Point Blank

Don't blame D'Antoni for Rockets woes

Mike D'Antoni is not to blame. Harry How/Getty Images

The Rockets are bad, really bad. They're currently one of the two worst teams in the Western Conference. They lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night with rookie Luka Doncic scoring the last eleven points to seal the win. With that loss, Houston wrapped up an 0-3 road trip after dropping games in Utah and Minnesota. The team is 3 games under .500 and have lost 7 of their last 10 contests. The natives in Houston are getting more than restless as they have been patient - but now that patience in wearing thin. Sure, there have been injuries and brief suspensions, but overall there has been no bench, no defense and no signs of the unstoppable offense of a season ago. The rotation is thin, the roster is weak and the role players that were a big part of the team's success last season are gone. As bad as they have been in all of those areas, the head coach should not take the blame for this season of shame.

As Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." Daryl Morey hasn't subscribed to this philosophy in the past and he certainly hasn't done so this season. If he had, there is no way that Carmelo Anthony, a player that caused Mike D'Antoni to resign in New York, would've been on the roster this season. The offense that was so successful a year ago was predicated on shooters spreading the floor and knocking down 3 point shots, while being active and aggressive on defense, switching and rotating as they look to run the floor in transition and get out on the break.

Last year's roster had a plethora of shooters and athletic and versatile wings that could play multiple positions and knock down shots. In the off season a handful of those players departed for big contracts or were traded away. In thier place, Morey brought in more of his favorite past time, former lottery picks that haven't panned out, as well as younger and cheaper players that failed to posess the same or similar skill sets as the individuals that moved on. In a nutshell, this is a major reason why this year's team has struggled mightily on both ends of the floor. The system is the same, the shots are still wide open, the rotations and switches are there for the taking, yet the results are night and day different from a season ago.

On top of all that, Jeff Bzdelik, the defensive guru who coached a top six defense for Houston, walked away and said he was retiring to spend more time with his family. Although he was talked into returning after Thanksgiving, the defense has yet to do the same. The roster is younger and less experienced than last season, and don't understand thier roles and reponsibilities on either end of the floor, especially on defense. Bzdelik's system is based on reads and rotations, helping the helper and clogging the middle when perimeter individual "D" breaks down.

When the system is working and running like a well-oiled machine, players are communicating, talking and are willing to give up their body for the betterment of the team. For younger players who never had terminology, sets or plays to run on defense, trying to be where they are supposed to be is like waking up in the Twilight Zone. Not to mention how much more stressful it becomes when you are trying to do it for a championship-caliber team. When you are favored to return to the conference finals and possibly compete for a title, the lights are brighter, the pressure is greater and the expectaions are significantly higher. It takes time and a great deal of hard work and studying film to get the concepts down -- that becomes more complicated when players and coaches come and go and the season is in full swing. Now time is of the essence and it looks like another round of roster changes could be on the horizon. I say that to warn you that things could get worse before they start to get better, so be prepared.

Mike D'Antoni should not be blamed for all that has gone wrong this season and he should not be the scapegoat for the mishaps and missed steps of the General Manager. This is a coach that has won or been up for Coach of the Year in each of the last two seasons and led the franchise to the most wins in team history less than a season ago. He transformed the offense and maximized production and scoring on the way to pushing the eventual NBA champions to the brink of elimination in the conference finals.

He went home for the summer expecting to "Run it Back" with the same roster or a similar squad to the one that took the Rockets to unpresidented success on the way to that long playoff push. Instead of getting what he had hoped for, he was dealt a totally new hand while expecting the same results. That is a tall task for any coach in any sport and one that is highly unlikely in hoops. Mike the messenger is not the problem and should not be blamed. The burden of the hole that this team is sitting in should sit firmly on the shoulders of Daryl Morey. He created this mess of a roster and he should be the one to fix it. As the fan base holds tight to the mantra of "In Daryl we trust," time is ticking and patience is wearing thin, even with the rowdiest of Rockets fans.

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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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