This was always lurking in the back but was never confirmed. We now have enough to read between the lines. Sometimes actively opposing something is the best way to know there is a grain of truth to it. Like when politicians say they are not running for President – that is a reliable indicator they probably are.
The Houston Rockets announced that Jeff Bzdelik is returning to the team to retake his position as an assistant coach and defensive strategist. As we wrote in our Rockets analysis, Bzdelik shocked the Rockets by deciding to retire shortly before the season was about to start. The official reason was his desire to spend more time with family, but we may find a part of the equation not to sacrifice time away from the family in Carmelo Anthony (Via Tim MacMahon a.k.a. Banned MacMahon from ESPN):
The Houston Rockets, publicly and privately, have been adamant that defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik’s retirement was not related to his history with Carmelo Anthony.
This angle didn’t get much coverage so The Rockets being so adamant about it leads me to believe this was a part of the decision to retire. You may have missed this part, but Carmelo got not only his head coach fired in New York, but also his assistant coach in Denver!
Bzdelik was the Nuggets head coach when they drafted Carmelo and coached him for his rookie season and beginning of his second season in Denver when he got fired from the job. To make it clear, “Carmelo Anthony got him fired” wasn’t on the official press release for the decision, but looking at Carmelo’s game and his willingness to adapt his game to a coach’s system it is not difficult to connect the dots.
Bzdelik (and D’Antoni) will have their hands full with Carmelo once again in their career. While he has shown a willingness to play within the Rockets offense (more spot-up threes etc.), Melo was never a contributor on defense, to put it mildly. As Banned MacMahon pointed out in his article:
Houston has been one of the NBA’s worst defenses (Cleveland’s 118.5 points per 100 possessions is dead last in the league) with Melo, and the stingiest defense (Boston leads the NBA at 98.9 points per 100 possessions) when he sits this season. Small-sample-size theater, but still.
It remains to be seen how will Bzdelik and D’Antoni deal with Carmelo’s performance on defense, but his return is for sure good news for the Rockets defensive performance so far. Will it be enough? Probably not.