Effect on Mike D’Antoni
It’s important to note that the Houston Rockets have also not reached an extension with current coach Mike D’Antoni and with Thibodeau being of the hottest names on the market, the Rockets stand to benefit from it leaking that they’re interesting in Thibs. This could simply help them gain leverage in their talks with D’Antoni, who would surely prefer to stay in Houston if he has the opportunity.
Creating a perception that the Rockets are prepared to move on from D’Antoni could potentially help to get D’Antoni’s representation to abide by the Rockets’ terms, which is important because both sides weren’t able to come to terms on an extension last offseason, despite the Rockets’ attempts. We also shouldn’t forget the level of affinity Rockets general manager Daryl Morey publicly expressed not even a full two months ago on The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
The discussion took place during the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference, which took place between March 6-7 of this year, and the Rockets only played two games after the conference ended. So what would have happened to have changed Morey’s mind during those two games? And if the Rockets couldn’t get MDA to agree to their number, they surely won’t be able to get Thibodeau without engaging in a bidding war, since he’s the top candidate on the market.
The reality is the Rockets’ brass could possibly be trying to gain leverage in their contract talks with MDA and are potentially going to rest their heads on the premise that D’Antoni doesn’t want a repeat of the 2019 offseason. Does MDA want to go down yet another potentially ugly road like last year, in which the terms of the contract negotiations were leaked publicly? Does he want to go through another back and forth between his side and the Rockets?
It’s also important to consider the effect the hiatus plays in all of this, as the Rockets had just 14 games to test the small ball experiment with Robert Covington in the lineup. Regardless of what happens in the postseason, D’Antoni will certainly want another opportunity to see if his custom-built philosophy will work for the long-haul with Russell Westbrook, because this would still have been a small sample size, even with a full postseason.
The timing of this could be viewed as unfortunate, which would be understandable considering how the possibility exists that the NBA league office could decide to resume the year with playoffs starting as is. But on the flip side, it could be viewed as a gift if it lands a long-term extension between the Rockets and D’Antoni.