The Houston Rockets are engulfed in what is anticipated to be an all-out battle in opposition to the Los Angeles Lakers within the semifinals of the Western Convention playoffs. Though the franchise’s focus is on the right here and now, there are lingering ideas about what route this group will probably be headed after this yr, particularly in relation to head coach. Previous to the beginning of this season, Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets failed to achieve an settlement on a contract extension, which led to hypothesis that this could possibly be his last yr in Houston. Until, in fact, the group have been to win a championship.

After staving off a first-round scare by the hands of the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder and making an announcement in a Recreation 1 win over the top-seeded Lakers within the second spherical, the probabilities of D’Antoni remaining in Houston look like in growing. In actual fact, Rockets basic supervisor Daryl Morey emphatically stated that signing D’Antoni is on the high of the franchise’s listing this offseason.

“It is in all probability No. 1, that is a good strategy to put it,” Morey advised USA TODAY Sports activities. “We have now all our key gamers signed. I believe Mike coming again is tremendous necessary.”

In 4 seasons underneath D’Antoni, the Rockets have reached the playoffs 4 instances, together with a visit to the Western Convention finals, the place, if it hadn’t been for an unlucky damage to Chris Paul, Houston could have crushed the Golden State Warriors in Recreation 7 to advance to the NBA Finals. Beneath D’Antoni’s stewardship, the Rockets constantly have one of many top-ranked offensive groups within the league. This season, he is purchased fully into small ball, which thus far has carried out wonders for his two star gamers in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. 

The priority previous to the beginning of the 2019-20 season was that D’Antoni hasn’t been capable of get Houston over the hump of attending to the Finals, and with each Harden and Westbrook on the opposite facet of 30, the championship window for this group closes with every passing season. One other sticking level in opposition to D’Antoni was the shortage of protection his groups usually play. Other than one season the place Houston ranked seventh within the league in defensive score, it’s usually a middling defensive group that tends to let opponents put up large numbers on them. 

This postseason, although, the Rockets have been extremely locked in and dedicated on that facet of the ground, and rank first within the playoffs in defensive score (101.4). One other signal pointing to Houston’s improved effort on protection got here in Recreation 7 in opposition to the Thunder. Within the closing seconds of the sport, it wasn’t a Harden 3-pointer or Westbrook drive to the basket that sealed the Rockets the win. As an alternative, it was Harden getting out on the perimeter defensively, and blocking Luguentz Dort’s 3-point try and safe the win.

Morey outright saying that re-signing their head coach is a high precedence this season is really an encouraging signal in the event you’re D’Antoni, however Morey is not the one one making the choice right here. D’Antoni’s probabilities of remaining in cost in Houston should still rely closely on if he can ship a championship to this franchise, and whereas the Rockets are wanting good proper now, it is nonetheless a protracted, tough highway to the NBA Finals. 


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