Mike D’Antoni ended contract-extension negotiations with Houston.
Now, comes the spin from each side – Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey vs. D’Antoni and his agent, Warren LeGarie.
Randy McIlvoy of KPRC 2 Houston:
I’m just going to tell you what I think from an owner’s perspective, OK? I don’t know what lame dunk means, because he’s under contract. I think his agent did me a favor, OK? Because if for some reason we had a horrible year and thought we needed to make a coaching change. We just got through paying off one of the other coaches, I believe. So, I hope we win a championship and Mike comes and puts a gun to my head, OK?. But, but.
Daryl has told me over and over that Mike is the best head coach that he’s ever had, that he’s enjoyed working with. And he has said that to me on numerous occasions.
Fertitta said D’Antoni was offered a base salary of $5 million with an additional $1 million bonus for every round of the playoffs the Rockets won. That base salary would be a raise from his current contract ($4.5 million).
LeGarie, via Feigen:
“I’d like clear up some inaccuracies that were stated about the offer made to Mike,” LeGarie said. “The reported $5 million is really $2.5 million because it comes with contingencies. One, it’s only $5 million if he makes the playoffs and two, if he is coaching the team at the end of the year.
“If they decide to fire Mike in the proverbial change of direction he gets $2.5 million. If there is an injury or a change in the roster construction, of which Mike has no control, he nonetheless would become a victim of it.”
LeGarie also said the $1 million bonus for each round of the playoffs the Rockets reached in that season would begin with the second round.
It’s totally fair for the Rockets to determine how much they value D’Antoni. They’re not obligated to pay him as much as other similar-quality coaches around the league. Maybe those other coaches are overpaid. Houston can make that value judgement for itself.
But two major questions loom over this situation:
1. Is Houston trying to push out D’Antoni?
That’s the rumor, and Fertitta’s apparent mischaracterization of the extension offer could only increase tension. Everyone insists D’Antoni is fine coaching out the last year of his current contract. But this type of negotiating through the media makes the situation even messier.
2. Will the Rockets perform worse next season because D’Antoni lacks a long-term contract?
James Harden and Chris Paul reportedly have a rift about Houston’s offensive system. D’Antoni might lack the authority to adjudicate, as the star players – who are each under contract several more years – might think they can wait out D’Antoni. Or worse, knowing his tenuous standing with management, players could try undermine him.
So, Fertitta can talk about saving money if Houston struggles next season and wants to fire D’Antoni. But the Rockets might be making that a self-fulfilling prophecy.