By Tyler Sullivan Follow on Twitter @TylerSully
In case you are not an NBA fan and just so happened to stumble upon this piece, 1.) Welcome! 2.) Kevin McHale was fired on Wednesday as the head coach of the Houston Rockets.
Why should you care? For starters, McHale was unemployed for less than 24 hours and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered him a job with the team (don’t hold your breath). Second, he provides a valuable lesson for the Celtics.
The long running cliché around the association is that “it’s a stars league.” While that may be true, given the fact that last year was the first time in 16 years the NBA Finals did not include a guy named Bryant, Duncan or Wade, just any old “star” does not put you in title contention.
Look at the roster McHale took to the Western Conference Finals last year. With an MVP finalist in James Harden and an All-Star center in Dwight Howard, those two stars, on paper, should keep you in title conversation each and every season.
The problem is, it’s just not enough.
The jury is still out of Harden (and he certainly helped his cause on Wednesday scoring all 9 of his teams overtime points in their win over Portland), but the book is pretty much written on Howard.
Arguably the most physically gifted athlete in the league, Dwight Howard is not a franchise centerpiece and does more harm than good inside the locker room.
McHale should not have lost his job. The sole reasoning behind the firing and the teams 4-7 start was due to their lack of mental fortitude to dig deep and grind out games. That is on the players, not the head coach.
To put it bluntly, they turtle in big moments and point fingers after the fact.
The best example is Monday’s game against the Celtics. Houston gave up. They gave up on the game and gave up on their head coach. A trait that seems to ring true on Howard-led teams.
Long time Celtics broadcaster Mike Gorman was on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s wildly popular Toucher and Rich show on Wednesday and talked about a conversation he had with Kevin McHale before his now former team tipped off against the C’s.
“It was interesting to get Kevin’s thoughts because I was asking him, do you think you can win a lot of games in this league without like a superstar? And he kind of rolled his eyes a little bit and said I got plenty of superstars and you can win without them and sometimes it’s better to win without them because you haven’t got one guy you are just keying off whether he is in a good mood, bad mood, hot, cold whatever. You got a lot of guys who are contributing on both sides of the floor.“
Clearly very telling about what McHale thought of his players. He knows they don’t have that it factor. They’re not a real title contender, at least in my book.
The Celtics are in a very rare position. They can focus on coaching up their young talent and push for the playoffs without worrying about ping-pong balls. They are letting the Nets suffer through the losses and plan to reap the benefits in June at the NBA Draft.
But the second a guy like DeMarcus Cousins, who has a little Dwight Howard in him, is rumored to be available, C’s fans are willing to trade it all that for a proven star.
While their hearts are in the right place, it’s misguided. Cousins, for my money, isn’t the guy and it’s clear. He could come here, pull a Dwight Howard and possibly get rid of this teams best asset: Brad Stevens.
After all, it is a stars league, not coaches.
Some franchises have no choice and make the deal in hopes that thing turnaround. The C’s don’t have to. They can just sit back and wait for a real star to become available via trade or on draft night and then pull the trigger.
You’ll know who “the guy” is when you see him and, more importantly, you’ll know when you don’t.