The knock — and it’s not a loud one — on Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t that he’s not a winner. He is. The knock is that he hasn’t won it all. Or more aptly, that the D’Antoni style of basketball isn’t suited to playoff success the way it is to regular season winning. (Lots of great coaches and players fail to reach the promised land — it’s a different criticism that your system is ill-suited to the task.) D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns teams came closest, but couldn’t get over the hump in a hyper-competitive Western Conference that featured formidable Spurs, Lakers and Mavs teams.
The thing is, since D’Antoni introduced his 7 Seconds or Less offense, the Golden State Warriors have won the NBA title running a similar run-share-and-shoot machine. The Warriors just added defense to the mix. This year’s Rockets so far look like they really will compete deep. With the ball in daily triple-double threat James Harden’s hands, D’Antoni’s Rockets are winning. Harden also knows that if D’Antoni hasn’t quite managed a title yet, he has coached point guards to two NBA MVP Awards (Steve Nash 2005, 2006) not to mention enabling Linsanity, a sort of popular vote version of MVP that Jeremy Lin won under D’Antoni in 2011. Harden, who feels that he is the best player in the league, knows that about D’Antoni for sure. D’Antoni knows how to coach MVPs.