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Rockets fire assistant coach Dean Cooper

May 12, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

Houston Rockets v Portland Trailblazers - Game Four Getty Images

The season prior to hiring Dean Cooper in 2012, the Rockets finished 17th in defensive rating.

With Cooper, Houston improved to 16th and then 13th.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Kevin McHale (right) and/or Rockets management.

Fran Blinebury of

Houston’s biggest problem defensively was James Harden’s total lack of interest. Dwight Howard no longer defends like he did in peak form, so he can’t cover completely for Harden’s disinterest.

The Rockets need a coach who convinces Harden to at least try defensively. Maybe that wasn’t Cooper and will be his replacement.

But when one player ignores his responsibilities to that degree, even the best-designed defenses can break down.

That’s not to place all the blame or even of a majority of it on Harden. He gets a plurality, and let’s leave it at that.

In the Rockets’ first-round loss to the Trail Blazers, Harden actually defended with effort at times, but Portland still torched Houston. The Rockets’ problems run deeper and maybe this is a start toward fixing them, but at most, it’s only a start.

  1. genericcommenter - May 12, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Maybe McHale could try to get players to play defense?

    • spursareold - May 12, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Exactly. It doesn’t rally matter what new defensive assistant they bring in if McHale allows them to coast. Players respond when their playing time gets cut. If Harden flat won’t play D, maybe he doesn’t play 38 minutes, maybe he plays 30, and you bring in a 3 and D guy to cover the other 18 minutes at the SG position. That will cause a drop in his scoring, which will get his attention.

  2. thekingdave - May 12, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    No mention of lead assistant/defensive coordinator Kelvin Sampson leaving to take the UH job in the second half of the season. Weak and sloppy on your part.

  3. azarkhan - May 12, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    “The Rockets need a coach who convinces Harden to at least try defensively.”

    Dear James,

    Even though the Rockets are paying you a guaranteed salary of $78.7 million dollars for 5 years, could we please impose upon you to play some defense? (you know…defense…like when the other team has the ball and we try to stop them from scoring?) No? How about if we make you franchise owner, would you play some defense then? Still no? OK, I’ll tell Kevin. Nah, I wouldn’t worry about it, we still have to pay you whether you play defense or not.

    New Rockets defensive coach

    • apkyletexas - May 12, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      So what do you want? 35 points a night on high-intensity moves to the basket or defense? Very few players are going to be able to give you both, and the Rockets don’t seem to be able to win without Harden scoring in the 30’s.

      Maybe if they ran an actual offensive system that created open shots and involved multiple passes, they might not be killing themselves individually on the offensive end in constant isolation plays.

      • mytthor - May 15, 2014 at 2:57 AM

        You’re saying that Harden literally CAN’T play defense? Because he’s averaging 35 points per game?

        Well since he only averages 25, there should be some room for defense in there. And the Rockets hardly run any ISO – it’s almost all pick and roll.

  4. spursareold - May 12, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Forget Melo. He’s another defensive scofflaw. Go after Sefalosha this summer. OKC had him on the block at the deadline because they wanted to try to get something for him before he walks this summer. Go after Ed Davis, a relatively young big man who can D up, rebound some and put the ball in the hole. You need a rotation, not three big names surrounded by a d-league team.

  5. brookwell2013 - May 12, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Ahhhhhh, starting to sink in now…..Houston is going nowhere next year……D12 just finished his 10th year in the league, his last three playoff appearances in 2011, 2013 and 2014 he has exited after the first round……Harden is the master choke man in all big games, benched in the last Olympics and has failed miserably in his last 3 playoffs in the NBA….going nowhere folks, nowhere.

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