Rockets hire Udoka, add veterans Brooks, VanVleet as they try to escape NBA’s basement

FILE - Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka reacts during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series May 13, 2022, in Milwaukee. Udoka has been hired as the new coach of the Houston Rockets, a source familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Monday, April 24, 2023. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the team had not officially announced the move. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File) (Morry Gash, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Houston Rockets

Last season: 22-60.

Coach: Ime Udoka (first season with Rockets, 2nd season overall, 51-31).

What to expect: The Houston Rockets invested money to bring in veterans Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet to play with their young talent this season as they look to take a step forward after three seasons as one of the league’s worst teams. They also drafted Amen Thompson No. 4 overall this year to give them another high pick to play with 2022 No. 3 pick Jabari Smith and Jalen Green, the second pick in 2021. Also new is coach Ime Udoka after Stephen Silas was fired after three seasons. Udoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in 2021, then was suspended last season after the disclosure of an inappropriate relationship with a female Celtics employee. Udoka is looking to develop Houston’s young players. Though the Rockets should be better this season with the addition of Brooks and VanVleet, oddsmakers still expect them to be one of the NBA’s worst teams.

Departures: G Kevin Porter Jr., G Josh Christopher, F Kenyon Martin Jr., F/C Usman Guruba,

Additions: Brooks, VanVleet, Thompson, Jeff Green, C Jock Landale, F Cam Whitmore, G Victor Oladipo, F/C Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, G/F Reggie Bullock, G Aaron Holiday.

Player to watch: Jalen Green. The guard made marked improvement last year in his second NBA season, but is looking to do much more. After averaging 17.3 points and 2.6 assists as a rookie, the 6-4 Green averaged 22.1 points and 3.7 assists last season. He’s focused on leading the Rockets back to the playoffs. “I take a big responsibility in that,” he said. “I know the fans are relying on me. I know my coaching staff and my teammates are relying on me to be that as a leader and as a better player this year.”

Season opener: At Orlando on Oct. 25.

Fanduel NBA title odds: 500-1.