Struggling Rockets bringing back key assistant coach to fix leaky defense, per report

The Houston Rockets’ plethora of moves in the summer have not paid off, with the team off to a 3-5 start this season. Looking to fix what has been a brutal first couple of weeks, the team is reportedly planning to bring back a key member of last season’s squad: assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik. Via ESPN:

Former associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik is returning to the Houston Rockets and will rejoin the team full time after Thanksgiving, a league source told ESPN.

Bzdelik, 65, has signed a deal to work as the Rockets’ defensive coordinator for the rest of the season. He has resolved family issues involved with the move, but still has some commitments that will keep him from joining the team until later this month, according to a source.

NBA teams don’t really have coaching positions like the NFL does, but Bzdelik — who retired just before this season began — essentially worked as the Rockets’ defensive coordinator in the past few seasons, and helped them become one of the league’s best. Their commitment on that end of the floor nearly helped them knock off the mighty Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, but they ultimately fell in seven games.

There’s no question that Bzdelik’s return will help Houston’s defense. He has immense knowledge of the game, and should be able to tighten things up on that end of the floor. 

However, while a detailed scheme and concise goals are important, everything is ultimately reliant on having the right players. And that’s where the issues will remain for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, two strong and versatile wing defenders are no longer with the team, and they’ve been largely replaced by Carmelo Anthony and two rookies — Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark. That’s … a big drop off.

The Rockets still have a lot of top-tier talent, so it won’t be a surprise if they improve as the season goes along. Still, even with Bzdelik’s return, it’s unlikely they reach the defensive level they were at last season. 

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