The distance as the crow flies between Houston and Boston is approximately 1,600 miles.
The Ime Udoka’s journey seems to go even further.
The season may be far too young to draw conclusions, but with Udoka suspended and eventually released by the Celtics and the Rockets sitting at 20-62, both are undoubtedly pleased with the 3-3 start.
“What happened in Boston is what happened in Boston,” a Rockets source told Heavy Sports. “It never occurred to anyone. And this team wasn’t 3-3 in I don’t know how many years – three, four years?”
The Rockets lost nine of their first 10 last season and 15 of their first 16 the year before. They were 2-4 after six in the 2020-21 season and, yes, 3-3 to start the 2019-20 season, Mike D’Antoni’s last year on the Rocket bench.
Ime Udoka now has Fred VanVleet with rockets
Ime Udoka is not the only important new addition for the Rockets. Although the club was building with promising young talent, it signed the 29-year-old free agent Fred VanVleetEx-Raptors, should lead from within.
Back in April, he expressed his disappointment at getting some of his Toronto colleagues to live up to their talent, telling Heavy Sports: “I’ve been shouting it for two years, you know what I mean? I think that at a certain point you can’t make someone grow up. It’s going to happen at their own pace and at their own speed and that’s the frustrating thing about maturity and especially in the development phase you can harp on it as much as you want.”
When he arrived in Houston, he was apparently determined to make things right. According to a source, he told people: “Man, what crap happened here, it’s all going to change. I’m sure of it.”
So far, VanVleet has backed this up on the court by shooting less and providing more assists compared to last year. He seems to take the promising youth with him and set an example.
“He’s exactly what this group needed,” a league source said. “Young guys all want to establish themselves when they show up in the league, and the way (VanVleet) plays shows them that they can still get there — and more easily — if they work through each other. And once a young man has a little bit of success, that in itself is a great motivator.”
Number of missile support already improved
Again, with the caveat that this is a small sample, the Rockets appear to be playing more as a team.
“The stat that everyone is talking about with Ime, because it follows him from Boston to now, is the assists-to-turnover ratio,” the source said. “His teams have been near the top of the league in assists in the past, and this is coming. Everyone touches the ball, shoots and is happy.”
After averaged 22.4 assists and 16.2 turnovers Last season, the Rockets averaged 27.0 assists and 13.8 turnovers. They have five players averaging between 14.2 and 18.2 points. One of the latter is the Alperen Sengun center.
“This team hasn’t put the ball in the post and played against a big man this much since Yao Ming,” the Rocket source said. “It was all about James Harden and one-on-ones, and it largely stayed that way even after James left. I changed that and it was really good.”
Steve Bulpett has been covering the NBA since 1985, the first 35 years as a beat writer/columnist for the Boston Herald. During that time, he has earned APSE National Top 10 honors as a columnist, beat reporter and feature writer. He has served as vice president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association since 2014. More about Steve Bulpett
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