Mike D’Antoni talks Russell Westbrook, lame-duck status at media day
Mike D’Antoni unsurprisingly addressed two key topics during his session Friday at the Houston Rockets’ media day, and the head coach made it clear he’s comfortable where things stand on both fronts.
D’Antoni will be coaching the Rockets during the 2019-20 NBA season with lame-duck status given he’s in the last year of his contract. Set to enter his fourth season running the show in Houston, D’Antoni insists he has no issues with the situation — despite the fact that extension talks broke down twice this offseason — and is “excited” for the season ahead.
Furthermore, both Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta expressed optimism over D’Antoni’s future with the organization, as relayed by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon on Twitter.
Owner Tilman Fertitta: “Everybody tells me that Mike is the right guy for this team. Mike appears to me to be the right guy for this team. … I think he’s a great coach. He’s one of the great offensive minds out there. I truly do not see Mike going anywhere.” https://t.co/RISxYLfixk— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 27, 2019
On the Westbrook front, there has been some skepticism expressed that the Rockets may find it difficult to integrate the dynamic guard into an offense dominated by James Harden. D’Antoni envisions there will be no issues making that happen.
Mike D’Antoni: “We need Russell to be Russell. You don’t want to change him. He’s an MVP.”— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 27, 2019
The pressure undoubtedly is on the Rockets to improve upon their disappointing 2018-19 campaign that ended abruptly after a loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals in six games.
The Rockets’ hope is that Westbrook proves to be a better backcourt partner for Harden than Chris Paul, who was shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for the former MVP. If things go as planned, D’Antoni will have no reason to agonize over his seemingly shaky job security.