When Mike D'Antoni was brought in as the Houston Rocket's coach and transformed superstar James Harden into a point guard, everyone only talked about offense. But despite not being known for their defense, both Harden and D'Antoni are leading the Rockets to be more committed on the defensive side.
Sporting News reports that this is the first D'Antoni handled team that is at least talking about stopping other teams. Harden is even showing his commitment this season by at least trying to play defense.
Veteran NBA Assistant and the Rockets' defensive coach Jeff Bzdelik said Harden is buying into the team's philosophy. He said that Harden personifies what the Rockets are trying to do on both ends of the floor. Harden said that the team needs to bring intensity every single night, regardless of who they play. He adds that defensively, they also need to be locked in.
The Rockets' 13-year veteran small forward and one of their top defenders, Trevor Ariza said that he understood they're going to be scoring more points when D'Antoni was hired. But one of the first conversation he had with the coach was "to play on both ends."
"Those were his first words when he called me up after getting the job," Ariza said. He adds that D'Antoni said their offense was going to work as they have a lot of shooters on the team, it is on the defensive end that they need to work on.
This is something that you don't usually hear from teams like the Phoenix Suns, the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers when D'Antoni was their coach. When he was the coach of the Suns, D'Antoni doesn't seem to be bothered that they gave up 43 points to the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter of a game 1 loss in the 2005 Western Conference finals, saying that they just "ran out of possessions."
But his experience with the Knicks and the Lakers taught him that his offense can only take the Rockets so far. D'Antoni's commitment to defense is evident in a recent Rockets win against the Washington Wizards.
Daily Mail reports that the D'Antoni said the Rockets need to iron-out their defense following their 114-106 win over the Wizards. The team surrendered 30 points in the first quarter and 36 in the third.
D'Antoni said that the team needs to smooth out its defense and keep working on it. He said they had two good defensive quarters and two bad ones. Hearing D'Antoni talk about defense is something that people have to get used to. It's a start but it will take more than that to prove his critics wrong that a team he coaches can't produce stops.