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Daily Rocket Science: The Perfect Pairing

Mar 24, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni points towards guard James Harden (13) after a play during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni points towards guard James Harden (13) after a play during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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Daryl Morey hired Mike D’Antoni to coach the Houston Rockets because of his offensive scheme. We can’t be too sure, but he probably didn’t know just how great a fit he’d be with James Harden.

It really has been like a match made in heaven. James Harden‘s benefitted from Mike D’Antoni‘s fearless venture into unknown territory on the offensive end. This year’s Houston Rockets shoot more threes than any team in history, and their devotion to the analytics of the game is unparalleled. At point guard, the Beard is playing at a level that nobody saw coming, and he has D’Antoni to thank.

On the flip side, MDA benefits from Harden’s buy-in to his previously unproven system. His Suns teams in the mid-2000s played a similar style to this year’s Rockets, but on a much more reserved level. The coach tried to get Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant on board in the past to no avail, and it left doubts in his mind as to whether or not his theories could work. James Harden was on board from the first day, and thus has revived the public’s opinion of D’Antoni’s basketball mind.

The end result of the pairing is a Houston Rockets team that is exceeding every expectation and has a real shot at a championship in the next few years. For today’s Daily Rocket Science, we’re going to take a look at what people around the league have to say about how Harden and D’Antoni are working out together.

Mike D’Antoni for Coach of the Year

After last season when the Rockets lost a lot of their 2014-2015 confidence, Mike D’Antoni has given the team their mojo back. It’s for that reason, along with their outstanding play, that Steve Kerr thinks Mike D’Antoni should win COTY. ESPN provided the following quote from last season’s COTY after his Warriors took down Houston on Tuesday:

"“I think the fit with the roster and Mike’s philosophy has been perfect,” Kerr said Tuesday night. “What he’s so good at is really giving his players confidence and belief. They’re obviously having an amazing year. My guess is that he’ll get the trophy. He’s earned it.”"

James Harden for MVP

There has been plenty of debate and discussion about this season’s most highly coveted personal achievement. James Harden, along with several other candidates, has put together a season that would make the MVP voters’ job easy in other years. While everyone has their opinion and there isn’t necessarily an easy answer, Kelly Scaletta of Bball Breakdown is convinced the Beard is the right choice.

"Westbrook advocates like to belabor the posthoc argument that Harden just benefits by having better teammates (an argument which no one was making before the season). But maybe the reality is teammates are better because of him, and not the other way around. After all, not a single one of his teammates has ever made an All-Star game or been named an All-NBA team."

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…or co-MVP?

One of those players who has put together a ridiculously good campaign is Russell Westbrook. He and Harden have both been so good that Kobe Bryant recently advocated they be named co-MVPs. The NBA.com staff got together to discuss the possibility.

"I say, ask Kobe Bryant how he would have liked being “co-” anything with anybody. As competitive as he is, my hunch is he’d want to win the award outright or not at all. “Co-” seems too much like a participation trophy to me."

No matter who takes the trophies home at the end of the season, the pairing of Harden and D’Antoni works. They’re going to be a part of the Houston Rockets for a long time and will compete for championships yearly. Whether Daryl Morey saw this kind of success coming or not, Red Nation owes him a big thanks for putting together such a lethal combination.

I doubted the D’Antoni decision at first, but let it be known that I will never again doubt Morey. The man clearly knows what he’s doing with a basketball team. The Houston Rockets are competitive when they shouldn’t be, and are set to continue down that road. As a fan, I’m more excited about the team now than I’ve been in a long time. Long live Morey, D’Antoni, and Harden.

Next: 3-on-3 Discussion: Hypothetical Questions

Stay tuned to Space City Scoop for more analysis, news, and opinions on the Houston Rockets!

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