June 13, 2024

Rafael Stone, the general manager of the Rockets, had a busy summer. He made extravagant use of his free agency funds, acquiring long-term contracts from veterans Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. He also selected point guard Amen Thompson and shooting guard Cam Whitmore with the fourth and twentieth picks in the 2023 NBA draft. However, appointing Ime Udoka to guide the squad into the next stage of the franchise’s rebuild may have been Stone’s most significant decision.

Despite not qualifying for the postseason tournament, Udoka’s Rockets won 41 games, a 19 win improvement over their 2022-2023 record when the team went just 22-60. The 19 win improvement was the biggest in the league.

Players spoke glowingly of Udoka, formerly of the Boston Celtics, all season long, specifically in regards to his no-nonsense, disciplinarian style. Udoka regularly benched starters late in games for underperforming, preferring an egalitarian approach and rewarding contributors. Rockets center Alperen Sengun stated he wanted to be coached hard; Rockets guard Jalen Green stated that under Udoka, he was having to unlearn bad habits picked up earlier in his career. The Rockets were coached by Stephen Silas for the previous three seasons when they first transitioned from the James Harden Era to a full-on rebuild.

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