There is something kind of sad about how Mike D’Antoni’s Houston Rockets have played over the last few years. Sure, they win games and are as ruthlessly efficient a basketball team as we’ve ever seen, but considering how D’Antoni rose to prominence as the head coach of the beloved Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns, the fact that Houston has been willing to play a slower, more meticulous style of ball is someone unfortunate.
During the 2018-19 campaign, Houston was 27th in the league in pace, in part because their backcourt duo of Chris Paul and James Harden operated best as iso-ball killers. The Rockets, however, turned Paul into Russell Westbrook during the summer, making for a new backcourt partnership. Westbrook loves to get out and run, something that was on display during Houston’s opening night loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
D’Antoni seems happy to let Westbrook push the ball, as evidenced by a quote he gave to reporters on Friday. Apparently, Seven Seconds or Less is a second too fast for him now that Westbrook is in town.
Mike D’Antoni on the Rockets’ pace with Russell Westbrook: “Six seconds or less, baby. We’re working on it.” Houston had 27 fast break points in the opener, matching their most in any game last season.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 25, 2019
While he is certainly known for having a good sense of humor, hopefully D’Antoni is being serious here, because the concept of Westbrook playing at a million miles an hour and surrounding him with shooters is an awfully fun one. With teams playing faster than ever, the Rockets’ approach recently has counterintuitively been to slow things down, but perhaps the injection of Westbrook means that mindset will change and Houston will opt to play faster than anyone.