Before first-year Houston Rockets coach Stephen Silas could arrive in Dallas late Friday night following his team’s one-point victory in Detroit, his wife and two daughters had already left Dallas earlier Friday to travel to Houston and move into the family’s new digs.
But even if Silas would have gotten to Dallas earlier on Friday – or if his family would have remained in Dallas another day — Silas wouldn’t have been able to go to his own home because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. For now, it’s hotels and arenas only for players, coaches and staff when teams are on the road.
That’s life in the NBA these days with the coronavirus pandemic raging.
Silas spent two years as the lead assistant coach on the staff of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. Silas had wanted to kick up his feet at his home in Dallas for a bit, and visit some friends while the Rockets were in Dallas, but the Rockets were on the last leg of a back-to-back.
“My family moved (Friday) to Houston from Dallas, so we missed each other,” Silas said. “Obviously having been here – a place that’s so close to my heart, but with no fans and not a lot of people — you’re not allowed to even shake their hand or hug.
“That’s just different and that’s just a sign of the times, and again another part of the adaptability that we’re all going through. But yeah, we’re going to Dallas and I can’t even take a walk on the Katy Trail.”
Before the Rockets improved to 6-9 following Saturday’s 133-108 victory over the Mavs at American Airlines Center, Silas said he learned so many memorable things from Carlisle on his journey towards becoming an NBA head coach for the first time this season.
“He is a master when it comes to coaching the games – the actual games – and using his timeouts wisely,” Silas said. “You’ve seen Rick go down to the end of the game and not have any timeouts left, or have one timeout, because he always was trying to stop runs by the opposing team. That’s more like the in-game stuff, but he’s also so good with adaptability.
“Depending on who’s on the roster and the strengths of his team, he always gets the most out of his teams, and that’s what I strive to do. And then the people part. Rick is definitely a mentor of mine, and the way that he works with his staff — for me, example — giving me an opportunity to lead at times and grow and have some tough times and fight through adversity. He allowed me to do all those things, so I am definitely grateful to Rick for all that he did for me.”
The Rockets hired Silas on Oct. 30, then on Dec. 2 they traded one of their two future Hall of Fame guards – Russell Westbrook – to the Washington Wizards. And on Jan. 14, the Rockets traded their other future Hall of Fame guard, James Harden, to the Brooklyn Nets.
Those two moves can obviously put any coach in a pickle. And it certainly made life interesting for Silas.
“Obviously it started with Russ, and then went to James, and then COVID, and just so many different factors that a lot of teams are dealing with,” Silas said. “Look at Dallas with what they’re dealing with COVID is unprecedented.
“You just have to kind of figure it out and adapt on the fly and make it work. So it’s been trial by fire at some level, but it’s something you feel good about when you kind of get through some of that stuff and actually get to the basketball coaching part of it.”
Because of Silas’ undying dedication to the game, Carlisle knows he’ll be devoted to making the Rockets a winner. Even with the unfortunate losses of Westbrook and Harden.
“These jobs are dynamic positions to be in,” Carlisle said. “Things can happen very quickly and things can change very quickly. Given the circumstances, he’s done a great job.
“They’re in the top 10 in defense right now in the league, and that’s an amazing accomplishment after 15 games or whatever. They’re going to have more and more of their good players coming back. (Christian) Wood is out and (Victor) Oladipo is out. It’s certainly challenging, but if you’re him you also got to be excited.”
Indeed, theoretically speaking, Carlisle knows these are the type of challenges Silas craves.
“They’ve really kind of formed a new collection of players that are going in kind of a new direction, and he’s a big part of it,” Carlisle said. “Knowing him — he’s such a positive guy — he’s looking at this thing and looking at the possibilities.”
Every step of the way for Silas this season has been something to store in his memory bank. Even the losses.
“It’s been a learning experience, first and foremost,” Silas said. “There’s just been a lot thrown at me and a lot of change, but it’s been great.
“I love to coach, I love to coach basketball, I love to deal with people. I have a great group that I work with – with (general manager) Rafael (Stone) and (owner) Tilman (Fertitta) — as far as the ownership group and the management group and all of the staff.”
Now, if only Silas can catch up with his family.
Update on COVID-19 players: Before Saturday’s loss to the Rockets, coach Rick Carlisle said guard Josh Richardson would likely be the first of his four players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols to return and play in a game. He just doesn’t know when that’ll take place.
“We’ve got some guys that are working out in the practice facility now – coming off COVID protocols,” Carlisle said. “I don’t have a timetable on when people are going to start playing. But Josh is probably the one that’s going to be first to get back on the floor in game action just because of when the clock started on his situation.”
Besides Richardson, the other three Mavs on the health and safety protocols list are Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell. Richardson and Finney-Smith have missed the last eight games, while Kleber and Powell have been sidelined for the past seven games.