all the experience that I have, no one has seen more basketball than me. I’m watching games every single night the last 27 years.

So taking all that knowledge and knowing how the game is moving into a modern era with the modern players. Nikola Jokic just won the MVP this year. A new modern style center. So knowing how the analytics work into it. I’m trying to follow the same path that guys like Brent Barry, Shane Battier, and even what Rudy T is doing right now with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Those guys are blazing a path for guys like me to be in the front office so we can between the analytics and the basketball side. Sort of be a translator, trying to help the basketball guys to understand the analytics are telling us. Also, trying to figure out from the basketball guys what questions need to be answered.”

What intrigues you the most about analytics and did you learn that from Daryl Morey?

“I’ve been watching Daryl here with the Rockets sort of modernize the NBA by using the analytics. What we need to understand about the analytics is that they’re stats. We always had stats in the game of basketball. The original stat is points, right? Most points win, that’s a stat. So those stats have gotten way more complex than just field goal attempts, rebounds, and assists. What Daryl has pioneered is using really smart guys on high powered computers to look at all sorts of stats to create all sorts of new stats.

All these things are stats, but it’s just built on a foundation that’s been part of the game forever. There are so many stats that you can pretty much that you can find something to prove anything. The real challenge is to ask the right questions. We go to come up with the right questions so we can find in the stats the answer to that. Then can we translate that to our players on the floor.

Because one of the things I know as a player is if you get too many things put in your head before you go out there and play, then you’re going to be thinking on the floor and be a step slow. So, the modern era of basketball is getting really complexed with all these advanced analytics these players are having absorb a lot more.”

Draymond Green made a statement that analytics do not tell whole game of basketball. But what are your thoughts on Draymond’s comments about analytics?

“Well, what is interesting about Draymond is that the advanced analytics show that he effects winning in very positive way. The way he plays is sort of like Nikola Jokic, who is the MVP this year, and he plays in his own unique way. Draymond Green plays in his own unique way. And both of those guys really effect winning, and the stats figure that out.

So what Draymond is really telling you is that he doesn’t embrace change as much as a guy like me does. He just wants to keep it the way it was and don’t add all these unique stats to it. So he is just being resistant to the change that’s happening in the NBA.”

From a management and coaching standpoint, how can a coach get Christian Wood stronger and further in his career?

“So one of the reasons I like watching Christian Wood play is because I sort of identified with him. We have the same body type, 6’10”, long arms, and not real bulky and in fact very slender. And when people are like ‘Christian Wood needs to get in the weight room’, well, Christian is in the weight room. I was in the weight room, and I was lifting as hard as I could every single day to get as strong as I could. And my body type took me till I was 25 years old before I really got my full powers as an athlete.

You know some guys get it when they’re 18 and that’s as strong as their ever going to get. Some guys it’s like 21, 22, and guys like Christian Wood, myself, Kevin Durant, and guys like that takes us till we’re 25 years old to really develop the body. So with Christian, you got to be patient, and guys like us, you go to be patient and gain that strength and put us in situations so we can play to our strengths and avoid our weaknesses.

That’s what Rudy T did with me, and that’s what coach Silas started doing with Christian Wood this year. Let him play to his strengths because there is a lot of great things, he does on the basketball floor. But you want to keep him away from banging in the post because he is not going to have the advantage down there because of the way his body is.”

Do you think as a coach that seeing Christian Wood with post game could stretch the floor out like Dirk Nowitzki? Beating you in the post and from the perimeter could expand his game.

“The only thing that I think Christian Wood should work on in the post area is shooting over the top of smaller guys.

One of the things I learned directly when I was playing, going against the Detroit Pistons, I remember how exactly it went down. They switched, Joe Dumars is guarding me now, so I take Joe Dumars into the post and Kenny Smith throws me the ball and I’m trying to get advantage on Joe Dumars, and I got no chance because Joe Dumars is up underneath me, and he has a lower center gravity, and he was so strong it was like a fire hydrant.

There is no way me at 6’10”, like really tall with high center gravity, is going to get any leverage on him. Players like Christian Wood shouldn’t be trying to bang in the post, they shouldn’t be trying to punish smaller players. They should be just working on shooting over the top because that’s where the advantage of his body frame really relies.”

Would you rather become a head coach or GM if both opportunities presented itself in the future?

“For me, I already accomplished my wildest dreams as you can see behind me. A couple of Rockets’ jerseys, gold medals, and a USA jersey. For me, my life has been a dream. And what I want to do now at my age is trying to follow where life takes me and enjoy living life and being on the path.

If that path takes me to coaching, great. I’m going to do the best that I can and really enjoy what I’m doing. If that path takes me to management, that’s awesome. I’m going to do the best that I can and work hard and try winning another championship.

That’s one of the things I learned about myself, and I think it’s a trait that you really have to have if you’re going to make it all the way to the NBA is you got to be the most competitive MFers on the planet in order to be play in the league. And that competitiveness never goes away. It’s not when you get done playing it goes away because it’s still there. Still got to find ways to compete, and whatever my path takes me on is what I’m looking forward to.”

What guy would you want to see take your former spot Rockets’ TV? Would Vernon Maxwell be your preference?

“I really want to say I enjoyed my 16 years on TV with Bill Worrell. I felt like I was working with the Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston Sports TV. Bill and I are great friends and lifelong friends. It was a joy working with him every single night and moving forward now Rockets’ TV will look different.

Wouldn’t it be cool watching Calvin and Vernon Maxell? Basically sitting on your couch and listening to the conversation. Of course, if you did it that way, you definitely would have to keep that broadcast on a seven-second delay, because I’m sure there would be some swear words that would not be okay to go out over airway.

I tell you what, if Calvin and Vernon were on Rockets’ TV, I’d be watching every game to hear what they said.”

What was your favorite moment working with Bill Worrell, Calvin Murphy, Clyde Drexler, and Cayleigh Griffin?

“There is no way I can pick one, but I tell you that Clyde and I were teammates playing with the Rockets, and we worked on the air together, Bill is a lifelong friend, Cayleigh, Calvin are lifelong friends. So when you go to work and you’re working with your friends, it’s not like working.”

It was great working with those guys, and everything was a great memory.”

Hopefully, Bullard finds his niche real soon, as he will be missed in the Rockets’ community.