The Houston Rockets have been in a tailspin recently, and a recent quote by Mike D’Antoni showed a fundamental flaw in the way the team is being run.
It’s safe to say the Houston Rockets have a lot of work to do if they want to meet their expectations going into this season. While the Russell Westbrook and James Harden pairing seemed to be on track just over two weeks ago after Houston won their third straight, they now have lost five out of six with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second time this season.
Earlier this month, the Rockets were fighting for the second seed in the Western Conference and putting the league on notice. Now three weeks into January, we at Space City Scoop have found ourselves agreeing with criticisms of the Rockets, breaking down their biggest problems and even discussing a proclamation that it may be time to let Coach Mike D’Antoni go.
The truth is there are several problems in Houston sports right now, and unfortunately, that doesn’t stop at the Texans and Astros. The Rockets as currently constructed simply aren’t going to get past the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference. In fact, it would be a tossup against the Dallas Mavericks or Utah Jazz at this point. While personnel plays a big role in the team’s struggles, a recent quote by Mike D’Antoni revealed what could be an even bigger issue.
Mike D'Antoni on James Harden continuing to shoot tough, contested 3s when he's struggling to make them:
"You can tell him not to do it, but we've won a lot of games [that way]. That's his game and you kind of live and die with what you got." pic.twitter.com/issDUjkmCe
— Salman Ali (@SalmanAliNBA) January 21, 2020
I find a lot of things wrong with Coach D’Antoni’s nonchalant attitude toward what’s been a recurring theme this (and last) season. James Harden, the superstar that he is, is costing the team games with his shot selection. Yes, he’s probably the best individual scorer in the NBA in the modern era, but basketball isn’t an individual game. Shooting 29 times in a game where he was not feeling it is simply not going to cut it.
The Beard has had way too many games this season where he has shot very poorly from the perimeter, which has been costing Houston several valuable possessions per game. As a head coach, it’s borderline irresponsible to simply say “that’s his game” when his star player goes 1-for-17 from the 3-point line in a close loss.
Monday’s game was the sixth time in James Harden’s career that he has missed 16 threes in one game. He’s the second player to join that club along with one other player:
Most 3-point misses in a game:
16 — James Harden (tonight)
16 — James Harden (Jan 8 2020)
16 — James Harden (Dec 2019)
16 — James Harden (Oct 2019)
16 — James Harden (Mar 2019)
16 — James Harden (Jan 2019)
16 — Damon Stoudamire (Apr 2005) pic.twitter.com/GWEcXKkWhD
— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 21, 2020
As you can see, Harden tied Damon Stoudamire for the most missed threes in a game along with himself– five times over. The fact that this has happened six times over the course of one year is just inexcusable. Part of coaching is telling your players when to be aggressive and when to rein it in when their aggression is leading to that many empty possessions.
D’Antoni absolutely must establish his voice with Harden and not just allow him to make or break the success of the Rockets single-handedly. If he’s not shooting well, encourage him to drive more instead of settling for stepback threes. If he’s not doing anything well, bench him.
It’s time for the Rockets to play to their fullest team potential and not just “live and die” by the play of their superstars. If they don’t realize that soon, they will find themselves being sent home earlier than expected once again.