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Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni confident about Chris Paul’s future thanks to experience with Steve Nash

Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Mike D'Antoni, Rockets

The Houston Rockets are headed for their seventh straight playoff appearance. The team is led by a pair of stars in reigning MVP James Harden and nine-time All-Star Chris Paul, but CP3 hasn’t quite been himself this year, in large part due to injuries.

While some believe Paul is clearly on the decline, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried about that. Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, D’Antoni cited his experience with Steve Nash as a reason why he’s so confident about Paul. Nash experienced a late-career resurgence under D’Antoni with the Phoenix Suns, and the Rockets are hopeful that Paul can have the same kind of success:

“I saw Steve Nash do the same thing,” D’Antoni says when asked why he’s so optimistic about Paul’s future. “Dallas gave [Nash] up for dead, but they didn’t know his brains and how much he wanted it and how much he was willing to sacrifice his life to prepare himself to do it.

“As long as [Paul] has that, there’s no way he’s going to get dumber or whatever. … I’m telling you, he’s going to be right there with [the all-time great guards].”

This is Paul’s second year with Houston, and it has seen his production take a slight step back. The oft-injured 33-year-old is averaging 15.8 points and shooting 41.9 percent, both career-low marks. However, he has been much better as of late. Over his last 11 games, Paul has averaged 16.6 points, 9.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds.

Paul is in the first year of a four-year, $160 million contract. This makes him pivotal to the team’s future. If he plays well and stays healthy, he can help lead the team toward playoff success. But if his production falls off, that contract could hamstring the Rockets.

At 39-25, the Rockets hold the fourth seed in the Western Conference. ESPN’s BPI Playoff Odds give the team only a 3.1 percent chance of winning the championship, but a healthy and productive Chris Paul would make a huge difference.