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Rockets and Mike D'Antoni Bet Big on No Bigs

Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni was ahead of his time. Now he's doubling down on his style with James Harden, Russell Westbrook and no center.

Mike D’Antoni is an important figure in basketball history, championship or not. Doubling down on his beliefs in the final year of his contract with the Rockets is just the latest chapter in his storied career.

After trading starting center Clint Capela to acquire Robert Covington, the tallest player who saw the floor in the Rockets win over the Lakers was 6'7". But at least for the night, the space on the court made Russell Westbrook and the rest of the small-ball roster tough to stop.

I’ve always referred to D'Antoni as a basketball philosopher and no one can say he wasn’t ahead of his time. In a way, he was analytics before the numbers, as it always felt like post-ups made him want to throw up. His style helped inspire teams like the Warriors as evidenced by former Golden State assistant Alvin Gentry saying, “Tell Mike D’Antoni he’s vindicated!” when the Dubs won their first ring.

You can’t talk about modern basketball history without D’Antoni, as the coach has been a part of some of the league’s seminal moments, good and bad. From the "Seven Seconds or Less" Suns to Linsanity. To the notable rift with Carmelo Anthony and a failed tenure with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard in LA. Now the man once credited for beautiful basketball is the architect of the much maligned iso offense that turned James Harden into an MVP. 

But with Houston’s latest move, D’Antoni is going back to his roots. And I for one am rooting for him. You’ve gotta respect the belief he has in his vision as the Houston Rockets are betting big on no bigs.

Because even without one, Mike D’Antoni has been at the center of basketball’s evolution. And if he’s gonna go out, he’s gonna do it his way. 

There's already been one book written about him with plenty of material for another one, even without a title.