The Rockets haven’t able to come to terms on a new contract with coach Mike D’Antoni, and have been giving mixed signals on whether they want him around long-term or not. Here’s why this situation should have been resolved by now.
This off-season the Rockets had on again, off again contract negotiations with Mike D’Antoni. At one point it was reported they were close to an extension and then later there were reports of D’Antoni rejecting the Rockets proposed offers. We also have to keep in mind that D’Antoni’s agent could have been the one leaking reports out, which is a fairly common practice for agents during contract negotiations.
Although we don’t know what happened behind the scenes, the fact remains that Mike D’Antoni did not get a new contract, despite having a 70.33% win percentage and a record of 173-73 during his time as the Rockets coach. Not to mention setting the franchise record for wins in a season with 65. On top of that, the Rockets have won the second most games in the NBA during D’Antoni’s tenure as coach, which is second only to the 2-time Champion Golden State Warriors, who have twice ended the Rockets’ season.
This means Houston will allow D’Antoni to live out the lame duck season of his contract this upcoming season. In my opinion, this is not the route to go. If the Rockets haven’t seen enough to commit to him long-term and give him the annual value he’s seeking by now, what are they going to see differently this season? On top of that, if they don’t want to pay him the annual number he’s wanting now, what happens if/when the Rockets lock up the top seed in the West? Let alone win the championship? This is why I’m not sure the gamble is worth taking for Houston because they could find themselves having to pay him even more than they could get him for now.
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It also seems like the best opportunity to part ways with D’Antoni would have been this off-season as he would likely have had to tweak his offense the most now with Russell Westbrook and without Chris Paul. On top of that, many of his lead assistants were fired as well, such as Jeff Bzdelik and Roy Rogers. So what sense does it make having him hire new coaches, such as Elston Turner, if they will only be on the staff for one season?
If they aren’t ready to commit to D’Antoni by now, they should have just fired him. Owner Tilman Fertitta has also been the owner for 2 of the 3 seasons D’Antoni has been the coach and made the negotiations public to the media when they weren’t able to agree to terms on a new deal. Granted, by now it’s far too late as the NBA off-season is already over and all the moves have been made so the Rockets will have to try to again work out a deal or see him walk in June when the season is over.
Even if Houston gets off to a bad start, as they did last season, it wouldn’t be the smart route to go to fire him mid-season as such a move only sets the team back and basically punts on the season. On top of that, last season proved that D’Antoni is able to rally the troops and get them back going, as the Rockets had a shot at the second seed in the West despite starting off 11-14. Granted I’m not expecting the Rockets to have this problem, as I’ve got them picked to win the Western Conference, but I’m just illustrating that the Rockets will certainly have D’Antoni for this upcoming season.
Hopefully the Rockets are able to resolve this situation, but it should have been resolved by now. It’s hard to predict what will happen, because Houston could have already moved on from D’Antoni by now, and if they plan to keep him around, they should have already signed him to an extension.