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Mike D’Antoni: Rockets’ season won’t be defined by playoff success

Mike D’Antoni has heard the chatter. The Houston Rockets head coach, however, scoffed at the notion that the team’s season should be chalked up as a failure absent of significant postseason success, up to and including winning an NBA title.

“I read something the other day [that said] sure James Harden should be the MVP, sure Chris Paul and James have been great, sure they set a franchise record [for wins by] about six games’ worth, but they’ll ultimately be judged by if they win a championship or not,” D’Antoni said, via ESPN. “Really? It doesn’t diminish what these guys have done.”

With one game left to play, the Rockets (65-16), already boast the best regular-season record in franchise history — not to mention the best record in the NBA — and enter the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference. And as D’Antoni alluded to, Harden is considered the front-runner for MVP.

The Rockets coach’s above response came when asked how he celebrates the success the team has enjoyed this season.

“So how I celebrate is I enjoy every freaking day I go into the locker room with these guys and go on the court and all the games we’ve won and all the trips we’ve made back from games on the road back [as] winners, that’s what’s enjoyable,” D’Antoni continued. “Now obviously, we would love to celebrate it with a championship, everybody would.”

While D’Antoni presumably recognizes the Rockets’ season will in large part be defined by postseason success, it would appear his comments may have been made to lessen the pressure the Rockets undoubtedly face heading into the postseason. And that would be a savvy move, if that is indeed the case.

The Rockets won’t know who they will face in the first-round of the playoffs until the conclusion of Wednesday’s games. While Houston will of course be favored in that series, it’s been made abundantly clear by the team which squad the Rockets are most eager to face. Although that team’s owner had some thoughts about a potential match-up with the Rockets as well.