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Wednesday December 7, 2011 4:49 PM

Bull Session

Matt Bullard goes one-on-one with Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - One of the more intriguing season-long storylines surrounding the Rockets this year promises to be the impact made by new Head Coach Kevin McHale. He’s wasted no time making it abundantly clear that he wants his club to be more physical, while also emphasizing improved defense, rebounding, spacing and ball movement. He hammered home those points last week during a Q&A session with the media and it seems a safe bet to believe we’ll be hearing much more on those topics throughout training camp and the upcoming season as well.

There are, of course, myriad other matters to discuss with training camp a mere two days away, and Coach McHale was kind enough to take time out to discuss some of those – as well as the aforementioned talking points – with Rockets broadcaster Matt Bullard this afternoon. The entire interview is chock-full of insight into the mind of McHale, and what follows are but a few of the highlights.

We hope you enjoy.

On what the offense will look like this year:

“Will we have some of the same action they had last year on the offensive end? Yeah, because I like that action and they ran it pretty well … We’ve looked at that and we’re going to modify it a little bit but there will be some of that action and there will (also) be some of the action that I like.

“Having a guy like Kyle Lowry, let’s get him in pick-and-rolls, let’s get the floor spaced early, let’s get the drag action, get it in there to our bigs – getting him in space where he can turn corners and make some moves early in the clock. I thought most of the pick-and-rolls and most of the action I saw last year was very late in the clock and it was kind of like, ‘We’ve got an 8-point lead, we’ll have Kyle dribble the ball ‘til there are five seconds to go and then make a play.’ That’s really hard to do as a point guard, so we have a lot of stuff that we’re going to put in.”

On becoming a better defensive rebounding team

“We’re going to rebound the ball better. One thing that’s got to happen is our 1s and 2s and 3s have got to come back and rebound more. In the past they liked to leak out a little bit and I think in Houston’s defense their primary goal was, ‘Can we outscore the other team?’ To win I know one thing: my math’s not great but you do have to have one more point than the other team. But I think you can do that and I think you can still have good offensive pace and good offensive integrity, but still have good defensive principles.”

On how a more compressed training camp and regular season schedule changes things from a practice standpoint

“It’s going to be different. Practice time is going to be limited. Players hate hearing this, but shootarounds are going to have to become practices. We’re going to have to do a lot of our cover-downs and a lot of our defensive shell work in shootarounds and whenever chance we have to get into team defensive concepts. Basically, team defense is just help-and-recover – that’s all it is. Do you force everything baseline, do you force things middle – all your help-and-recover principles are the same, it’s just a matter of which way you’re directing the ball.”

On why repetition of defensive principles is so important

“I think some guys of course will be better at it – they’re a little bit stronger, a little bit quicker, have a little bit better instincts – and the guys that have struggled with it in the past, they’re going to have to get better. They’re going to have to learn how to do it; chop-step your feet.

“Look, it’s not that much different at a 7th or 8th grade practice versus what you see at the first few NBA practices – it’s the same thing: showing them how to close out; chop-stepping; getting down; keeping them neutral; getting their hands up – all the same stuff and we’re going to do that, but you have to do that over and over again so that when you help-and-recover you’re flying out there, you’re not thinking.”

On leadership

“Mostly I’ve talked to the guys about leadership. I talked to Kyle about it; being the point guard and being a guy who I thought last year really blew onto the scene the last half of the season in a big way. Before that, everybody was, ‘Oh, Kyle Lowry, nice guard, he does this and does that.” But I thought Kyle started passing up a lot of those nice guards; he started edging into that ‘Boy, he’s really, really good!’ phase.

“So I talked to him about leadership and about where he needs to go with that and what I need out of him. I’ve talked to Luis a great deal about leadership and what I need out of him and Kevin Martin will be in here and I’ll talk to him as well. Those three guys have got to set the table for us. They’ve got to come out, they’ve got to be pros every single day – I’m going to hold them way more accountable.

“I’m one of those guys that believes you need to hold your tops guys (accountable). I never understood when the guy would yell at the 12th man but he really wanted to yell at the No. 1 guy. The 12th guy is just glad to get shrimp on the plane after the game – yelling at him is kind of a waste of time. So you’re going to hold the top guys more accountable and I told them that.”

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