First-year Rockets coach Stephen Silas enjoyed a long and fruitful career as an NBA assistant prior to the previous two seasons he spent as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, years that cemented his reputation and paved the way for his hiring by Houston brass this past offseason.
On Monday at Toyota Center, the Rockets will host the Dallas Mavericks in a matchup that will afford Silas his first opportunity to coach against the same staff and players who completed his training and prepared him for the position he currently fills on the Houston bench.
“It’ll be good to see those guys,” Silas said. “Obviously (Dallas) Coach (Rick) Carlisle did so much for me and I haven’t really had the chance to say thank you in person to him, so I’m looking forward to that.
“And then the guys … I’m really just looking forward to seeing them. Not necessarily looking forward to playing against them because they’re a very good team, but we’re up for the challenge.”
The confluence of new players with a new system plus fluctuating availability related to health and safety protocols has made for a bumpy transition for the Rockets, particularly on defense.
Through four games, Houston ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency, allowing 111.8 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets employed a switching defense under former coach Mike D’Antoni, a system Silas planned to scrap this season. But a compressed preseason and myriad other uncertainties have delayed that move, leaving the Rockets in flux with their defensive approach.
“Yeah, that’s the quandary, I guess, that we’re dealing with,” Silas said. “We obviously want to build our base defense and our drops but there is a comfort level with the switching. The issue can be that they did it a lot last year — James (Harden), Eric (Gordon), Tuck (P.J. Tucker) — who are very comfortable with it. But then we have John Wall and Christian (Wood) who aren’t necessarily as comfortable with it so … it doesn’t make for a defense that you can hang your hat on.
“We’re trying to get to a point where we’re comfortable, all five guys, in all aspects out of defense, and that just takes time.”
The Mavericks have yet to find a rhythm commensurate with the lofty expectations set before them this season. Dallas has been without center Kristaps Porzingis thus far and played without All-NBA guard Luka Doncic in a 118-108 road loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
Doncic is officially listed as probable after Monday’s shootaround. His All-Star counterpart Harden is listed as “available.”
While the season is young, erratic performances have defined the Mavericks. One highlight against the Bulls was the production of guard Jalen Brunson, who posted 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting plus five rebounds and seven assists with Doncic sidelined by a quad injury.
“Brunson has played very well as a substitute starter in situations where Luka has been out at the point,” Carlisle said. “I had no doubt that he was going to do a good job. We only had a couple of guys that were plusses on the whole team and he was one of them. He did a good job and he’s always going to be ready.”
–Field Level Media