The Houston Rockets agreed to hire Mike D’Antoni as their next head coach on Thursday afternoon. The move was… interesting. On the surface, James Harden is the primary piece that really fits D’Antoni’s coaching style, and while it is generally good to build around your best player, it is difficult to see how D’Antoni fits with the rest of the team; a team that lacks outside shooters and passable defense. Depending on how the Rockets navigate the offseason, this move could be excellent or disastrous. It seems most are justifiably pessimistic.
More interesting in our lens, though, is how this move affects the Portland Trail Blazers.
From a staffing standpoint, D’Antoni’s hiring means that Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas may be available to join the Blazers after all. Silas had been a finalist for the Houston job, but the Blazers have also been pursuing him to fill the shoes of former assistant Jay Triano, who joined the Phoenix Suns last week. Silas is an asset that the Golden State Warriors covet as well, so there is still much to be decided on that front.
From a player personnel standpoint, D’Antoni’s hiring means Dwight Howard is likely as good as gone. Howard has a player option for the 2016-17 season and can choose to become a free agent if he does not want to stay in Houston. He has not openly stated that he will stay or leave, but after another season with a minimized role and Harden’s toxic attitude, consensus is that he will probably look for his last big contract on the open market. Howard played one season for D’Antoni in Los Angeles, where their relationship could be described as contentious at best.
Portland has been frequently mentioned as a possible free agent destination for Howard, since the Blazers have the need and the cap space to sign a high-level big man. This possibility also comes with mixed opinions but, like it or not, the D’Antoni deal may be the final nail in Howard’s Houston coffin. He will look to come back from the dead on a team with contender potential in the not-so-distant future.
Which, again, could be excellent or disastrous—this time in terms of ripple effect. The Blazers have some offseason navigating of their own to do before we know how they will be impacted by the Rockets' move. Blazers GM Neil Olshey has taken advantage of Houston’s windfall in the past, trading for Thomas Robinson so the Rockets could sign Howard in the first place, so who’s to say he will not at least entertain the idea of double-dipping?