James Harden gives definitive answer on Mike D’Antoni’s future with Rockets
The rumors are already swirling about Mike D’Antoni’s future with the Houston Rockets after an ugly five-game loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the playoffs. While D’Antoni wants to continue coaching, the Rockets might look to move in another direction now that the 69-year-old’s contract is up.
Rockets star James Harden was asked about D’Antoni after Saturday’s 119-96 drubbing at the hands of the Lakers. For his part, Harden definitively claims he wants D’Antoni back in the fold:
Does James Harden want Mike D'Antoni to return to the Rockets? "Of course. Of course. Mike has done some unbelievable stuff here."
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 13, 2020
D’Antoni became head coach of the Rockets in 2016 and has reached the second round of the playoffs every season since. Harden has enjoyed a lot of success with D’Antoni, winning MVP in 2018 and earning three consecutive scoring titles. He put up a whopping 36.1 points per game in the 2018-19 season.
However, Harden, D’Antoni and the Rockets continue to fall short in the playoffs. They almost broke through to the NBA Finals in 2018, only to blow a 3-2 lead against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The last two seasons have featured particularly notable playoff failures in the second round.
As prolific as Harden and the Rockets can be in the regular season, the playoff shortcomings could result in D’Antoni’s demise. The writing seemed to be on the wall when contract negotiations between D’Antoni and the Rockets failed last summer, setting up a situation where Houston needed to make a deep run to keep him around.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has said keeping D’Antoni is a top priority this offseason, but that calculus very well could change after this humiliating playoff defeat. There is a chance D’Antoni is back, of course, but it would be no surprise at this point if a change is made in order to shake things up.