The Houston Rockets are entering the All-Star break on a disappointing note after losing at Minnesota on Wednesday, leaving Mike D’Antoni irritated.
Houston lost to the Timberwolves 121-111, failing to close at the end despite making it a four-point game with under two minutes left. They also led at the half but fell behind in the second half.
Following the contest, D’Antoni upset with the team’s energy.
D'Antoni clearly tired of the same energy/intensity issues. "We didn’t come out with any fire. We don’t put people away. We let them hang around. Then they make some 3s. It happened on Saturday. It happened tonight. We have to get a little more enthusiasm about playing a game.”
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) February 14, 2019
On Saturday, the Rockets blew a huge 26-point lead and lost to the Thunder, which is why D’Antoni is talking about his team’s inability to put teams away. That’s a bad trait to have for a team looking to get back to the conference finals — and advance even farther.
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The Houston Rockets were in need of immediate center help for their game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, so they signed Kenneth Faried to join them in time. The timing should have worked out perfectly with Houston also agreeing to trade Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls, but unfortunately it was a holiday.
The trade the Rockets and Bulls agreed to involving Anthony could not be processed on Monday, as the NBA league offices were closed in observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. So, rather than gaining a roster spot with the move, Houston had to cut a player to create space. James Nunnally was the odd man out.
Tough ending for James Nunnally with the Rockets, who lost his 10-day contract because the NBA's organizations, coaches and players were working on MLK Day — and the league office was closed. Rockets needed Faried on court tonight, so Nunnally had to go to create roster spot.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 21, 2019
Nunnally signed a 10-day contract with Houston last week, and he would have been able to remain on the roster if the league offices were open to process the Anthony trade. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was not pleased with the way things unfolded.
Mike D’Antoni is frustrated about how Houston’s roster crunch because the league office wasn’t open today to process the Carmelo Anthony trade cost James Nunnally his roster spot. “It’s not right,” D’Antoni said.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 21, 2019
Of course, the Rockets could make everything right by signing Nunnally to another 10-day contract after the Anthony trade goes through. The veteran guard appeared in two games with Houston and made just 3-of-13 shots from the field, and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports that they have not yet decided if they will bring him back.
D’Antoni is probably just frustrated that Nunnally lost his job — even if only briefly — because of a technicality. The Anthony trade was basically just a financial move for both teams, anyway, and he is not expected to remain in Chicago very long.
The Houston Rockets are among the league’s most disappointing teams this season.
Last season, Houston was one of the surprises of the league after posting the best regular season record and pushing the Warriors to a seventh game in the Western Conference Finals. They were expected to contend again this season, but it hasn’t gone that way.
The Rockets are 10-12 after a 20-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. They’ve already parted ways with Carmelo Anthony. Chris Paul and Gerald Green are hurt, and Nene still hasn’t made his season debut. All of that has resulted in a lack of depth for the team, which head coach Mike D’Antoni finds problematic.
“Obviously, it’s a problem,” D’Antoni said of the team’s depth, via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “It’s something that I know that the front office tried to address. They’re going to do the best they can. No blame going around; it’s just the way it is.”
The Rockets have had to play some of their starters extra minutes, which tires them out.
At this point, Houston needs to avoid falling too far behind the other top teams in the West until they start to get healthier. Then they have to win, which has been challenging for them this season.
Mike D’Antoni may now be coaching a Western Conference juggernaut with 65-win upside in the Houston Rockets, but he still has not forgotten about some events that transpired over a decade ago.
D’Antoni’s Rockets were involved in a fight with the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday that resulted in guard Chris Paul being suspended for two games while Lakers Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram drew three and four games, respectively. Speaking about the suspensions on Sunday, D’Antoni got in a funny shot at former NBA commissioner David Stern. Here is what he said, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic:
Mike D’Antoni on the suspensions: “I’m just glad they didn’t suspend Boris Diaw again.”
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 21, 2018
D’Antoni is, of course, referencing an incident back in 2007 when he was coaching the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semis against the San Antonio Spurs. Game 4 of that series saw Spurs veteran Robert Horry hip check Suns star Steve Nash into the scorer’s table late in the fourth quarter. Boris Diaw and Amar’e Stoudemire, two of Phoenix’s top rotation players that year, left the bench area during the incident and were both suspended for Game 5. The Spurs would then go on to win the series in six games and later swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals to win the championship.
Both the league and then-commissioner Stern drew heavy criticism for the decision at the time. With how the suspensions swung the momentum of the series, possibly robbing the Suns of a NBA title in the process, it’s easy to see why D’Antoni has yet to forget some 11 years later.
Carmelo Anthony certainly doesn’t want to come off the bench, but the Houston Rockets might not give him a choice.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Monday that he has yet to decide if Anthony will start for the Rockets or come off the bench, saying he prefers to wait and see how his pieces best fit together.
Mike D’Antoni is leaving it open on whether Melo starts or comes off the bench: “We’ll see how it fits. I don’t know how they play together, they fit together.”
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 24, 2018
The coach has given some hints on how Anthony will be used, but it didn’t include a promise to start. It’s hard to believe Anthony would accept a bench role, but it’s not clear he has a say in the matter.
The Houston Rockets lost two key players this offseason in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, and some people feel they are bound to disappoint next season after they won a franchise-record 65 games this year. Mike D’Antoni is extremely confident that will not be the case.
When asked recently about his expectations for his team heading into the 2018-19 season, D’Antoni said the Rockets have silenced critics in the past and expect to do it again.
“I think two things. And I don’t want to be snide. They said the same thing when we got Chris (Paul) and James (Harden). And I can see why they said that. (But) they don’t know what goes on, the inner workings of the team,” D’Antoni said, per Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. “And they don’t know 100 percent what’s important and what isn’t important, and where we can not lose somebody and where we can kind of make it up. And I understand that.
“It’s our job to prove them wrong. And we did it for two years now. ‘James can’t be a point guard’ and now, ‘Those guys can’t play together.’ We’ve got one more big step. If we’re going to beat Golden State – which everybody is searching for – you’ve got to take some chances and you’ve got to hope that things hit out and hit that sweet spot. Doesn’t mean it will happen. But I’m confident and I love our guys. And I think the worst we’re going to be is great and hopefully we can take that last step.”
The Rockets are likely going to add Carmelo Anthony in the new future, but opinions have been mixed regarding whether he will be a fit in Houston. Anthony has made it clear that he has no intention of coming off the bench for any team, and it’s tough to imagine how there will be enough basketballs to go around for him, Harden and Paul.
If the Rockets do sign Anthony, we already have an idea of how Las Vegas will feel about the move. D’Antoni, however, thinks it would be unwise to bet against his squad.
It’s safe to say that Mike D’Antoni is looking forward to getting another shot at the Golden State Warriors.
Speaking with the media during an appearance at Houston Texans camp on Saturday, the Houston Rockets head coach spoke on the power balance of the Western Conference heading into next season.
“It was tough before. It’s tough now,” said D’Antoni, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. “I don’t think anybody’s jumped over anybody. It’s just gotten tougher. It’s gonna be exciting.
“The NBA is in a good spot right now. There’s a lot of competition,” he added. “Golden State looked invincible a couple years ago, even last year. They’re not invincible. They have to get their team together also, and we’ll see who can do it.”
D’Antoni has a right to feel confident — the Rockets just took the Warriors to seven tightly-contested games in the Western Conference Finals and might have advanced if not for Chris Paul’s hamstring injury and a historic three-point shooting drought down the stretch of Game 7. But while Houston did re-sign both Paul and Clint Capela this summer, they lost a pair of vital forwards in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, while the Warriors picked up DeMarcus Cousins. The Rockets are also expected to sign Carmelo Anthony in a move that many believe will actually decrease their title odds.
As such, it’s reasonable to question whether the Rockets missed their best shot at dethroning the Dubs. The former Coach of the Year D’Antoni probably thinks otherwise though.