76ers Rumors: 'Rumblings' of Mike D'Antoni to PHI Have 'Gotten Much Louder'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2020

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni yells at the officials during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Philadelphia 76ers' stagnant offense may be getting an infusion of innovation. 

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported rumors of the Sixers' interest in Mike D'Antoni have "gotten much louder" over the last 24 hours. D'Antoni is among the candidates expected to interview with the franchise this week as it looks for a replacement for Brett Brown.

Tyronn Lue is also expected to interview, and the Sixers were considering Billy Donovan before he agreed to coach the Chicago Bulls, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.

D'Antoni spent the last four seasons with the Houston Rockets, reaching at least the conference semifinals in every season and coming within one game off the Finals in 2018. The Rockets had interest in bringing D'Antoni back, but the veteran coach chose to leave the franchise amid a rocky final season. D'Antoni and Houston had ugly, public contract negotiation talks last summer before failing to reach a deal, and the relationship never quite seemed to recover despite positive public comments.

The Indiana Pacers are also expected to pursue D'Antoni after firing Nate McMillan, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

D'Antoni's fit with the Sixers roster is anything but seamless. The coach has long preferred an uptempo style with three-point shooters on the wings. The Sixers have...the opposite of that. There may be no roster in the entire NBA more at odds with the trends of modern basketball.

While it's beyond intriguing to consider the heights Ben Simmons could reach in a wide-open, transition-heavy system, the opposite could be said about Joel Embiid. Traditional centers have never thrived under D'Antoni, nor has he much preferred to use them. Embiid has a willingness to shoot the three and passing skills that could intrigue D'Antoni, but a gazelle who can sprint up and down the court he is not.

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If D'Antoni takes the job, it's likely he will have to make adjustments to his preferred offensive system—something he showed a willingness to do in Houston. Recognizing James Harden's brilliance in isolation, no team ran more isos than the Rockets over the last three seasons, per NBA.com, a stark contrast to the whirring ball movement D'Antoni loved in Phoenix. Houston also willingly slowed down its pace when Harden was paired with Chris Paul while maintaining elite offensive efficiency. 

Even in those instances, though, the Rockets maintained a high-rate of three-point attempts. The Sixers are not equipped to take those shots as currently constructed, so a D'Antoni hiring would likely see both the team and the coach make some changes.