Mike D'Antoni Compares James Harden to Former Point Guard Steve Nash

Michael Shapiro

Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni sat down for an interview with former Suns point guard Steve Nash on Thursday, and the pair dove into their old Phoenix days, Houston's three-heavy system and D'Antoni's admiration for James Harden. 

D'Antoni was Phoenix's head coach from 2003-08, guiding the Suns to four 50-win seasons alongside Nash. The duo changed the NBA with their famous seven-seconds-or-less style, but fell short of claiming the Western Conference crown in their five seasons together. But D'Antoni didn't pin the Suns' playoff exits on their unique strategy. Instead, he wished Phoenix had pushed it even further.

"Every voice said you cannot do that, you cannot win. The reason we didn't win [is] we didn't go far enough," D'Antoni told Nash in a TNT interview. "We would have been Golden State before Golden State." 

Nash won a pair of MVPs as D'Antoni's lead ball handler in 2005 and 2006. 12 years later, James Harden became the next player to win MVP with D'Antoni. Houston's head coach heaped praise on Harden in his discussion with Nash on Thursday. 

"There is no way anybody is better offensively," D'Antoni said. "It's ridiculous. He is super efficient."

D'Antoni's success with Harden has mirrored his run with Nash. The Rockets are on pace for their fourth straight 50-win season in 2019-20, though they still haven't won the Western Conference in the Harden era. So who would D'Antoni choose between Harden and Nash? The answer is simple. 

"That's easy, James Nash," D'Antoni said. 

Nash's playing days are behind him, but D'Antoni could reach the Finals with another superstar point guard this season. Russell Westbrook has been dominant since the calendar turned to 2020, averaging 33.1 points and 7.4 assists per game. 

D'Antoni and the Rockets enter the All-Star break fifth in the West at 34–20. They'll return to the floor on Feb. 20, facing the Warriors in Golden State.