Rockets Coach D’Antoni on why small ball works: ‘We have a weird team.’

Mike D'Antoni Houston Rockets (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Mike D'Antoni Houston Rockets (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Houston Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni recently gave his thoughts on why a full commitment to small ball was necessary for the team to reach the next level.

As part of an ongoing series of Instagram Live interviews, Rockets reporter Cayleigh Griffin welcomed Houston Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni to talk about how the team is handling the hiatus, his favorite coaching moment, the idea behind going small and more.

While he didn’t even know what Instagram was going into the interview, D’Antoni’s family luckily helped him join AT&T SportsNet Southwest‘s live stream to answer a few questions. Among those questions asked by Griffin was a re-visiting of the idea behind the team going all-in on small ball.

“As you reflect now,” began Griffin, “It’s been about a month since we’ve played — when you look at the team’s structure since the All-Star Break, what needs to happen for the group to make that push all the way?”

“We went small because we really thought — the way our team was structured and the abilities of our guys — there were certain keys that we had to have,” replied D’Antoni.

When it comes down to it, D’Antoni feels that the old way of doing things simply wasn’t getting it done. “Playing traditional wasn’t efficient enough to win a championship,” continued Coach D’Antoni.

“Coming in fourth place, third place, second place just wasn’t good enough. We really believe the analytics, from Daryl all the way down to the coaching staff and players, this wasn’t getting it done,” said D’Antoni.

While the new micro ball system was still very young, it became pretty clear to me that it will succeed as far as Russell Westbrook will take it. His ability to rebound the ball from the guard position makes up for the severe height disadvantage the team faces on a nightly basis.

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D’Antoni appeared to share a similar sentiment as he continued his reasoning behind the bold strategy: “One of the great things we have is Russell Westbrook. His ability in the open court to be unguardable, James Harden — whether at halfcourt or not, is unguardable. It maximizes a lot of players.”

The Rockets have hardly been what you would call a “traditional” team in recent years, which D’Antoni also discussed.

#Rockets Coach D'Antoni on why small ball works: "We have a weird team." #OneMission

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“We have a weird team. Our bigs can guard smalls and our smalls can guard bigs,” said D’Antoni, probably referring to the likes of P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington.

While the strategy hasn’t fully worked against a few Golden State superteams recently, it’s not as if playing small and shooting a lot of threes hasn’t gotten the Rockets close. Daryl Morey recently talked about how using high variance helps Houston compete with the best of the best.

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While everyone is unsure if or when the Rockets will hit the hardwood again this year, it’s clear that everyone in the front office is confident in the team having success by being weird.