Winds of change in the NBA

Photo Courtesy|Wikipedia
D’Antoni is moving on from Houston

Losing in the playoffs year after year has ramifications

Three men enter; one man remains. I guess that can summarize the events following some way too recognizable playoff losses. It seems like every year the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Oklahoma City Thunder produce solid, playoff-contending basketball teams, but every year they seem to choke in the playoffs.

Despite the strange year, all three of these teams have succumbed to some bitter playoff losses. In the past eight seasons, we’ve seen these three teams combine for a total of 21 trips to the playoffs, and zero finals appearances. In fact, this is the eighth season in a row that we have a James Harden-led Rockets get eliminated short of the final’s series.

The biggest success from these three in the past decade is a trip that the Thunder took to the finals in 2012 that ended in a bitter 1-4 loss to the Miami Heat. Since then, these teams have been good. They haven’t been bad, but they have been great.

This begs the question, what now? What is going to get your organization over the hump?

With the 2020 season over for the Bucks, Thunder and Rockets, it is time to focus on the next one, and each has already made their direction clear.

Of these three, by far the most disappointing has been the Rockets. Their number one player, James Harden, is one of the best in the league, but all he’s been able to produce since joining the team is two conference finals losses to the Golden State Warriors.

However, it’s not the organization ready to make changes after yet another ‘could have been’ season, it’s coach, Mike D’Antoni… or should I say, former coach. D’Antoni announced on Sunday that he will not be returning to coach the Rockets and will go into free agency after his contract expired this season.

D’Antoni was the Rockets coach for four years and had a total of 28 playoff victories and one western conference finals appearance as well as two NBA coach of the year awards in that span. He is already among a group of candidates for the open head coach job with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Another candidate in that group for the coaching job is Billy Donavan. Donavan was fired from his job as head coach after five years with the Thunder. Donavan didn’t get to make his own decision as D’Antoni did.

Donavan’s entire head coaching career has been spent with the Thunder with his first year, the 2015-16 season being his best. His team went 55-27 that year and made it to the conference finals where they, of course, lost to the Warriors. Part of his success that year could definitely be attributed to an all-star duo of Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook.

Since then, Donavan hasn’t had a team under 44 wins and has made it into the playoffs every year. Another team rumored to be looking at having Donavan move into their head coaching job is the Indiana Pacers.

As for the replacements for these two coaches, some names popping up in the Rocket’s conversation are Sam Cassel, Tyronn Lue and Jeff Van Gundy. Replacements for the Thunder are rumored to be considering include Kenny Atkinson and Adrian Griffin.

As mentioned in the somewhat cheesy intro, one important man remains between the three teams in discussion. That man is Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks golden boy from Greece.

Questions arose after another season where Giannis carried the Bucks on his back all the way to the number one seed in the east and the playoffs. Does he want to go somewhere that’s going to put pieces around him? Does he finally want to leave the small, Midwest market for the glitz and glam of New York or Los Angeles?

However, Giannis stated after the semi-finals lose he plans on staying in Milwaukee. On Friday, Giannis and his manager had a sit down to chat with one of the team’s co-owners to discuss the future state of the Bucks.

It sounds like the organization is finally ready to go all-in and surround Giannis with anyone and everything he needs. Luxury tax was a term tossed into the conversation too. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see the Bucks with the championship trophy if they’re able to trick anyone to come live in the Midwest winters.

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