Six vs five vs three.
That is one of the biggest arguments used when talking about the Greatest of All Time, otherwise known as the GOAT. While the respective number of championships for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James aren’t everything, considering all three have impeccable stats to back them up, the number of championships do in fact matter.
“I read something the other day [that said] sure James Harden should be the MVP, sure Chris Paul and James have been great, sure they set a franchise record [for wins by] about six games’ worth, but they’ll ultimately be judged by if they win a championship or not,” D’Antoni said before pausing. “Really? It doesn’t diminish what these guys have done.”
This makes the statements from Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni that much more interesting. He definitely has a point when he said that the playoffs wouldn’t diminish a season where the Rockets set a franchise record for wins in a season, and received yet another MVP caliber season from star James Harden. On the other hand, whether they like it or not, this team will end up being judged on what they end up doing in the playoffs.
Chris Paul has still never made it to a conference finals, and he left the Los Angeles Clippers in order to win more games. Just about everyone who watches basketball agrees that James Harden should be the league MVP this season, but if he struggles once again in the playoffs, his overall legacy could be impacted, and he knows it.
“The ultimate goal is holding that trophy up,” Harden said. “So until we do that there’s no celebrations … we haven’t done anything yet.”
The Rockets as a team have only made the conference finals twice since their last championship season in 1994-95 (in 1996-97 and again more recently in 2014-15), as Paul and Harden could be the playing duo they need to get there once again.
Mike D’Antoni needs this as well. He has never been to the NBA Finals, and his last conference finals appearance was part of back-to-back runs when he was coach of the Phoenix Suns in 05-06. He has a solid .550 winning percentage in the regular season as a head coach, but his playoff record 32-38 amounts to a .457 percentage. Up until last season, it had been nine years since his last playoff win. Time will tell if this is the year he finally leads a 60-win regular season team to the Finals.
The Rockets had hoped that bringing in Paul would help ease some of the pressure off of Harden, and it certainly did in the regular season. Houston has the talent to make it all the way, and they’ll likely need to beat the three in a row Western Conference winning Golden State Warriors to get there. If they do end up winning the finals and giving the city of Houston its second championship of the year, history will look a little more kindly on everyone involved.
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Quotes pulled from ABC and ESPN