Much like last season, the Houston Rockets are once again considered as one of, if not the top contender for the title behind defending champs Golden State Warriors. For head coach Mike D’Antoni, it feels like an all too familiar situation.
More than a decade ago, D’Antoni was the head coach for the Phoenix Suns, and it was there where he first established his unique, run-and-gun type of basketball. Unfortunately, he never quite reached the pinnacle of the league; coming close, but ultimately falling short on a number of occasions.
Speaking to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the 67-year-old veteran coach discussed the similarities and differences between his time with the Suns and his current predicament with the Rockets.
“You know where it feels different,” D’Antoni asked rhetorically. “The difference between how this feels and Phoenix is that I really think that back then we were doing a kind experiment that we thought would work, but we couldn’t get over the hump with San Antonio. There could be different factors. It could be the easiest factor, that they were a better team, you know? It could be just that simple. Or, did we push the envelope far enough to beat a good team like San Antonio?
“So going back to the point, what feels a little different is that I’m much more secure in what we’re doing and the players are secure in what we’re doing. And we’re not battling inside-the-beltway forces, you know what I mean? There’s no chipping away at Chris Paul’s confidence, or James’ confidence, because of how we play. They can watch somebody on TV say something, and you hardly ever hear, ‘You can’t win that way’ anymore.’ They don’t say it anymore, whereas before that was the whole news.”
How the game is played has definitely changed since D’Antoni was in Phoenix, and it certainly suits the D’Anotni’s and his Rockets’ type of play. In fact, they are in large part responsible for changing the game as we know it.
For Rockets fans, they are hoping that this time around, D’Antoni and his squad are finally able to get over the colossal hump that is the Warriors. They got really close last year, and this season should be no different.