It seems the Rockets finally have a front runner for their vacant coaching job. For some time now everyone had believed that former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy was a lock to take the job.
Yesterday, that all started to change. This morning, shizz got even more real when Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Rockets and Mike D'Antoni were close to a formal offer and looking to build his staff.
So let's all have a slice of that dry pie: In 2016, Mike D'Antoni just might get a chance to run another franchise, and if that doesn't concern or scare you, I don't really know what to tell you.
What is the Rockets biggest problem? Defense. This past season, defense was a massive reason the team did not perform up to expectations. The 2014-2015 team was the goldilocks of this whole James Harden era... Finding just the right amount of offense and defense, which led them all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
Only once in the Harden era did the team finish higher than 13th in defensive rating. Go figure: the one time they did was the only time they made it past the first round of the playoffs.
Is there a correlation between defense and making the playoffs? You bet there is. Of the four teams that remain in the playoffs, two are some of the best defensive teams in the league: the Raptors and the Cavaliers. The two Western Conference teams provide a good blend of pedal to the metal offense with a physical defense. More points are given up on the defensive end to help them score on the offensive end.
So had the Rockets have pulled the trigger on Van Gundy, I don't think many would expect the Rockets to turn around the defense so much that they'd become the next Spurs or Grizzlies... Teams that would punch in the mouth defensively and grind out wins. But I expected he'd demand good defense and hard effort, game in and game out.
But with D'Antoni, does anyone seriously expect that he'd demand defense, even just a little? Nope. D'Antoni would be brought in for one reason, and one reason only. Score a bunch more points than they did last year.
His Suns teams back in the mid-2000's were some of the first teams in the league to live and die, as Sir Charles would say, by the three-pointer. They ran up and down the court, launching three after three, playing a up-tempo open court offense.
D'Antoni played Moreyball even before there was a term for it. So why should we be shocked Daryl Morey be interested in bringing him in? He fits what he likes to wants to run. The problem is, Kevin McHale played Moreyball, and the only time it really and truly paid off for the Rockets was when they teamed it with great defensive play.
Over the past two seasons, the Rockets brass has seen what works and doesn't work. For D'Antoni to be a real contender to be the Rockets next head coach, it means they are embracing the side that doesn't work. For all the complaints people had about J.B. Bickerstaff, he tried to get the players to play defense. You could hear him during TNT cut-ins begging for them to play defense. It was the players who didn't execute his vision.
Defense works, it's a tried and true formula that goes back to the beginning of time. If you aren't going to bring in and fully back a head coach that demands defense, why would you expect the players to go out there and play defense if they aren't already?
Yes, seeing the Rockets score 115-120 points a game will be fun. But the Rockets proved defense and offense can be fun too and win games.
Maybe Van Gundy led the Rockets on and one of the few options left is D'Antoni, but whatever the reason. There are still other names out there, like Frank Vogel and Ettore Messina, who have led or been part of staffs of elite NBA defenses.
Hopefully, cooler heads will end up prevailing and they err on the defensive side, but Wednesday's news is enough to scare even the sanest people.