After promising in the wake of the Rockets‘ elimination from the postseason last weekend to upgrade the team’s roster this summer, owner Tilman Fertitta addressed the upcoming offseason more extensively in a conversation with Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle this week.
Before digging into Houston’s roster or offseason plans, Fertitta made it clear that Mike D’Antoni will return for the 2019/20 season, which will represent the last year of his four-year contract with the club. Typically, an NBA team will sign its head coach to an extension rather than let him enter the final year of his deal as a “lame duck.” Fertitta tells Feigen that while he’s not beholden to that concept, he’s certainly not opposed to the idea and plans to meet with D’Antoni in the coming weeks.
“He’s not a lame duck to me. That’s just a media term. That’s just a media buzzword,” Fertitta said. “Mike is going to be 69 years old (next May) and Mike doesn’t know totally what he wants to do, yet. We’ll sit down with Mike in the next few weeks and talk with him.
“We’re more concerned with making our team better next year. Mike will be here. I like Mike. I think he’s a very good coach. Players like playing for him. I keep being told, free agents want to know who the owner is and they want to know who the coach is. Mike and I do well together. Hopefully, we’ll continue to win and Mike will be here for a long time.”
Here’s more from Fertitta on the Rockets:
- While Fertitta indicates that he’d welcome back the Rockets’ starting lineup, he’s also open to a more “dramatic retooling” and likely won’t enter the offseason with a run-it-back mentality, writes Feigen. “I’ve directed my people to get better next year — anything we can do, from ownership to conditioning and training, all the way to that level,” Fertitta said. “If we can make our team better player-wise, we’re going to make our team better. If we can make our team better coaching-wise, we’ll make our team better.”
- Fertitta made it clear that he has high expectations for the franchise: “We’re here to win. We’re not here to be just OK and make it to the playoffs. We’re going to do whatever it takes to be a championship style team every year. I will make moves to always extend our runway. I’m not a rebuilding guy to go collapse for three years to get draft picks. I want to keep us at as high a level as we can. I have a good management team. We’re in the City of Houston, which is soon to be the third-largest city in the United States so we should always attract our good share of free agents.”
- The Rockets’ owner strongly pushed back against the idea that he directed the team to get out of luxury-tax territory in 2018/19, calling it an “accident” and telling Feigen that he’s “still trying to figure out” how they got under the tax line. “I spend more money on little things than anybody else,” Fertitta said. “I just bought us a brand-new 767 that we’re re-fitting right now. Everybody else just rents planes. I want our players on our plane. And it’s not a 757; it’s a 767. Anybody can have an opinion. You can say I’m a lousy owner. But don’t make a statement when you don’t have any (…) idea what you’re talking about.” Despite Fertitta’s fervent denials, it’s hard to see why the Rockets’ front office would make multiple cost-cutting moves if team ownership was entirely unconcerned with ending up in the tax.
- Fertitta would have interest in signing Eric Gordon to a long-term extension this summer, Feigen writes.
- More from Fertitta on his vision for the organization, via Feigen: “I want us to be tough. I never want to be soft. I don’t like soft ownership and I don’t like soft teams. That’s not my culture. I do want my players scrambling for a loose ball. I’ll set a hard pick in business. I’ll scramble on the floor for a ball in business. I expect them to do it on the court. I’m not saying they don’t. I have a very hard-playing team. But we’re never going to be soft.”