Stephen Silas Wasn’t James Harden’s Choice as Rockets’ New Head Coach

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  • The Houston Rockets recently announced the hiring of Stephen Silas as their new head coach.
  • According to a report, James Harden was pushing for either Tyronn Lue or John Lucas II.
  • The Rockets have the fourth best odds to win the Western Conference next season at +1200.

The Houston Rockets have undergone a major face lift since their second round exit in the 2020 NBA playoffs. No, they have not traded any key player yet nor are they planning on breaking up the band. However, Houston has a new General Manager and a new head coach which could have a profound effect on the team’s success next season.

After the Rockets were eliminated by the L.A. Lakers, head coach Mike D’Antoni stepped down. Shortly after that, GM Daryl Morey, the architect of Houston’s success in the last decade, was also given the pink slip. D’Antoni ended up taking up an assistant coaching job in Brooklyn while Morey was hired as the head for basketball operations of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Meanwhile, the Rockets were quick to promote Rafael Stone to Morey’s position. However, the Houston coaching job took a little while to get filled up. In the end, Houston hired Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Stephen Silas as D’Antoni’s successor. But that’s not the end of the story.

Not Harden’s Choice

According to a report from Marc Stein of the New York Times, Silas was not the coach that Rockets’ superstar James Harden pushed for. Per Stein, Harden wanted the Rockets to hire either Tyronn Lue or John Lucas II as D’Antoni’s replacement. Lue ended up getting taking Doc Rivers’ job with the L.A. Clippers while Lucas lost out to Silas after being named as one of the finalists for the job.

Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta also had a different choice. Fertitta wanted Jeff Van Gundy to return as the Rockets’ coach but Harden and Russell Westbrook were reportedly opposed to Van Gundy, forcing Ferttitta to yield. However, they didn’t give in to Harden’s request to hire Lue or Lucas.

There is no question about Silas’ resume. He is an experienced coach who is certainly ready to take on a head coaching job in the NBA. Whether he is the right guy to solve the Rockets puzzle remains a mystery. Houston has a pair of former MVPs in their starting backcourt and both certainly have big egos as well.

Possible Rift?

Houston has not spoken about the issue. But the Rockets’ decision to hire Silas is meaningful. We live in an NBA where the biggest stars get what they wish and are part of the decision-making in their teams. Harden is one of those stars and he’s used to getting what he wants in Houston, except now. Will this cause a rift between the Rockets and their star player? We don’t know and only time will tell.

As far as Tillman Fertitta is concerned, Harden is non-tradeable. But we don’t know what Harden is thinking right now. Sure, the Rockets may be trying to mitigate the damage by hiring John Lucas as an assistant but that’s not what Harden wanted. Whether he gets along with Silas remains to be see. One thing is sure though: Silas isn’t the coach that Harden asked for.

The Philadelphia 76ers have expressed their interest in Harden even if the Rockets aren’t entertaining the thought of trading the 2018 MVP. Maybe the Sixers know something that we or the Rockets don’t. After all, Daryl Morey is now the head of Philadelphia’s basketball operations. And he is the same guy who brought Harden to Houston from OKC. Morey is the GM who gave everything Harden asked for and helped him succeed. This is an interesting angle to keep an eye on.

Contending For The Title

Last month, Rockets owner Fertitta declared that he isn’t breaking up the Rockets and that their goal is to contend during the 2020-21 season. To do that though, Houston may have to beef up their supporting cast. Particularly, they need to add ceiling. D’Antoni traded Clint Capela to go small. They paid dearly for their lack of size against the Lakers during the second round of the 2020 playoffs.

Houston currently has the 4th best odds to win the Western Conference next season at +1200 with only the Lakers, Clippers, and Warriors having shorter odds than them. Harden is also fifth in the SportsBetting.ag odds board to win the 2021 MVP with only Luka, Giannis, Curry, and LeBron ahead of him in the list. Obviously, this is still an elite team with an elite player. But contending won’t be easy.

Most of Houston’s salary cap though is tied to Harden, Westbrook, and Eric Gordon. Factor in Robert Covington and that’s already a $110M payroll for the Rockets. Without cap space, the Rockets will be limited in free agency. They also don’t have a pick in the 2020 NBA draft so upgrading the roster will be tricky.

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