Any far-fetched dream of the Houston Rockets having a winnable record in Stephen Silas’ second season went down the drain 24 minutes into the 2022 campaign.
Second-year two-guard Anthony Edwards drilled a triple to put the Minnesota Timberwolves up by 29 points inside the Target Center against the Rockets. Edwards looked over to the bench where Silas stood and demanded that Houston call a timeout with 20.3 seconds left in the first half.
Edwards’ 29-point performance on opening night gave the Rockets their first loss of the season in a 124-106 defeat to the Timberwolves.
Houston finished with the league’s worst record for the second consecutive year at 20-62. Another season in basketball purgatory created a narrative for fans that Silas is not a good coach. Their frustrations are justified given Silas’ 37-117 record over the previous two seasons.
But the most significant goal for Houston was the development of their young players. The Rockets’ growth from opening night to the season finale showcased why the 2022 campaign was a success for the Rockets. And why Silas is the most suitable coach to guide Houston’s rebuild.
“The goal of any organization is to keep the train moving in the right direction. We’re in a different spot because we have so many young guys. The way the season was structured gave guys a chance to go out there and fail, learn and grow. There’s a lot of talent on this team. If these young guys are going to have a long career, we cannot get caught up in the now. It’s being able to build for today to help them for a better tomorrow.” — Silas
The term blueprint summarizes Silas’ coaching this past season. It’s the course of action he gave to the Rockets’ young lads at the start of the year but wasn’t put to good use until the post-All-Star break.
The Rockets struggled through the first half of the season, and there were nights the team did not look competitive. Silas was at the forefront. Houston embarked on a season-high 15-game losing streak four days into the new year.
Silas’ patience navigated Houston through the early losses. And it’s what led to the Rockets having one of the league’s most promising young teams six months later.
It took patience for Silas to witness Jalen Green averaged 5.7 points during a three-game stint in January before finishing his rookie campaign with 41 points against the Atlanta Hawks. He watched Kevin Porter Jr. stumble out the gates as a full-time starting point guard — who averaged 4.3 turnovers in the first 17 games before improving to 2.6 the final month of the season.
Silas also endured growing pains with Alperen Sengun. The speed of the NBA was a tough adjustment for Sengun before averaging 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds during the second half of the season.
“This has been a difficult year, but I think Stephen did well. All of our players improved throughout the season, and that was a primary goal. I think Silas and his staff did a very good job.” — General manager Rafael Stone.
Not too many coaches would possess the patience of Silas. He was able to succeed in his second season due to his unwillingness to put pressure on his young players.
Each time one of his youngsters had a great game early on in the year, Silas’ press conference would be filled with questions on how the individual’s play can become consistent. He would then rationalize the significance of not putting too much pressure on a team that featured a lineup of three 19-year-old rookies.
But as the team progressed throughout the season, Silas’ expectations for consistency ascended. After the Rockets’ 139-130 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Lakers in March, Silas wrote one word on his coach’s board two days later — consistency.
He started to expect his team to sustain the level of play they showcased against the Lakers in hopes of closing the season on a high note.
The Rockets won three more games following the home victory over Los Angeles. But Houston’s competitive and high on-court production resulted in the final 16 games of the year becoming a successful stretch.
Josh Christopher best embodied Silas’ combination of when to have patience verses rising expectations. Christopher scored 20 points or more five times after accounting for 21 in Houston’s win over the Lakers. A feat he failed to reach during the first four months of his rookie season.
“When you are the head coach, you want everything to be perfect. There have been moments when I had to embrace the process of failure. If I had put too much pressure on them to play mistake-free, then the season would not have ended the way it did in terms of improving individually and as a group. I believe we are in a better place today.” — Silas
In year one, Silas’ most daunting task was to mend an organization left in a snafu state following the jettison of James Harden. Year two featured Silas laying down the groundwork for his players to assist the team in reaching their on-court potential.
Year three for Silas will be different. His first lecture of the year was to apply the lessons learned in the season opener against the Timberwolves for a 124-91 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder two nights later.
Silas will use that same lesson that led to the Rockets’ first win of the season as the primary pillar in 2023. Patience will still be a top virtue for Silas to lean on through 82 games, but his coaching philosophy may become more rigorous than in the previous two campaigns.
“It will be unfair to the players and me to let them play through the mistakes that they already know. If they learned a lot throughout this season, then they will be held accountable for what they learned next year. This season was all about learning. Next season will be about ‘you already know.’ It will be a disservice to all of us to let them off the hook with stuff they already learned.” — Silas