The Houston Rockets season ended with a loud thud and changes are necessary. What needs to happen with Mike D’Antoni? Let’s look.
The Houston Rockets ended the season just like how they started — so much promise, falling short with a bittersweet taste in their mouths. Yes, I’m talking about the 131-112 loss on the road to the New Orleans Pelicans to open things up, how the team was treading water up until December, their ascent but yet they still could not beat the Golden State Warriors, the reasoning why this current rendition of the team exists.
When Kevin Durant sustained a right calf injury with about two minutes left to go in the third quarter, I knew he’d likely be out for some time if not for the rest of the season. I thought that the Houston Rockets would take advantage of this opportunity of the Warriors not having their biggest gun.
They did not — the Warriors capitalized off the Houston Rockets mistakes and although it was a hard-fought battle in Game 6, we were all witnesses to seeing vintage Warriors’ basketball.
What does that entail? Precise and crisp ball movement, hard-nosed defense and nailing three-pointers at a prolific pace. That was supposed to be the Houston Rockets but they kept falling on their isolation crutch with James Harden, things slowed down and this team didn’t not have a chance to sprint forward in games. In Game 6, the lead on either end did not go higher than eight points and typically when this team is hitting their shots, they can start working to blow out opponents.
It was prevalent back in 2017-18 but it wasn’t so much this season as a lot of their games were grind-outs, just like this series had been with the Warriors.
But in light of the offseason, this team simply CANNOT bring the same personnel back as changes need to be made. The only guy that’s untouchable at this moment is Harden as he still is a reliable engine that makes this team go. He showed up this season’s playoffs and although he had some hiccups down the stretch in games, I still like his version of Playoff Harden more than any I’ve ever seen.
Considering a replacement for Mike D’Antoni
I love Mike D’Antoni and his system has made Houston Rockets basketball fun to watch again. But this is an all-stakes league and I’m slowly becoming convinced that it works great for the regular season but not so much for the playoffs. The Houston Rockets should at least experiment the idea of a replacement but the only problem with that is you’ve got to find somebody that can be the architect to a high-pace offense while being to coach tough-as-nails defense to the players.
The Warriors’ assistants will be hot commodities this offseason with Jarron Collins and Mike Brown being tied to a multitude of rumors with other teams with vacancies. There hasn’t been a lot of chatter about 70-year-old Ron Adams — who has been a long-time assistant — but many would consider him being one of the key contributors in the successful installation of the system that has been battle-tested to perfection.
Adams would be a nice addition to the Houston Rockets but you have to wonder if he’d be a
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philosophical fit for Harden and Chris Paul. D’Antoni has a terrific personality and the fact that he’s motivating Harden/Paul to their best is nothing short of amazing. You can have the best strategy in basketball but if your players aren’t buying into it, there’s no point in bringing somebody else in.
For this reason, unless they’re plucking a guy like Adams to install as head coach in Houston, it would be prudent for the Houston Rockets just to stick with D’Antoni, who had the final year of contract — a team option for 2019-20 — picked up this past offseason.
I’m not down for firing coaches for just the hell of it like some dysfunctional franchises, if they’re going to make the move, it has to be for someone that would be believed to do a better job than their predecessor.
All in all, I think D’Antoni stays in Houston for 2019-20 but if the same results are yielded next season, then this franchise has to take an accentuated look at what other candidates that could be available next offseason.
Let’s keep an eye out.
D’Antoni, 68, has notched a 173-73 (.703) regular season record and 23-16 (.589) with the Houston Rockets over the past three seasons, just two seasons removed from winning NBA Coach of the Year honors after leading the team to franchise-record 65 wins in 2016-17.