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Ball Don't Lie

Kevin McHale blames the lockout for not getting along with certain players

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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Kevin McHale and Kyle Lowry imagine a better present (Bill Baptist/ Getty).

Among its more obvious problems, one particularly frustrating aspect of last year's NBA lockout was that teams had to stuff the offseason signing period, training camps, and attendant game-planning into just a few weeks. It was all very rushed, and it showed in the early parts of the season.

Then-new Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale dealt with issues beyond the expected deficiencies in precision. In fact, McHale says he might have gotten along with his veterans better if they'd had a full training camp to get used to each other. From Jonathan Feigen for The Houston Chronicle (via EOB):

"It's much more comfortable just knowing that we're here, planning with the coaches, having players coming in and out, being able to talk to them about what we're envisioning," McHale, 54, said. "We're just getting a comfort level with each other as opposed to having the lockout lifted, two days and then getting started."

Last season, the first time most Rockets players heard McHale's voice (unless they were fans of NBA TV or "Cheers" reruns) was when he was furious with the terrible and revealing first practice. As players pushed back, objecting to his changes and demands, McHale often cited the lockout and inability to forge relationships before he began the December rush to the season.

McHale has a point, because successful relationships between players and coaches are often built on mutual trust and expectations. Squeezing that important training camp time into such a short period was bound to create some confusion and troublesome moments, particularly for a new coach. On top of that, Rockets players also have to contend with the fact that they're often mentioned in general manager Daryl Morey's trade proposals, which can make them more uneasy than usual.

But McHale was also hired while the lockout was a reality, and he had plenty of time to plan for his first practice with the knowledge that the usual getting-to-know-you stuff would be compressed. Which is to say that, in some way, starting the first practice with righteous anger over a lackadaisical performance might not have been the best idea. The proper way to react to unfortunate situations isn't to do what you'd normally do and hope it works — it's to adjust the plan accordingly and reveal the extremes of a personality gradually.

That's not to say that McHale didn't have the right to scream at his players — he's a coach, after all, and coaches often have to scream. But the issues he had with veterans weren't just a matter of poor circumstance. McHale played a role, too, and acknowledging that could make him a better coach in the future.

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