The Rockets sprinted out to a 1–0 lead in their second-round series against the Lakers in Orlando, and Houston appeared genuinely shocked as it season continued to slip away amid four straight listless performances. James Harden and Co. entered the series as the lower seed, but the Rockets carried themselves throughout the season as a true championship contender. In a Finals-or-bust campaign, Houston's collapse in round two was noted as a surprise to many.
One former Rocket didn't exactly share the sentiment. Ex-Houston guard Vernon Maxwell said on Wednesday he "wasn't surprised" by the quick exit, noting the size issues facing the Rockets against the gargantuan Lakers.
"I mean, I wasn’t surprised. They were overmatched against the Lakers," Maxwell told GQ's Michael Pina. "And then playing that small ball, I just don’t understand that. You’ve gotta have a big. Your tallest guy on the court can’t be 6’7”. That’s just not gonna work against AD and LeBron."
"I said it before the series started, I felt like the Lakers were gonna win that series in the fashion that they did. I pretty much knew that."
Maxwell touched on far more than Houston's playoff loss in his conversation with Pina. The two-time champion detailed his feud with Utah fans and his appreciation for James Harden, as well as his wish for Sam Cassell to be the next Rockets' coach.
"I just feel like it’s [Cassell's] time. He’s been on the bench as an assistant coach for 15 years," Maxwell said. "I get tired of these owners and general managers, they just recycle all these goddamn coaches. You’ve gotta try something new."
"You’ve gotta give them a chance to see what they can do, and I don’t think that’s fair to guys like Sam. They need to give him a chance and a legit shot. Let him bring in his people that he wants and I think he’ll do fine. He’s ready now."
Maxwell played six seasons with the Rockets from 1990-95, winning the Finals in each of his last two years with the franchise. He retired in 2001 after 13 seasons and 10,912 career points.