DEFENDING D'ANTONI

Making the case for an unorthodox choice for the next Rockets head coach

Rockets James Harden
Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Rockets are looking for a new head coach. Mike D'Antoni announced he was leaving the Rockets on the plane ride home after the Lakers polished off the Rockets, 4-1, in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Rockets should look for a coach who's innovative and experienced, with a track record of winning, even when his team's front office is known for blunder trades and poor decisions on draft day.

You can stop looking, Tilman and Daryl. I have just the coach for the Rockets. In fact, he's looking for an open coaching position right now. You're going to love this guy. He's coached 16 years in the NBA and has a .560 winning percentage. He did great with his last team, finishing with the highest winning percentage in that franchise's history. Get this, he's been named NBA Coach of the Year – twice!

His name is Mike D'Antoni.

With the ink still wet on his "I quit" to the Rockets, D'Antoni is rumored to be named coach of either the Pacers or 76'ers. Think of it, he's willing to leave Houston for Indiana or Philly. Has D'Antoni forgotten that the NBA plays most of its season in winter? The average high temperature in January in Indiana is 34 degrees. At night it goes down to 18 degrees. That's nippy. Philly isn't much better, the average high is 41, low 28.

D'Antoni would rather shiver in Indiana or Philly than soak up the sun in Houston. He'd rather eat a crappy Philly cheesesteak than our world class barbecue and Tex-Mex. I have no idea what they eat in Indy. Does he know that Blue Bell homemade vanilla isn't sold up north?

Maybe D'Antoni considered the Rockets returning roster for next season. The team's top three scorers (James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon) are on the down side of 30. The defensive stopper (P.J. Tucker) is 35.

Over his 16 seasons, D'Antoni coached in Denver, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles and Houston. His teams have an overall 672-527 record, a .560 winning percentage.

Los Angeles Clippers reserves Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell set an all-time NBA records for two players coming off the bench this season. Harrell won the 6th Man award this year. Williams won it the previous two seasons. Pat Beverley is a defensive maniac. Chris Paul is still one of the best clutch shooters in the league. Clint Capela, Gerald Green, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and more. What do they all have in common?

The Rockets traded them away or let them walk. Oh yeah, throw a bunch of first-round draft picks in the out basket, too. The Rockets haven't made a first-round pick since 2015.

Fun fact: 18 different players wore a Rockets uniform this year. Not one of them was drafted by the Rockets. You'll hear, that's only because we draft players knowing we can trade them for players we really want. Really? Here's an idea, why don't we draft players we do want?

The Rockets had success during D'Antoni's tenure – three conference semifinals and one conference final, despite the roster's revolving door. The Rockets were 44-28 this season, 217-101 over D'Antoni's four years in Houston. As Larry David would say, that's pretty, pretty, pretty good

Fun fact: let's pile into a time travel machine and turn the dial to 2015-16, just four seasons ago. There is only one player on that roster – James Harden - who still plays for the Rockets. That's why Houston fans shouldn't boo the other team. Some of those guys could be our guys next year. It's not easy for kids to get hooked on the Rockets because the team they cheered for in third grade is mostly gone by the time they're in fifth grade.

Last year, the Rockets traded clutch Chris Paul and two protected first-round picks for Russell Westbrook. Last we saw of Westbrook he was stinking up the Rockets-Lakers series, and trash talking ("You better double me") LeBron James. The Rockets were down 29 points in the fourth quarter at the time. LeBron just laughed, the reaction most people have when watching a clown act.

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Justin Verlander will start for the Astros on Friday night. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros (22-28, third in the AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (21-31, fourth in the AL West)

Oakland, California; Friday, 9:40 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Justin Verlander (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 strikeouts); Athletics: Ross Stripling (1-8, 5.19 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 32 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -170, Athletics +142; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Oakland has a 21-31 record overall and a 12-14 record in home games. The Athletics have hit 65 total home runs to rank third in the AL.

Houston is 22-28 overall and 8-13 in road games. The Astros have a 13-4 record in games when they did not allow a home run.

The teams match up Friday for the fifth time this season. The Astros lead the season series 4-0.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brent Rooker has 11 home runs, 17 walks and 32 RBI while hitting .286 for the Athletics. Max Schuemann is 12-for-35 with a double and two RBI over the past 10 games.

Kyle Tucker leads Houston with 17 home runs while slugging .638. Alex Bregman is 9-for-38 with three home runs and six RBI over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Athletics: 2-8, .225 batting average, 5.25 ERA, outscored by 27 runs

Astros: 7-3, .272 batting average, 3.13 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

INJURIES: Athletics: Esteury Ruiz: 10-Day IL (wrist), Darell Hernaiz: 60-Day IL (ankle), Alex Wood: 15-Day IL (rotator cuff), Paul Blackburn: 15-Day IL (foot), Joseph Boyle: 15-Day IL (back), Freddy Tarnok: 60-Day IL (hip), Luis Medina: 60-Day IL (knee), Sean Newcomb: 60-Day IL (knee), Aledmys Diaz: 60-Day IL (calf), Miguel Andujar: 10-Day IL (knee), Ken Waldichuk: 60-Day IL (elbow), Trevor Gott: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jose Urquidy: 15-Day IL (forearm), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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