Mike D’Antoni, the offensive guru who came on the scene more than a decade ago, is back in the NBA. D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns run and gun reality show is now on center stage in the Lone Star state, as D’Antoni coaches the Houston Rockets.
Eight years ago, D’Antoni and the Suns parted ways. He paid his dues in New York and Los Angeles and now Houston is where he hopes to recreate his magic.
D’Antoni’s style of play will propel the Rockets into a resurgence, back to where they were two years ago when under Kevin McHale the Rockets were a number three seed.
Finishing as an eighth seed this year was a huge disappointment that warranted a massive redo. D’Antoni will get it done, as the Rockets will grab one of the top-tier seeds in the 2017 playoffs.
Mike D’Antoni was an assistant coach with the 76ers in 2016. As such, he conducted a reclamation project with Ish Smith and Nerlens Noel, running his pick and roll offense. This was the only beacon of hope the 76ers could latch onto during the tail end of the 2015-2016 regular season.
Many Houston fans are skeptical of Daryl Morey’s decision to hire D’Antoni. Fans are recounting the gradual decay of D’Antoni with the Lakers and Knicks. But D’Antoni is a great, fundamental choice. He sticks to a formula that works and rarely lets his players go rogue on the court. There is a set system.
In 2015-16, the Houston Rockets looked absolutely lost on the court, barely nabbing the eighth seed. If D’Antoni is able to ego check James Harden and make moves during free agency, he will have viable ammunition for what he does best: offense. It goes without saying that the former Suns coach harnesses offensive threats. Steve Nash is a prime example, but in recent memory, Jeremy Lin was D’Antoni’s perfect pipeline for fluid offense.
He enables his players to run rapid, active fast breaks, exploiting transition defense. He maximizes the shot clock by using as little time possible to score the ball. Players on the Rockets need to adjust.
The Houston Rockets take too much time setting up on their action and end up looking like a half-baked Division I college team. This is the reason Harden logged too many minutes and points to compensate for the lack of offensive energy on the floor. Harden, who takes a majority of the offensive responsibilities and averages approximately 38 minutes a game, is a pariah on the court.
Harden needs to become a floor general, looking for corner shooters and slashers and cutters. Granted, Harden did average 7.5 assists this season, but many of his assists were bailout options rather than set plays. Isolation offense needs to be minimized, and D’Antoni is the perfect cure for the symptoms that arise from it – messy transitions and apathetic players who expect Harden to sink every shot he puts up.
The Rockets need to attract high-volume shooters who do not hesitate and a fundamentally sound point guard, alleviating responsibilities from Harden. Patrick Beverly is a great defensive option but he does not possess the fundamental offense D’Antoni requires.
Jeremy Lin, who averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists, and 3.2 rebounds under Steve Clifford in Charlotte, recently declared himself a free agent by declining his player option, and D’Antoni’s Rockets would be a great fit. Linsanity did start under D’Antoni on the New York Knicks back in the 2011-2012 season.
The Rockets most vulnerable soft spot is the apparent lack of defense. However, the Rockets also hired Jeff Bzdelik, the former Memphis Grizzles assistant coach, as D’Antoni’s assistant sidekick. The coaching overhaul looks optimistic, hiring the coaching poster boy for fast offense and signing an assistant coach that brings vestiges from a defensive powerhouse team. D’Antoni always struggled with defense but this was due to high-caliber offensive players the coach wished to utilize: Shawn Marion, Raja Bell, Joe Johnson, and Steve Nash, to name a few.
The Houston Rockets are in good hands.
D’Antoni etched his offensive playing style in the Phoenix desert. If D’Antoni can pick up shooters, a pure point guard, and mold Harden into his system, the Rockets will return to their former state as a top-tier team in the Western Conference.
photo via llananba