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.