The Houston Rockets introduced the 16th head coach in the franchise's history Wednesday afternoon at the Toyota Center. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and Rafael Stone join the Ime Udoka onstage.
Many expected the Rockets coaching hire process to take a little longer with the news that Nick Nurse was unavailable after being let go by the Toronto Raptors. Still, the Rockets felt they had found their next coach and made the decision quickly.
I was out at the press conference today, and it was a packed room with media from all across the country interested in what Udoka had to say, and there were some interesting answers from the Rockets owner and new head coach.
Here are my three takeaways from today's press conference.
The controversy that led to his dismissal in Boston isn't going away anytime soon
After the introductory statement by each person at the table, the first question, as it should have been for Udoka, was about his dismissal from the Boston Celtics and everything that led up to it.
Udoka said ." I apologized to a lot of people for the tough situation I put them in." The Celtics first suspended Udoka before the start of the season after reports came out that he had' multiple' policy violations. The Celtics would eventually dismiss Udoka this past February.
Udoka did answer each question about his dismal as multiple questions were asked throughout the press conference. Even though the Rockets and Udoka said the matter had been resolved, the questions will still come throughout the season as some people will never be satisfied with the answers.
The Rockets will be looking to use their $60-plus million cap space
Tilman Fertitta spoke of phase 1 and how the Rockets are now entering phase 2 of their rebuild, which means he wants the team to compete for the playoffs. The Rockets have been mostly spectators when it has come to free agency the last two offseasons. In part because they didn't have the cap space and were not expecting to win many games.
Now heading into the most crucial offseason in three seasons, the Rockets have the motivation to win since they don't have control of their pick next season, and they have over 60 million in cap space to bring in free agents. Rafael Stone spoke to this in his press conference a couple of weeks ago, stating the team will not be the youngest team next season.
Udoka mentioned that the Rockets cap space was part of why he took the job.
Fertita mentioned several times today that the team has the cap space to bring in players. There aren't a lot of marquee-free agents outside of players like James Harden, but plenty of good players can bring the veteran leadership the team needs.
Youth will not be an excuse next season
The Rockets went from one of the oldest teams in the league during the Harden era to one of if not the youngest teams in the league after his departure. Much was made about the fact that the Rockets starting lineup after Eric Gordon was traded away was younger than the Houston Cougars starting five.
Many of the Rockets losses over the last few seasons can be attributed to their lack of experience on the court. However, that excuse will be left in last season, as Coach Udoka made clear today. He acknowledged that the team still has some learning today due to their lack of experience, but he also said, "One of my first messages will be youth is not an excuse."
Udoka continues. "Understanding that were going to take some lumps with our age and our youth, but my message to them will be that's not an excuse" The Rockets will be adding more veterans to the roster, but with another two picks in this year draft will still be a young team like the last three seasons. The difference is that youth and inexperience will not be an excuse for bad play on the court.
The next big event for the Rockets is probably the most important off-season event: the draft lottery on May 16th. I will be out at the Toyota Center to cover the event. There will either be euphoria across Rocket land or agony, but either way, The Dream Shake will bring you all the latest coverage.