Mike D’Antoni open to change from his usual rotation strategy
NBA coaches will have a lot of adapting to do for the restart of play in Orlando later this summer, and Mike D’Antoni is no exception.
Speaking on Tuesday with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets head coach was asked if he was open to using an expanded rotation when the season resumes due to the potential concerns over fitness and endurance.
“Hell, yeah, if you want to be politically correct,” said D’Antoni. “But with [GM] Daryl [Morey] and data, with how we think gives us the best chance to win, it probably comes down to nine guys. Now, who those nine are they could change, and maybe early we experiment, practice and watch. And obviously you’re also biased about their previous play. So I go in with the notion of how I think it’s going to be. I can change my mind. I don’t want to watch practice or games and think ‘Wait a minute, this guy’s better than this other guy.’
“But realistically, you start playing James [Harden], Russell [Westbrook], P.J. [Tucker], Robert [Covington], and Eric [Gordon], those five you’re going to give a bunch of minutes to,” D’Antoni added. “You don’t want to wear them out, but at the same time, you don’t want to be fresh for October. They’re going to be tired and it’s going to be a grind. It’s going to be something that you have to play through. We try our best to keep them as fresh as we can. But at the same time, that leaves minutes for the other guys. And then it comes down to philosophy.”
D’Antoni’s comments are notable because he is notorious for running short rotations, usually of seven or eight players. That inevitably leads to his top guys playing heavy minutes, especially Harden (who ranks second this season in minutes per game), Westbrook (who ranks seventh), and Tucker (23rd).
While the Rockets players might be better equipped now for huge minutes, D’Antoni’s willingness to expand his rotation should definitely be a plus for their health in an unprecedented and uncertain atmosphere in Orlando.