Could a season cancellation benefit Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni?

With the NBA facing uncertainty regarding the remainder of the season, here’s why Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni could stand to benefit from a cancelled season.

As we all know, the Houston Rockets have been out of action due to the coronavirus scare (COVID-19), which has seemingly become more and more threatening. It seems as if there’s a different team everyday with positive test cases for the COVID-19.

We’ve now heard of reported cases on the Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, and Denver Nuggets. That number represents 20 percent of the league, and we can only expect the number to rise, as more test results come in.

The COVID-19 situation could potentially have a positive effect on Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni, however, especially in the event that the season gets cancelled. Reports circulated earlier in the year that MDA would not return as the Rockets’ head coach unless he were to win a title.

Obviously if there ends up being a cancellation, no team would win the title. On top of that, the Rockets wouldn’t have a disappointing playoff exit to leverage as reason to cut ties, which could warrant a new contract for MDA.

In fact, the Rockets expressed interest in giving MDA an extension following the 2018-19 season, even after the disappointing postseason loss to the Golden State Warriors, who were without arguably their best player in Kevin Durant. If the season ends up being cancelled, the Rockets would be forced to evaluate D’Antoni off of the four years in which he’s been at the helm, which could be good for MDA.

The Rockets have gone 213-93 over the course of MDA’s tenure, which is good for a 70 percent winning clip. On top of that, the Rockets have never missed the postseason during any of MDA’s seasons as coach, and they’ve never been eliminated in the first round under his watch either.

On top of that, MDA has been able to get the most out of the Rockets’ roster each season. Sure, the Rockets took a step back during the 2018-19 season, but they weren’t a better team than the 2017-18 season, which is obvious.

If we aren’t able to see how the Rockets fare in the postseason, it wouldn’t necessarily be the wisest move to let him go. Let’s play devil’s advocate and say the Rockets do bring in another coach. How would we know if the potential replacement coach would steer the ship better than MDA, without seeing how this Rockets unit holds up in the playoffs?

And who’s to say whether the next coach will be able to get this level of productivity out of the Russell Westbrook/James Harden backcourt? On top of that, it would seem like Russell Westbrook would perform even better in year two of playing with D’Antoni, as the two would obviously have more familiarity with one another.

Russ would also have more comfort within D’Antoni’s offense, which he didn’t have at the beginning of the season, due to him playing in a unfamiliar system. Another element of this is regarding said coaching search, in the event that they do let D’Antoni walk.

We don’t know if we’d have a full offseason, which could complicate the search for a potential head coach. If the offseason is shortened, it would behoove the Rockets to continue with D’Antoni, who obviously will have had a level of familiarity with this Rockets group.

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Granted, it would be difficult to give MDA a long-term deal without seeing how he responds to the postseason, especially as it pertains to his rotations, which has been his Achilles heel. But even though it would seem rather unusual to grant an extension following an incomplete final season (potentially), that would be the best move for the Houston Rockets regarding D’Antoni.

 

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