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Russell Westbrook says he has a ‘great’ relationship with Mike D’Antoni

Rockets, Russell Westbrook, Mike D'Antoni

With the Houston Rockets introducing new point guard Russell Westbrook to the press on Friday, the eight-time All-Star opened up and told assembled media members he has a “great” relationship with his new head coach Mike D’Antoni, per ESPN 97.5 Houston’s Salman Ali.

Westbrook has participated in international competitions with USA Basketball, where D’Antoni has also been invited to help out and coach under Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski. D’Antoni coached the Krzyzewski-led Team USA in 2012, which featured Westbrook on the gold-medal-winning London Olympics squad.

Further, with the success of the Rockets in recent years, D’Antoni has been able to participate in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend festivities and coached in the All-Star Game. In 2018, Westbrook played for Team LeBron while D’Antoni coached Team Stephen.

Houston’s locker room has been nothing less than a powder keg during the Harden era, most recently demonstrated by the rumored strife between Chris Paul and Harden. Paul was sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder with picks so Clutch City could acquire Harden’s former Thunder teammate in Westbrook.

D’Antoni, historically, also has been criticized for poorly managing star players and egos within his own boundaries—frequently having internal blow-ups between players leaked to the media, whether it be Dwight Howard in Houston and Los Angeles, Carmelo Anthony in New York, or Harden on the current team.

Westbrook will likely have to buy into an unfamiliar system in a new city with new teammates and coaching staff. While D’Antoni has been highly decorated as a coach—a two-time NBA Coach of the Year—it’s unclear how the new Westbrook-Harden dynamic will play out under the coach.