Mike D’Antoni’s decision to not pursue a contract extension with the Houston Rockets was not exactly a shock, but some were surprised with how quickly it was made. After the Rockets were eliminated from the postseason, D’Antoni didn’t even wait until the team’s plane arrived home to say his goodbyes.
Kelly Iko and Sam Amick of The Athletic published a detailed look at the breakup between D’Antoni and the Rockets. D’Antoni reportedly had not ruled out returning next season after the Rockets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 on Saturday, and he met with general manager Daryl Morey that night. Sources told Iko and Amick that D’Antoni was then expecting a phone call from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta that never came.
D’Antoni was still expecting a call from Fertitta the following morning, but it never happened. The 69-year-old then made up his mind before boarding the team flight home that he would not seek another contract from the Rockets. D’Antoni then called his agent, Warren LeGarie, and told him he could deliver the news while the plane was in the air.
No one knew D’Antoni had made up his mind until he broke the news shortly before the plane landed, according to The Athletic. He informed Morey first, as the two have maintained a close relationship. D’Antoni then delivered the news to the team.
If there’s any disconnect, it is clearly between D’Antoni and Fertitta. Morey seemed to want D’Antoni back, and the coach reportedly had not made up his mind prior to Fertitta snubbing him. Fertitta recently put D’Antoni’s fate in Morey’s hands, but it sounds like the lack of communication from the team owner was a significant factor.
Cassell is an intriguing name and has plenty of experience as an assistant by now. If the Rockets would prefer someone with head coaching experience and ties to the organization, it sounds like they have an option there, too.
The Houston Rockets had some yelling going on in their postgame locker room after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 on Thursday, according to a report.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Saturday that there was “audible shouting” in the team’s locker room after a 110-100 loss to the Lakers to fall behind 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals series. He says there was talk about players bringing better body language and effort.
Some might take such a report to think there is fighting and dysfunction among the team, but that should not be the takeaway.
The loss put the Rockets on the brink of elimination. Airing frustration and vowing to play better and harder in the next game is a natural reaction.
If the Rockets lose to the Lakers in the series, it would mark their third time being eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals in the last four seasons. Two of those series losses came at the hands of the dominant Golden State Warriors.
The Houston Rockets are facing a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Lakers, and one of their players thinks they know the missing ingredient to winning.
Austin Rivers admitted there is no stopping LeBron James and Anthony Davis when they’re playing harder than his team, and the Rockets have to best their intensity.
Austin Rivers: "They got LeBron, probably the best player in basketball, by far, and then they got Anthony Davis. You can't play against that team and those guys play harder than you, too. Then you got no shot. If we're going to beat them, we gotta play harder than them."
Easier said than done. James in particular is not known as a guy who takes plays off, especially at this time of year.
The Rockets have been close in every game, at least at certain points. They have been outplayed when it counts, though, and that’s all that matters. Couple that with unnecessary off-court drama and it’s understandable if frustrations are building.
The Rockets have been without a key contributor in their last two games against the Lakers, as Danuel House remains under investigation for an alleged violation at the Orlando bubble. That may be a big reason why Houston suddenly looked flat after dominating L.A. in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series.
House is being investigated by the NBA for allegedly allowing a female COVID-19 testing official into his hotel room. The NBA has yet to announce a ruling or confirm the investigation, but House sat out Game 3 for “personal reasons” and missed Game 4 on Thursday night. The Rockets lost both games and now trail the Lakers 3-1 in the series.
The Rockets were informed on Tuesday that House and Tyson Chandler — who missed Game 3 but was cleared for Game 4 — were under investigation for potential healthy and safety protocol violations. People with knowledge of the situation told Ben Golliver of the Washington Post that the team was “blindsided” by the decision to force House to sit. There have been no discussions between NBA and Rockets officials and no actual evidence has been presented by the league.
While the NBA has emphasized playing it safe in its attempt to continue preventing the spread of the coronavirus, one source told Golliver the situation would be handled differently if it involved a superstar.
“If it was a star player, there’s no way [the NBA] would handle it this way,” the source said. “They want to make an example out of somebody.”
House has maintained that he is innocent, but the NBA appears to be forcing him into quarantine.
House is a reserve player who has had some big games in the postseason. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in Houston’s seven-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He told reporters last week that he feels he has been “slept on heavily with a pillow and a blanket” and can’t wait to introduce himself to all those who have overlooked him.
Whether House would have made a huge difference on the floor or not, it sounds like the investigation involving him may have thrown the Rockets off their game. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said there was a “lack of spirit” in Game 4 on Thursday night. Russell Westbrook said he had no explanation for why there was no “sense of urgency” for Houston.
Los Angeles Clippers star Lou Williams was forced to quarantine for 10 days in Orlando following his infamous violation, and the league could make a similar ruling with House. If that’s the case, he may not get another chance to play in Orlando.
Notably, Chris Paul, the star guard for the Thunder, is the president of the NBPA.
There was no word yet on the third game of the day between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. However, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that those teams were also leaning toward boycotting.
Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers are leaning toward boycotting Game 5 tonight, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
Mbah a Moute will be returning to a familiar environment. The 33-year-old forward played for Houston in 2017-18, averaging over 25 minutes per game and contributing 7.5 points primarily as a productive reserve. Due to knee problems, he’s only played four games since then, and remained unsigned this year after an unsuccessful stint with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mbah a Moute is most regarded for his versatile defense, as he can handle the perimeter and the post very effectively. For the Rockets, who are at times suspect defensively, that’s a huge plus as they prepare for the Western Conference Playoffs. That’s probably why they were eyeing him even before the league shutdown.
The NBA is gearing up for a return next month, and the expectation is that we will have playoff basketball. As the Western Conference’s elite teams prepare for the return of the season, we take a look at the most critical question that will define each team’s chances at contending for a championship.
In the interview, Fertitta addressed D’Antoni’s contract status. D’Antoni’s contract is actually set to expire in July, though he is expected to fulfill his duties for the rest of the season. What will his future be after that? Fertitta says it’s up to general Daryl Morey to decide.
“I think I have one of the NBA’s great coaches in Mike D’Antoni,” Fertitta told Feigen. “And I think I have one of the best basketball ops groups, Daryl and his whole team. Personally, I love Mike. But I’m going to leave it up to the general manager. … I surely would like to have Mike back. If Daryl wants to have Mike back, I’m sure Mike is going to be back.”
The Houston Rockets had the Golden State Warriors on the ropes in 2018, and their GM thinks a single twist of fate kept them from finishing the job.
Appearing this week on FS1’s “The Herd,” Daryl Morey referenced Houston’s near-toppling of the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals that year.
“Really just one of the all-time great teams and a hamstring probably kept us from a title,” said Morey.
Morey is referring to then-Rocket Chris Paul, who suffered a hamstring injury at the end of a Game 5 victory to put Houston up 3-2 in the series. Paul missed the remainder of the conference finals, as the Rockets were trounced in Game 6 and then blew a double-digit second-half lead to lose Game 7 at home as well (an affair that saw them infamously miss 27 straight three-point tries).
The shame is that Morey had built almost the perfect team to dethrone the Warriors — a small-ball steamroller with switchable, three-point shooting wings led by dynamic offensive creators like Paul and James Harden and complemented by the interior energy of Clint Capela. The Rockets may have been the better team that year, and Morey sure felt like they should have won.
While Golden State was also without a key piece in Andre Iguodala that series, Houston’s players feel the same way that Morey does. With the Rockets losing to the Warriors in the postseason again in 2019 and having since parted ways with key members of that team like Paul and Capela, that 2018 run might just have been their best crack at a championship.