Wolves reserve forward Jordan Hill played for Mike D’Antoni in both New York and with the Lakers in Los Angeles. Those stops weren’t the most successful in D’Antoni’s long career. But even then, Hill was amazed at the way D’Antoni could coach offense.
“He’s an offensive genius,’’ Hill said. “He knows how to get points on the board. He loves shooters. He loves three-point shooters, and Houston has a lot of them.’’
The right coach at the right time.
Houston’s decision to hire D’Antoni last summer was criticized by some. But he brought the Rockets to Target Center on Wednesday at 31-9, the third-best record in the league. During his time in Phoenix, D’Antoni had a plethora of three-point shooters surrounding point guard Steve Nash. In Houston he has high-scoring, triple-double machine James Harden running another offense full of long-range shooters.
D’Antoni is also is a leading name in conversation for NBA coach of the year.
“Oh, certainly, yeah,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The way their team is playing. Mike’s been around. He’s a terrific coach. He’s got a style of play. And their personnel fits it. They’ve always been a high-volume three-point shooting team; last year, probably, didn’t reflect who they are. They had a number of injuries.’’
Last season the Rockets limped into the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs at 41-41. There are a lot of contenders for coach of the year. Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City, Steve Kerr with Golden State and Dwyane Casey in Toronto. But D’Antoni — who had his team on a nine-game winning streak entering Wednesday’s game — is likely high on any list.
“Look at his time in Phoenix,’’ Hill said. “He had everything he needed there, too. And look what happened.’’
It was a good merger of a general manager, Daryl Morey, who strove to build this type of team, the personnel on the roster and a coach who helps make it go.
The Wolves basketball operations staff grew with the hiring of Dwight Lutz and Nick Restifo as analysts. Thibodeau talked about how important analytics are becoming in the league.
“There is a lot we’d like to do with that,’’ he said. “I think it helps in your decisionmaking. In all areas, too. It’s not just draft. It’s free agency, trade possibilities, game-planning. Just about everything you’re doing.’’
Thibodeau said the staff could continue to grow.
“In the last 10 years, with analytics, technology, the sports science, it has created more jobs,’’ he said. “And we, certainly, would like to be at the top with that. … I love where we’re going with it. And I love where the league is going. It’s made it really interesting. And I think the game reflects that.’’
Getting it right
For those of you watching the Wolves-Dallas game on Monday wondering why Justin Anderson wasn’t given a flagrant foul II for hitting Wolves guard Kris Dunn in the head? The league agreed. The foul occurred with 10:45 left in the second quarter Monday, and was ruled a Flagrant Foul I. But the league upgraded it and has fined Anderson $25,000.
Zach LaVine missed his second game of the season, this time because of a left hip contusion. Brandon Rush replaced LaVine in the Wolves starting lineup. Rush finished with 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, including three three-pointers, with three steals and two blocks.