It's been several months since we saw the Houston Rockets on the court. The release of Houston’s preseason schedule was a nice departure from the news desert that is the NBA right now, but many fans are starving for any Rockets news.
Luckily during yesterday's Sports Talk 790 interview, we got an update on several players' progress and some insight into what Stephen Silas wants the team to improve on. Coach Silas spoke with Matt Thomas and Ross Villareal on The Matt Thomas Show to discuss several topics, from off-season workouts to how players like Jalen Green have improved during this downtime.
Here are a few of my takeaways from yesterday's interview.
Coach Silas will emphasize defense
The Rockets were the worst defensive team in the league, and it wasn't even close. So when you hear Coach Silas say they need to improve on defense, that is a pretty fair statement. Coach Silas was asked about the power forward and center rotation.
The defense has to be better and that is one of the things I have been concentrating on this summer, as far as helping guys with their techniques, watching films with them, helping them with where they should be with their help and recovery. We were a very good closeout team last year, but we didn't have as many closeouts as lets say Miami and New York.
As mentioned earlier, the Rockets’ defense was bottom of the league in most major categories. They have given up the most points per game for two years running. Adding players like Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason should greatly help this department. Also, factor in the continuous growth on defense from Green and Kevin Porter Jr., and the Rockets should see, at the very least, a more competitive defensive team.
Bringing in a coach like Lionel Hollins, who specializes in tough-nose defense, should give Silas even more help with his in-game strategy and pre-game preparations.
Coach Silas wants to see Kevin Porter Jr. off the ball more this year
Coach Silas was asked what he saw from Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green to the end of last year. Coach Silas.
Scoot was one of the top guys in the league far as his catch and shoot catch and shoot threes. So finding ways to get him off the ball to where he can play off that catch and shoot, whether he’s shooting it or driving and close out.
When you think of knockdown shooters, of course, you think of players like the Splash Brothers and Kevin Durant, but Porter Jr. was the second best catch-and-shoot player in the league last year from three-point range at 48.2 percent, only behind DJ Augustin, who played in only 16 minutes a game.
Putting Porter Jr. in more off-ball action should give him even more opportunities next year for catch-and-shoot chances. Also, with Green's expected second-year improvement, teams will try and get the ball out of his hands, leading to wide-open shots for the Rockets’ point guard.
Jalen Green has gotten stronger, which should improve his range from the three-point line.
For many reasons, Jalen Green had a slow start to the season last year. First, bad starting lineup construction, being a rookie and a shooting guard. Also, Green had issues with his shooting form. Matt Thomas asked Coach Silas about his shooting form and how it improved throughout the year.
Yeah, so when we got first got him, it was not quick. Uh, he didn’t anticipate his shots. So it was even slower than that. He didn’t know where they were coming from.
And making it quicker took a lot of that stuff out where, you know, he just didn’t see it. It was more of a compact shot. It was quicker. He got his feet into it quicker. We saw the improvement as the season went along this year.
Coach Silas also mentioned how much stronger Green has gotten over the summer.
As he is stronger, we’ll see more deep rain shots. We’ll see his step back. And those shots... you probably remember last year, he would get to his step back and he would look off balance just because he was a little bit weaker. Mm-hmm and his core and all that, all those little step backs that he shoots, whether it’s from two or from three, a lot more compact, a lot stronger. And then his shoulders, he’s just a lot stronger in his shoulders to where getting it up isn’t a problem at times last year at all. It wouldn’t look like it’s necessarily like a medicine ball, but now it’s just like quicker, more compact.
The Rockets have had the worst record for two straight years, and even though they won't be competing for a championship or maybe even a play-in spot next year, you have to feel good about their chances to have a noticeable improvement across the board.