I know, I know -- the new season is about to start and we should put last season in the rear-view and focus on what's to come. HOWEVER... I've been giving a lot of thought to where the train left the tracks last year and whether the possibility exists for a similar derailment and disappointing season this year. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on how last season slowly disintegrated, broken down into 10 specific reasons, some of which are common knowledge and others that were more under-the-radar... _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1. Beard showed up out of game shape and had to use the entire preseason to work himself into condition. Obviously, Harden was distracted by the whole Khloe thing, but who knows how much that actually affected his summer training schedule? His focus, though, was almost certainly disrupted. Then he injured his ankle at some point, and if I recall, McHale said he'd sprained it "badly." We do know he played in the Drew League and took his team to the title, so maybe it was after that. Regardless, that give us our first reason. 2. Our big off-season Ferrari purchase turned out to be a used Moped. Most of us had very high hopes for the acquisition of Ty Lawson to pay big dividends, or at the very least to be an upgrade over PBev in terms of true PG play. He missed much of training camp with injuries and never really played well at all. I'd go as far as to say the offense pretty much ground to a halt when Ty was on court. He also didn't seem to care that much about it, to be honest. Was this due to his alcohol issues and rehab, or was it because McHale failed to properly incorporate Ty's talents? Bottom line is it doesn't matter, because they're both gone. 3. Training camp injuries were the first domino to fall. Nearly everyone missed preseason games due to injuries: Out of 8 games, Dwight missed 7, Lawson missed 3, Harden/Ariza/Brewer/TJ missed 2, and DMo missed them all. Our starting center and PF played a combined total of just over 20 minutes. From that we can extrapolate that there was also significant practice time missed as well by all of these guys. A team composed of mostly returning guys might have weathered this situation better, but I think McHale's lackadaisical coaching style hurt us here because he seemed to assume things would be fine once everyone was healthy. Consequently, we limped into the regular season. 4. Those first 3 games killed the season. Obviously. We got murdered by teams who were ready to play when we were still in pre-season mode. Again, the injuries played a huge part in our not being ready, but I lay much of the blame on McHale and his staff not realizing how bad the situation actually was. 5. Les panicked and did the worst possible thing. Regardless of your opinion of Milkhair, replacing a veteran coach who had the respect of the players with an untested assistant during the season was a recipe for disaster. Bickerstaff may be a decent head coach (I have my doubts), but he took over a team in total disarray and was never able to do any more than coach 50-win talent to a 41-win season. I think McHale might have won us a half dozen more games, because... 6. Dwight saw JB's hiring as his chance to reclaim his place in the offense, then went into a season-long funk when that didn't happen. I have no absolute evidence of this, but it's a very educated guess. Dwight was already unhappy that McHale was directing the offense through Harden (as everyone other than Dwight knows he should have been) and was already mopey at times. A rookie coach takes over and Dwight thinks he can convince JB to use him as more of a focus on offense, as he had been during his superstar seasons in Orlando. JB is smart enough to know that's a terrible idea, especially when Dwight is no longer that same player and you have James Harden on your roster. When Dwight's place in the offense remained much the same as before, he pretty much threw in the towel. He's admitted that he gave poor effort for most of the season, and I think it was because he finally realized that on the Houston Rockets, he would always be a distant second banana to Beard. His big chance at a fresh start had once again gone sour. 7. Dwight's lack of effort on defense killed our overall defense. Why should Harden, who already doesn't enjoy playing defense, put any effort into it if our other star is only trying in less than half the games? And without Dwight dominating the paint on defense, the other guys have to work twice as hard. You could literally see the frustration on Ariza's face as the season wore on and he realized this problem was not going to be resolved. All those easy points at the rim last season were the direct result of Dwight's moping and its effect on his teammates. 8. JB was simply too inexperienced to re-motivate Dwight. McHale might have been able to pull this off, but once Dwight realized he was the #2 guy on the roster under two coaches, he mentally checked out and took the entire team down with him, because... 9. DMo was missed on defense more than most people realize. "Dmo's defense?" you ask skeptically. Yep. Every team needs a guy like Dmo who's not a great one-on-one defender but who understands his role in a team defense scheme and is almost always right were he's supposed to be, doing what he's supposed to do. He cleaned up a lot of messes, not with a spectacular block, but just by being in the correct spot to prevent the opponent from capitalizing on someone else's mistake. Watch DMo when the opposition puts up a shot from the perimeter -- he's the only one on our entire team whose first impulse is to find the most likely rebounder and box him out. If there were a stat for "rebound assists" he would be killing it (and Morey likely does have such a stat). 10. Last year's Rockets team was not built on a very solid foundation to begin with. It's a pretty common opinion that the 2014-2015 team over-performed. But when we lost, we often lost ugly (five of our eight playoff losses that year were by double digits) and everyone on the team knew that on a given night the wheels could totally come off. Then we lose a key cog (Josh) and bring in a troubled starter (Lawson). So basically a team that probably should have only won about 50 games the year before encounters all sorts of problems beginning in training camp and limps to a 41-win season. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ So that's it. There are still some pretty big problems to overcome in order for us to have a successful season this year, but that's fodder for other threads. If it seems like I'm laying much of the blame on Dwight, that's only because I am. :grin: His refusal to take the coach's advice and play to his own strengths (P&R), his self-admitted fear of incorporating new elements to his game, and his willingness to pout to the detriment of his team (and an entire city that embraced him despite a questionable reputation), are all things no fan in his/her right mind would want from a superstar. And for him to repeatedly deny these things during the season, then admit to ALL of it when the season ended is mind-boggling. Three years ago I was an open-minded Dwight Howard fan. Now I've learned the hard way like Lakers fans did. TL;DR: Injuries led to a bad start, which led to a bad decision to replace McHale, which led to Dwight not giving a sh!te, which led to our defense totally crumbling.