Steve Nash explains difficulty of Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni’s offense

Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Steve Nash explains the difficulty of Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive approach.

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is viewed as an offensive genius, as he’s pioneered some of the most innovative offenses in league history. On top of that, D’Antoni’s system has produced two MVPs, in Steve Nash and James Harden.

D’Antoni invented the “Seven Seconds or Less” approach during his stint with the Phoenix Suns, which was an offensive gameplan that was predicated on getting up-and-down the floor and getting shots off quickly. The Suns were consistently near the top of the league in pace with D’Antoni at the helm, and Steve Nash was the engine that made the system so effective.

Nash was the key decision maker, as the ball was constantly in his hands, which allowed him to put his legendary court vision to use. In D’Antoni’s five seasons in Phoenix, Nash led the league in assists on three separate occasions, while also posting career highs in scoring from 2005-2007.

Upon D’Antoni’s arrival to the Space City, he changed the way James Harden had been used by former Rockets coach Kevin McHale, as he essentially moved Harden to the point guard position. Harden led the league in assists during the 2016-17 season, and was the runner up MVP candidate behind current Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook.

In D’Antoni’s second season in Houston, Harden led the league in scoring, and the took home the MVP award, as the Rockets won a franchise-record 65 games, with Harden and Chris Paul in the backcourt. Harden also led the league in scoring in the 2018-19 season, while finishing second in the MVP race behind Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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In addition, Harden is currently leading the league in scoring, while Russell Westbrook is also averaging 27.5 points per game. Many have cited D’Antoni’s system as the reason for Harden’s success, as he’s had the ball in his hands more often than not, like Nash did in Phoenix.

But Nash explained that D’Antoni’s offense wasn’t easy, contrary to popular belief. Nash was on the Knuckleheads podcast with Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson and explained the difficulty of D’Antoni’s offensive approach.

Steve Nash explains difficulty of Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni’s offense.

“It’s not that easy, like people think ‘well in that system.’ But we had a hard time finding someone [to play] when I sat down. Because having to make all the decisions over the course of the season and being super efficient, it relies alot on that player to be efficient and consistent over and over.

[Harden and I] are different players but we both play cat-and-mouse where we allow our scoring to make our passing more dangerous, and our passing to make our scoring more dangerous. And put the defense in a bad position, where they’re constantly having to make really quick decisions, that no matter what decision they make could be wrong.

The system really allowed me to be at my best, but it was also exhausting.”

One of the common things we hear whenever Harden is mentioned is that he wears out by the postseason, and although that’s not true, Nash’s comments explain why there could be a regression. Harden has had to do even more than Nash, as he’s been tasked with being the primary facilitator, while also being the primary scoring option.

Nash also made sure to give Harden his credit, as he added, “For someone his size to do what he does, he’s taken this era and embraced the way it’s being played. And he’s putting up numbers that are crazy.”

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The good thing for Harden and Rockets fans is that he will have had four months of rest by the time the Rockets take the court again, so the exhaustion won’t be an issue for the postseason this year.