Mike D’Antoni says he does plan to stagger Russell Westbrook, James Harden some
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are going to both start for the Rockets this season, and they will both close games. Obviously.
How much time they play together in between has been a topic of discussion. The two ball-dominant, isolation-heavy players are not a natural fit together, so how much is coach Mike D’Antoni going to stagger them so they can both get touches and dominate for stretches.
At least some, D’Antoni himself said in Japan this week, where the Rockets are playing exhibition games. Via Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said after the game that he'll be staggering Harden and Westbrook but will always try to have two of Harden, Westbrook and Eric Gordon on the floor this season.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) October 10, 2019
Last season the Rockets were +7.1 points per 100 possessions when Harden and Eric Gordon were on the court together (although there is a lot of noise in that number).
D’Antoni’s idea makes sense, keeping two shot creators and scorers on the court almost all the time. Teams will struggle to defend that. Gordon also knows how to play in the halfcourt with Harden and can be part of a more uptempo offense with Westbrook at the helm.
This also is going to be a season-long process, Houston figuring out its rotations with a fairly shallow bench. They also will need to find a way to get both of those players some load management games during the season — neither wants them, but we’ve also seen Harden wear down and seemingly hit a wall in the playoffs, while Westbrook has battled some injury concerns. Both need to be healthy for the Rockets to have a chance.
D’Antoni also is going to have to find a way to get this team to defend at a high level with Harden and Westbrook both on the court. That will be a puzzle they have 82 games to figure out.