Houston Rockets Complete Kevin McHale's Staff

Rockets pick up the option on Dragic, plus more notes from the interwebs.

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Rockets hire Kelvin Sampson and J.B. Bickerstaff

Kevin McHale has rounded out his coaching staff with the Houston Rockets, hiring former Oklahoma and Indiana University coach Kelvin Sampson and a familiar face in Minnesota Timberwolves assistant J.B. Bickerstaff.

Bickerstaff has been an assistant on the T’Wolves staff for the past four seasons, including McHale’s second stint as a head coach in Minnesota. His dad, Bernie Bickerstaff, is a former NBA head coach who’s been an assistant with the Portland Trailblazers. The elder Bickerstaff was also interviewing this week, but with the Timberwolves now that Kurt Rambis has been fired.

Sampson is easily the more controversial coach and takes on the biggest role as McHale’s lead assistant. Sampson had a scandal-filled past at both Oklahoma and Indiana, flaunting NCAA rules about making phone calls to prospective players. He left Indiana shortly after the NCAA wrapped up its investigation into him and sanctioned him accordingly. He’s been in the NBA since and has aspirations to be an NBA head coach some day.

Also important is that Sampson was the first to interview for the Rockets open head coaching position when Rick Adelman left. That interview, which apparently lasted 14 hours, gave him a huge insight into the Rockets organization. He’s coached with the San Antonio Spurs in 2008 and been with the Milwaukee Bucks for the past two seasons.


Dragic's Option and More Notes From Rocketland

Backup point guard Goran Dragic, who was acquired for Aaron Brooks last season, had his option for next season picked up by the Rockets. This was reported on Monday afternoon, but was confirmed this morning by the Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen.

Dragic played in 22 games for Houston after the trade. He averaged 17.2 minutes, 7.7 points and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 51 percent on 54 three-point attempts. 

A few other Rockets-related things floating around Tuesday morning: Richard Justice profiles new head coach Kevin McHale, but somehow doesn't say anything particularly interesting about him. We do find out he turned down at least one head coaching job before deciding to take the Rockets and that he's got a bum ankle. Here's the extended version of the interview, thanks to Richie's blog.

Here's a ranking of the Southwest Division for next season (a little premature) that, predictably, has the Rockets picked last. Oh, and they get a shot in about Morey collecting a bunch of assets.

Rahat Huq over at Red94.net has a Q&A with Zach Harper of ESPN.com, who's also a big Timberwolves fan. They discuss all things McHale, but we still don't learn much, other than that Minny fans are still sorta bitter over McHale's time there. So, he coached twice, improving the team both times, but he doesn't deserve credit?

Finally, Red94 also breaks down the two main trades Houston made last season to see what Morey got. When you look at it like this, how can you not be impressed when Morey does his thing. That's a serious haul, even if part of it does contain Hasheem Thabeet's useless husk.


Yao: I Will Retire If Ankle Doesn't Heal This Summer

Rockets center Yao Ming, speaking to the Peninusla Morning News in China, was a lot more blunt than he had been over the past regarding his future. Thanks to NiuBBall.com for the translations:

Yao stated “It all depends on the ankle. If I can get it healthy, then I’ll retire in two years. Otherwise, it’ll be this summer.”

But, in recent weeks, Yao has been less and less optimistic about a possible return. Answering questions from China Daily while doing charity work in Gansu province last Friday, Yao expressed doubt over his troubled ankle’s ability to heal well enough for him to extend his career.

“My left foot fracture is the result of a previous injury and relapse last December,” said Yao. ”Due to the set back, I am being conservative about it healing. Actually, I do not dare say I am optimistic right now.”

“I am recovering from the injury step by step. Right now the situation is just as it was at the same period last year when I battled against the last injury. Frankly, I can’t be too optimistic. I just remain patient.”

That sounds like a brutally honest take on the whole situation from a man who has been rather forthcoming over his career when it comes to his various foot and ankle maladies. Yao will be a free agent, and it looks like the upcoming NBA Lockout may help the Rockets and Yao out. With free agency delayed for a bit, that will give Yao more time to get in shape and the Rockets more time to see if they think he can hold up as a backup center.

Either way, this isn’t much removed from most of the rhetoric around Yao for the past couple of months. Yao is facing the most critical offseason of his NBA career, and his ankle still isn’t doing him any favors.


Rick Adelman Out As Rockets Coach Next Season

Rick Adelman coached four seasons with the Houston Rockets with his worst year still being a very respectable 42-40 season last season, but reports are flowing in that he won’t be back next season.

After missing the NBA playoffs the past two seasons — despite posting winning records — Adelman and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey failed to reach agreements on how they would continue to work together according to Houston Chronicle reporter Jonathan Feigen.

The Adelman led Rockets became the first team since the Suns in 1970-71 and 1971-72 to have consecutive seasons with winning records fail to reach the post-season, something that one would think should be enough to save his job considering the absence of Yao Ming this season among other things.

Adelman’s replacements could vary quite a bit, but Feigen mentioned a large amount of possibilities in his story that the Rockets could turn to for next season including former Cleveland coach Mike Brown, former Hawks coach Mike Woodson, Jeff Van Gundy, Rockets assistant Elston Turner, Dallas assistant Dwane Casey, San Antonio’s Mike Budenholzer and Boston assistant Lawrence Frank.

Seeing how the Rockets have been so involved with the D-League, it might not be a stretch to include Rio Grande Valley Vipers coach Chris Finch among the candidates as well.

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