On McHale, perception

This was easily the most candid Kevin McHale had been all year during a postgame presser.  He spoke of crying after the first game of the year; of getting one hour of sleep after the Wolves game, re-watching it five times.  He said he asked himself why he had taken the job; said the group had initially been hard to coach.  After last week’s loss to the Wolves, a frustrated McHale met our questions with abrupt answers, wadding a paper at the end and hurling it across the room.  Tonight was McHale, raw and uncut, pouring out from the heart moments after an emotional win in an unlikely season.

Here the Rockets sit, at 20-14, heading into the break, where no one thought they could be.  They will likely make the playoffs. We heard the rumors.  That he was brought in as a ‘puppet’, a ‘yes-man’ to buy time for Chris Finch.  But Kevin McHale has done one of the best coaching jobs in the NBA this year, given the entirety of the circumstances.  He won’t win the award or even come close, but he should at least be commended.  He has his faults.  (One can’t too readily forgive the three or so games which were sacrificed due to ‘Scola-at-the-5.’)  But who can say he’d have this team where it is right now?  You can’t give him less than an A.

I spoke to another writer after the game and we both agreed that it wouldn’t be a shock if this team won a playoff series.  I never thought I’d think that.  But here they are, getting it done with a guy the Grizzlies tried their best to give away, a guy on [essentially] a one-year deal, a second round rookie, and two guys they already traded.  Remarkable.

Which brings me to my next point.  The Rockets are at 20-14 and now have the same record as the Sixers.  They have a better record than the Blazers, Nuggets, and Grizzlies, and are just one game back in the loss column of the Lakers and Mavs.  In the case of the former three (Philly, Portland, Denver), all we’ve heard all year is praise; how they’ve each been winning through remarkable means and cohesion and should be taken as contenders.  The Rockets?  The only press is criticism of their GM.

And speaking of the Jeremy Lin fiasco, since we’re on the topic of ‘perception,’ it’s been fascinating to observe the molding of conventional wisdom.  People I run into ask me about the team but mainly throw in their two cents.  To the last one, every single person I’ve encountered has expressed bewilderment over the cutting of Jeremy Lin, blanketing blame at Rockets management.  ”I’ve just about had it with them….this is just the latest of their screw-ups.”  It leads me to wonder.  Is it even worth it anymore to bother conveying facts?  It doesn’t matter that the team had 15 guaranteed contracts or that Lin would have never seen the court. Apparently, people just want a story and to project conclusions with benefit of hindsight.

I’ll have coverage of some form of the All-Star events on Saturday.

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