Steve Nash recently sat down with his former coach Mike D’Antoni to discuss past Phoenix Suns days, small ball and the future of the Houston Rockets.
After the Houston Rockets defeated the Boston Celtics 116-105 on TNT Tuesday night, “Inside the NBA” aired a special interview featuring NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash interviewing current Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni, of course, coached Nash for several years, starting with the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns that finished the regular season with a 62-20 record and made it to the Western Conference Finals.
Those Suns are widely seen as the team that revolutionized basketball by emphasizing offense and shooting quickly over every other aspect of the game.
In their sit-down interview, the pair discussed everything from how their Phoenix Suns would fare in today’s NBA to James Harden to having a “championship or bust” mentality. First, they touched on why their previous iteration of small ball in Phoenix never quite led to the success they’d hoped.
“We were scared,” D’Antoni said. “Every voice said you cannot do that. You cannot win [that way]. The reason we didn’t win? We didn’t go far enough.”
D’Antoni and Nash seemed in agreement that if they had doubled down on their run and gun, small-ball strategy, they probably could have won that elusive championship in the early 2000s.
“We listened to some doubters and we should’ve put the pedal down a little harder,” Coach D’Antoni told Nash. “I think we limited our success by not playing quicker and shooting more threes,” agreed Nash.
Nash then switched the topic to James Harden, asking Mike to rank him as a scorer. As expected, D’Antoni called the Beard the best offensive player in the game today, citing how “super-efficient” the guard is and how there’s no way anybody is better.
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In a standalone segment to the camera, Nash had some insightful words about the Harden-D’Antoni pairing.
“Mike is the perfect coach for James,” said Nash. “A guy that can do everything the way he does. He’s gonna push him, empower him, bring the best out of him.”
It’s hard to argue with Nash’s logic considering Harden’s playing style. James isn’t the kind of player that can be as effective on a leash, and Mike D’Antoni is the ultimate “loosen the reigns” coach.
To wrap up the interview, the eight-time NBA All-Star asked Coach D’Antoni if he feels “championship or bust” pressure this season.
“Without a doubt,” replied D’Antoni. “You feel that every year. We are all in it to win it. But if you have a career where you don’t win it all, do you go home and say, ‘God, I’m a failure?’ I don’t think so.”
Nash finished the TNT segment with some high praise for Mike D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets, crediting MDA for continually pushing and innovating, saying their new small-ball style will make them one of the most fun and interesting teams to watch in the playoffs.
“With some luck,” said Nash, “That championship might not be far away.”