Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni paid close attention to The Last Dance

Houston Rockets James Harden Mike D'Antoni Russell Westbrook (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden Mike D'Antoni Russell Westbrook (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni tuned in to ESPN’s docu-series The Last Dance, and paid close attention to Phil Jackson’s coaching tactics.

ESPN’s docu-series The Last Dance gave basketball fans a sigh of relief as it pertains to the lack of NBA basketball. The 10-part Michael Jordan-produced film was captivating and filled the void we’ve all been missing for the last two months. The film didn’t come without it’s drawbacks however, as it skipped the Houston Rockets‘ titles and bypassed the fear that the executive producer Michael Jordan had for Hakeem Olajuwon.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey didn’t watch the film, as it would’ve produced traumatizing memories from his childhood, as Morey grew up a Cleveland Cavaliers fan. Rockets guard James Harden tuned in to the ESPN featured film, which isn’t surprising as we’ve heard many players around the league say they did the same thing.

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Former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy passed on the film, as he had similar reasons as Morey. Van Gundy was coaching the New York Knicks and saw his team fall to the hands of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls on several occasions.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni tuned in to The Last Dance and took note of Phil Jackson’s coaching tactics.

But current Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni did watch the 10-part docu-series, as he explained to KHOU’s Sports Extra.

“It was very intriguing, it was great. This goes back to Phil Jackson because that’s what I was looking from a coaching angle, about how good he was. Where he was excellent was how he dealt with people. He gave them room. There’s not too many coaches that would let Rodman go to Vegas and hang out for a week in the middle of the season.

That just wouldn’t happen nowadays. You better win, if you don’t win everybody is going to get fried. He was just able to do that and understood the make up of the team, the mental part of it, let them be them. He let Michael be Michael and he just worked it and they were a great, great team and it worked out. You’ve got to give them kudos.”

It’s no surprise that MDA was watching from a coaching standpoint as that’s obviously the manner in which he can most relate. MDA is viewed around the league as a player’s coach and his comments about allowing players to be themselves are a reflection of why.

MDA’s mentality of allowing players to be themselves draws instant thoughts of Russell Westbrook, who has a game that many didn’t believe would mesh with the Rockets’ style of play. D’Antoni has been accepting of Westbrook’s strengths and has allowed him to shoot the mid-range jumper that the Rockets have generally frowned upon.

It also speaks to his handling of James Harden, as he’s generally given The Beard the freedom to operate the offense in the best manner in which he’s seen fit. This has drawn frustration from many experts that cover the league but it’s certainly worked out in the case of Harden (and Westbrook to a lesser degree).

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D’Antoni also pointed out how Jackson allowed Rodman to take a sabbatical during the season, which makes it clear which side of the fence he stands on as it pertains to allowing a player to take a break, so long as it leads to a championship. The good thing for Houston Rockets fans is that the players have had a lengthy break and should be well-rested, which should make a big difference once the playoffs begin.