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Jeff Van Gundy claims Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni is ‘unafraid’ of criticism

Mike D'Antoni, Jeff Van Gundy

The Houston Rockets have been the anomaly franchise in the NBA for the past few years.

Head coach Mike D’Antoni prioritizes floor spacing, perimeter shooting and getting out in transition, three factors that have made the Rockets one of the most high-scoring teams in the league.

The Rockets set the record for most three-point attempts in each of the last three seasons, and they feel so comfortable with their current system they decided to trade center Clint Capela prior to the deadline in order to acquire another wing player (Robert Covington).

While some pundits have questioned whether the Rockets can effectively employ this small-ball strategy in the playoffs, former coach and current commentator Jeff Van Gundy has respect for D’Antoni and co.

Van Gundy iterated the Rockets–from the front office to the coaching staff–stick to their guns regardless of the outside noise (via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle):

“I admire their basketball courage,” Van Gundy said. “They have true conviction. They don’t waffle. They believe in what they believe. And they are unafraid of the consequences or the criticism. That’s when you can coach freely and manage freely.”

It might look weird for fans to see Rockets forward P.J. Tucker consistently lining up against elite big men in the Western Conference, but smaller lineups work for the Rockets.

Houston are 6-2 since Covington joined the rotation on Feb. 6, including big wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz. More notably, the Rockets are averaging close to 120 points per game during this stretch, showing a commitment to surrounding James Harden with shooters while clearing out the lane for Russell Westbrook to attack the basket.

Some fans and analysts might not like this look, but it works for the Rockets, and–as Van Gundy alludes to–they could probably care less how everybody else feels.


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