Stephen Silas misses an opportunity to take a stand

Dec 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas reacts during the first quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Silas misses an opportunity to take a stand

If you missed Monday’s Rockets game against the San Antonio Spurs, it can be summed up in one six second stretch in the third quarter.

Kevin Porter Jr. eurostepped around Spurs center Jakob Poeltl for a pretty layup to tie the game at 66 with 8:55 left on the clock, but Poeltl quickly inbounded the ball to Tre Jones, who darted up the middle of the floor, unimpeded by the four defenders in front of him for a layup of his own.

Assistant coach Mike Batiste pointed out what just happened and leaned back in his chair; lead assistant John Lucas stood up in disgust while head coach Stephen Silas quickly called a timeout. The Rockets unraveled from that point on and lost at home to a 9-20 Spurs team, playing without its leading scorer.

“That’s who we were tonight,” Silas said. “That’s not who we should be.”

The Rockets lamented the lack of energy they played with after Saturday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers and talked about needing to play with more of it after Sunday’s practice. They responded to those declarations by playing with less on Monday.

San Antonio jumped out to a 16-6 lead and pushed their first quarter lead to as many as 11 until the Rockets’ second unit got them back in the game at the end of the first quarter and helped them grab the lead by forcing nine turnovers in the second before the starters wasted their hard work after halftime.

“We got down on ourselves,” Silas said. “We were missing shots and as a result we let go of the rope a little bit tonight, and that was disappointing.”

Losing games is one thing; the Rockets were expected to lose many of them before the season started, but to lose in the manner with which they lost Monday is a whole other thing. Jalen Green admitted they haven’t been themselves the last few games, and Kevin Porter Jr. blamed the holiday season and the distractions that come with it as a reason for Monday’s frustrating performance. Whatever the excuses, there needs to be some accountability, and on this night, there was none.

The Rockets starters were on the floor when Jones beat the defense down the floor, and all five returned to the floor after Silas’ timeout. The Rockets’ head coach had a chance to send a message to the group, and he declined to do so.

The problem with wholesale rebuilds like the one the Rockets are in now is that playing time doesn’t have to be earned by everyone, and losing becomes accepted.

“There’s no losses with this team,” Green said after a loss to Memphis in October. “We’re all in a rebuild right now. It’s either a win or it’s a learning lesson.”

That mentality sounds great on paper, but the Rockets lost the same way on Monday as they did on Saturday, so what lesson was actually learned by the previous defeat?

This is where the head coach needs to step up. Silas is a wonderful person who cares deeply about his players and wants to promote a positive environment for them to play in, but at some point, he needs to get angry, he needs to put his foot down, he needs to be the bad guy.

Young players need to be developed, they need to be coddled, they need to be nurtured. That’s how they get better, but they also need to be held accountable; without that, they’re just running in place. On Monday, Silas failed to do that and watched as his team was blown out of a game it should’ve been able to win in the blink of an eye.

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