1:03 – Jeff Bzdelik’s retirement

6:45 – biggest surprise of 2018/2019

15:25 – biggest disappointment of 2018/2019

21:27 – greatest cause for optimism

28:48 – greatest cause for pessimism

39:45 – favorite moment of 2018/2019

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Jeff Bzdelik bids farewell

The mastermind behind Houston’s defensive turnaround is calling it quits. The news broke Sunday evening that assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik is walking away from the game forever. The Rockets will now enter the season sans the architect of their switching scheme that saw them claim the sixth ranked defense in the league and push the Golden State Warriors to the absolute brink of elimination. As I said yesterday, however, the most striking aspect of Bzdelik’s tenure is not so much the results he and the team obtained but rather that it occurred at all. I, for one, met the arrangement with skepticism, unconvinced that a head coach as decorated as D’Antoni would cede control at such a high level. But he did. And it worked! That’s a testament to Mike D’Antoni.

I don’t expect the Rockets to slip too much defensively this year. The principles are already in place and will be carried over. But that’s not to say that there will not be challenges. Not only have they lost Bzdelik, but also a pivotal team leader in Trevor Ariza; they’ll also be incorporating Carmelo Anthony into the scheme. If critics are projecting major slippage upon this news, I don’t know that I can blame them.

An unrelated point: one of the transformations in recent Rockets history that I find most unfortunate was the evolution which occurred until the tail end of the Adelman era. They began as a gritty defensive outfit, featuring Shane Battier, Ron Artest, and Chuck Hayes. They ended with sieves such as Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks as key pieces.

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On the matter of an Eric Gordon extension

I wrote this morning on the matter of a possible extension for Eric Gordon for Forbes. As I outlined in that piece, under the collective bargaining agreement, the most the Rockets could do is tack on three additional years to Gordon’s existing deal with raises limited by certain percentages; he would make about $20 million in the final year of the deal. Considering that Gordon would be 33 in the last year of such an extension, I’m fairly certain that’s the most the Rockets would want to do anyways.

But the intriguing wrinkle is the prohibition on a subsequent trade. If extended, the Rockets could not trade Gordon for another six months. Thus, the team severely limits its options if a deal requiring Gordon’s inclusion presents itself in-season.

I think it’s pretty unlikely that Gordon would be against an extension if it were offered today. He’s in the midst of a career renaissance of sorts and by all accounts, is happy here in Houston. And he’s got to know that as a 31-year-old, he won’t be able to command more on the open market than the $16.87 million an extension could pay him in year one. And for the Rockets, with over $111 million committed in total team salaries in 2020, retaining a key cog now could seem prudent. An extended Gordon also becomes an attractive asset in a trade. Of course, it’s possible Houston isn’t willing to extend him at the full amount he can earn under the rules.

Still,  I suspect Morey wants to keep his options open. He’ll wait until the trade deadline passes to re-engage in discussions. After that, it almost only makes sense to seek an extension. An expiring Gordon won’t have much value next year and losing him in unrestricted free agency is dangerous. With so much money committed to James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela, the Rockets don’t have enough avenues for improvement to lose core players for nothing.

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