The Houston Rockets are off to a sluggish 4-7 start and needed to make a change. Head coach Kevin McHale was publicly suggesting that change could be star point guard Ty Lawson being moved to the bench. Instead, it’s McHale that’s being moved.

Per reports, the Rockets have officially fired McHale, who was believed to have “lost the lockerroom” and wasn’t able to fix Houston’s defensive issues. The Rockets were a far better defensive team a year ago, but have struggled to be a consistent defensive force throughout McHale’s tenure. The team has instead been a dominant offensive presence, but with a slow start and things getting worse recently with four straight losses, McHale was made the scape goat.

It’s an interesting move for a franchise that was within striking distance of the NBA Finals a year ago and was looked at as a potential threat to win it all this season. McHale had been part of the solution in the past, as he helped the Rockets to a strong 193-130 record during his time on the sidelines (best winning percentage in Rockets history). The average fan would have thought the Rockets would give McHale more of a chance to turn things around, but the Rockets are moving on from a familiar face after just 11 games.

The job of righting the ship will now fall on interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who has been an assistant coach in the league since 2004. Bickerstaff has not been a head coach at the NBA level, but got his start as an assistant with the Charlotte Bobcats. Bickerstaff also coached as an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves and has spent the last four seasons assisting on McHale’s staff.

It’s certainly worth wondering whether or not Bickerstaff can make a real difference. Houston is currently without center Dwight Howard on back-to-back sets, isn’t getting enough production out of their point guards and isn’t even getting elite consistency out of superstar shooting guard, James Harden. Bickerstaff could potentially re-direct Houston’s efforts on defense, but there are more issues than just the Rockets allowing buckets. The other question will be where the Rockets go from here at head coach. Bickerstaff is unlikely to be the long-term answer and the franchise may feel inclined to make a big move for a more experienced head coach still this season.

Of course, the biggest question of all is what do we make of the Rockets, as they stand? In the ultra competitive Western Conference, they currently do not resemble a playoff team, let alone a title threat. James Harden and Dwight Howard are not laying championship level basketball, Houston isn’t defending and the team as a whole lacks effort and inspiration. It’s possible McHale’s presence wore on the team and his players gave up on him. If so, a change at the top could get the juices flowing again. But if the entire team quite on McHale already, it’s also worth wondering if they have the goods to be winners at the highest level.

It’s still fairly unlikely the Rockets take such a steep dive from being one of the top-five teams in the best conference in the NBA, to dropping out of the playoff picture. You can probably still safely bet on them making the 8-team playoffs. Doing any real damage beyond that, however, is looking less likely be the day.

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