Mike D'Antoni
Mike D'Antoni argues with referee Kevin Cutler (34) during the first half of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. Reuters/ Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Mike D’Antoni came into Houston with plenty of intrigues. He was last seen as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014, a coaching stint that never really got off the ground.

When he was named the new head coach of the Houston Rockets earlier this year, most didn’t really care. It would be another experiment to see if his vaunted high-octane brand of basketball would work, and so far it has. Proof of that is the Rockets' 2017 NBA playoffs run.

The Rockets took the Western Conference by storm, finally holding a position that critics expected from them the last couple of years. James Harden finally found a coach he could work well with, and the result is a streaking ballclub who has the chance to make it all the way to the NBA finals.

It remains to be seen if the Rockets can go that far in the 2017 NBA playoffs. Judging by how the Rockets are playing, they have a good chance as other teams like the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mike D’Antoni deserves plenty of credit for whipping up the Rockets to the team it was supposed to be. Harden continues to carry the scoring cudgels but his game now includes contributions to passing and rebounding. Most still see him as a ball-hog but the “Bearded One” has evolved into a complete player, with most failing to notice it.

Compared to previous stints, D’Antoni reflected on why his system failed to work in Los Angeles. In an interview with Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, he singled out how he had to deal with injuries and stubborn players. The 65-year-old coach didn’t mention any names though most who lived to see the Lakers at that time can probably see who he was referring to.

The Lakers had big names at that time. Aside from resident superstar Kobe Bryant, other players D’Antoni had to deal with included Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Steve Nash was also on that team though he hardly qualifies under the “stubborn” jab. The D’Antoni and Nash partnership goes way back to their Phoenix Suns days.

D’Antoni has a point considering the system of a coach does not always sit well with players. It was a dark moment he had to deal with, severely affecting his credibility. Rockets GM Daryl Morey took the chance and the gamble is now paying off.

Mike D’Antoni is a leading candidate for the NBA Coach of the Year award for his work with the Rockets. It will be his second one (the first coming in 2005). Right now, ruling the western conference and getting farther the 2017 NBA playoffs is what D’Antoni may be targeting – icing a successful coaching return with a trip to the 2017 NBA Finals.