Adelman aims to make Yao, T-Mac better

Updated: 2007-05-24 08:35

Rick Adelman's top priority as the new Houston Rockets' coach is to make life easier for Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. After sitting out a season, the 60-year-old Adelman was introduced at a news conference Wednesday, ending a strange, two-week courtship that began before Houston fired Jeff Van Gundy.

Adelman met owner Les Alexander for the first time on May 11 and shared his ideas on making Yao and McGrady more dynamic offensive players.

"I've always felt that if you can put a player in a position to be better, and they know that's happening, that's going to make the team better and they're going to buy into what you're trying to do," Adelman said. "I know that's successful, because I've done it in the past."

Alexander was sold on Adelman almost immediately.

"One of the first things he said to me was, 'I think I can make life easier for your two big stars,'" Alexander said. "'I can put them in positions where they can, instead of going uphill all the time trying to score, they can be more relaxed and have an easier time scoring.' That's one of the keys to this team being a big winner having our two best players in a position where they can be more efficient."

Adelman's introduction comes five days after Van Gundy was dismissed. The Rockets went 52-30 last season, their best record in 10 years. But Houston never advanced to the second round of the playoffs in his four seasons.

Alexander, making his first comments since the coaching change, admitted he grew impatient waiting for his team to make a deep postseason run under Van Gundy.

Adelman has led teams beyond the first round seven times in 14 postseason appearances, including two trips to the NBA finals with Portland in the early 1990s. After two unsuccessful seasons in Golden State, Adelman guided Sacramento to eight consecutive playoff berths.

"Hopefully, our teams will be better in the playoffs," Alexander said. "And that will take us farther along the line. That's my expectation."

Adelman has a 752-481 record in 16 seasons and is 70-68 in the playoffs. His teams are known for playing a more up-tempo style, more appealing to Alexander and a contrast to Van Gundy's more methodical approach that emphasized defense.

At times last season, Yao struggled in fast-paced, up-and-down games, but Adelman thinks Yao is a perfect fit for his system. In Sacramento, Adelman coached Vlade Divac, a skilled shooter and passer like Yao.

"He's not a speedster, and we ran," Adelman said of Divac. "Watching Yao, it's not how fast you are, it's their intent to get up and down the court. What we try to do is get into something quicker, not just walk it down, call a play."

Adelman compared McGrady to Clyde Drexler, who was the best player on his best Portland teams.

McGrady hasn't won a playoff series in six tries. He averaged 25 points in Houston's playoff loss to Utah, but shot only 39 percent, including 25 percent from 3-point range.

"If we show him what we can do," Adelman said, "I think he'll buy in and he will be better."

The hiring of Adelman culminated a strange chain of events, beginning with Utah's 103-99 win over the Rockets in Game 7 of their first-round series on May 5.

Two days later, Van Gundy said he needed time to mull his future. A week later, the Rockets contacted Adelman and by the time Van Gundy told the team he wanted to return, Alexander had already made up his mind to hire Adelman.

Adelman said he talked to Van Gundy before he met with the Rockets, a phone call the team encouraged. Van Gundy mentioned Adelman as someone the team should consider to replace him if he didn't return.

"I just wanted to be sure what was going on," Adelman said. "But after talking to Jeff, and finding out what was going on, the procedure started happening and it came together."

The Rockets offered Van Gundy a consulting position, but he declined and was fired. Alexander didn't offer much Wednesday about Van Gundy.

"When we trade a player, we never talk about the ex-player, we talk about the new player," Alexander said. "We have a new coach. We're going to talk about the new coach the same, exact way."

Adelman arrived in Houston late Tuesday from Portland, where he's lived since the Kings decided not to renew his contract after the 2005-06 season.

His arrival raises the possibility of Bonzi Wells' return to Houston. The temperamental Wells hardly played last season, sidelined with various injuries and a rift with Van Gundy.

But Wells had a productive 2005-06 season under Adelman in Sacramento and averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds in the playoffs. The Kings lost to San Antonio in six games.

Wells signed a two-year contract with the Rockets but can opt out of the deal this offseason.

Houston Rockets new head basketball coach Rick Adelman speaks during a press conference Wednesday, May 23, 2007 in Houston. Adelman returns to coaching basketball after a season's absence. [AP]

"He played in that San Antonio series, and they couldn't do anything with him," Adelman said. "He just destroyed them on the offensive boards, he destroyed them getting to the basket. When I had him, he was ready to play."

Adelman said he would meet with the current staff of assistant coaches by the end of this week, then consider changes. Tom Thibodeau, Van Gundy's top assistant, is seeking a head coaching job and has interviewed for the vacancy in Sacramento.

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