The Houston Rockets need to make a decision pertaining to the future. Should they bring back offensive guru Mike D’Antoni to continue running the show?
Since signing Mike D’Antoni to be the head coach on June 1st, 2016, the Houston Rockets have had an impressive record in the three-year span, going 173-73. While they have been an extremely good regular season team under D’Antoni, they never seem to be able to get the job done come playoff time.
In his first season with Houston, D’Antoni won NBA Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. The Rockets finished third in the Western Conference with a 55-27 record that year. This was the same year D’Antoni moved superstar James Harden to point guard, which proved to be a good move, seeing as Harden was runner-up for MVP behind winner Russell Westbrook.
Yet, the Rockets would lose to a San Antonio Spurs in a heartbreaking fashion, getting blown out at home despite San Antonio being without Kawhi Leonard in Game 6.
In the offseason that followed, Houston acquired All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the LA Clippers, sending over several players including Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. With a backcourt of Paul and Harden, the Rockets improved by 10 games, finishing 65-17 which was good for the best record in the NBA.
Harden would win his first MVP award and this seemed to be the perfect team for Mike D’Antoni. This was the season where the analytical style took over the Rockets. The threes and layups system started this season, which proved to be a success in the regular season.
Houston would make the Western Conference Finals and take on their rivals and reigning champs, the Golden State Warriors.
The Rockets would go into Game 6 with a 3-2 lead but did not have Chris Paul for the remainder of the series after getting injured in the final minutes of Game 5. The Warriors would win Game 6, which meant the Rockets would have a chance to close the series at home in a deciding Game 7.
Unfortunately, one of the worst team performances in NBA history would take place, as the Rockets would miss 27 straight threes. This led many to question D’Antoni’s refusal to change the team’s offensive strategy.
In the 2018-2019 season, Harden took his game to the next level in the D’Antoni system but the team took a step back in the winning department. The Rockets would be eliminated by the Warriors again, but this time in the second round. This would be the end of the Chris Paul era in Houston.
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In the midst of another successful season and now armed with another superstar in Russell Westbrook, the Rockets decided to take the small ball approach by trading their starting center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks and netting Robert Covington from the Minnesota Timberwolves, which has produced mixed results.
Going through the history of D’Antoni’s tenure with Houston makes it easier to believe the Rockets should move on, but they shouldn’t.
The Rockets should make D’Antoni an offer similar to last year. Give him a one-year extension with a bonus for every round of the playoffs won.
Houston has been a great team under D’Antoni. One Chris Paul injury doesn’t happen and this wouldn’t even be a question worth discussing. Coach D’Antoni deserves a full year with the small ball system.
This decision to change the style of play in the middle of the season is not an easy adjustment for anyone. For the short time he’s had, D’Antoni has utilized it properly so far. A whole summer should make the system easier to comprehend for not only the coaching staff but the players alike.
The Rockets should give D’Antoni one more year. If the Rockets come up short again, then it’s time to move on.