3. D’Antoni’s job status
Earlier in the season reports surfaced that the Houston Rockets weren’t going to be bringing back coach Mike D’Antoni unless they won a championship. This seemed valid, as the Rockets took a step backwards between the 2017-18 season and the 2018-19 season, not to mention the fact that there were several other coaching candidates who were viable replacement options for MDA.
But MDA made the wise decision to turn to the small-ball strategy, which has largely been a success. The success of the small-ball strategy MDA pioneered has brought forth many questions regarding whether he would land a contract extension. Perkins explained what he thought it would take for MDA to keep his job beyond this season:
“They’ve got to make it to the Finals. They don’t have to win it but they’ve got to make it to the Finals. The Western Conference Finals isn’t good enough. [They] have the most dynamic backcourt duo in NBA history.
I’ll sit and wait if you can name a better duo than James Harden and Russell Westbrook that started in the backcourt together in their prime. You can’t name one. So now D’Antoni has to make it to the Finals. He doesn’t have to win the championship but he has to make it to the Finals.”
This is obviously not the same thing that was first reported, but Perkins’ sentiment is essentially that of Houston Rockets’ fans, which is that D’Antoni is out of excuses. The Rockets have two MVP-level players at this point in time, which is more than any other team can say right now.
If D’Antoni isn’t able to win with this team, it would be wise to replace him, but the roster is currently constructed around his style of play, so it would seem like he should have a vote of confidence. Say for example, they do fire him and choose to bring in someone else to lead the charge. What if they don’t like the small ball strategy and want a big man?
Clint Capela is obviously gone, so would the next person be forced to also adapt to the small-ball strategy? And what if they don’t want to? Granted, all Rockets fans will certainly disagree with Perkins saying that MDA doesn’t have to win the title, but has to at least make it to the final round. You’d be hard pressed to find a Rockets fan who would be happy with simply making it to the Finals.
Next: Changed tune on small ball?