Why Your Business Should Play Like The NBA's Houston Rockets

Is it time to apply James Harden and the Rockets' offensive principals to fuel your business?

Is it time to apply James Harden and the Rockets' offensive principals to fuel your business?

If you have energy, you run the floor, you cut at the right times, the ball will find you and you’ll have a career-high.
— Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets Head Coach

The NBA's Houston Rockets, who finished with the best record in the league and who many believe were a healthy Chris Paul away from defeating the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, are a model of basketball success.

Watching the Rockets play is a joy. At times, it feels like you should be watching with a video game joystick in your hand. Their style of play is proliferated with high-speed pull-up three-pointers in transition and lobs at the rim for dunks. To the casual basketball fan, it feels like the Rockets care only about making highlights than winning basketball games. 

D'Antonio with Rockets' All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and James Harden

D'Antonio with Rockets' All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and James Harden

Don't tell that to their head coach Mike D'Antoni, who has spent over half his life finding loopholes and analytical hacks in the NBA game to perfect his system. The result:  D'Antoni is regarded as one of the most successful NBA coaches of the past 25 years.

For a full understanding of D'Antoni's basketball philosophy, read Jack McCallum's book Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns, written by McCallum after spending a year with the Phoenix Suns in 2005-06 when D'Antoni was their head coach.

DiAntoni's core offensive element is energy. He believes the ball will seek out energy on the floor. If the offense lacks energy the ball will remain stagnant. Players without the ball will stand around and watch their teammate with the ball dribble. As a result, the defense has the advantage, able to close at quicker speeds, lock down, and force a bad shot.

The ball will find energy. I believe in the business, especially service-based businesses, the same principals apply. If your business exudes energy, the consumer will find you. Without it, your services becomes stale, lack focus and your customers will start heading for the exits.

But energy alone didn't lead the Rockets to a 65-17 record and a #1 seed in the playoffs and it won't for your business. It takes talent, precise execution, constant adjustments and players (employees) understanding their roles to create the energy needed for success.

While at times it looks as if the Rockets are playing without structure, everything they do has a purpose. Every detail has been worked on tirelessly in long practices and late-night film sessions. 

Just look at D'Antoni's views on setting picks versus the average pickup basketball player, who view a good pick as making contact with the defender and holding their ground.

For D'Antoni, he treats a pick like a key element in an engineering design.  He believes the emphasis on screen-setting is not about the action itself. It's about velocity, precision and the definitive result of what you were being asked to do. Will your pick spatially influence the defenders in the play to the benefit the offense?

How many pickup basketball players, or, for business context, service businesses put this amount emphasis on the details? The point is, everything in your business needs to move with high-speed precision and purpose.

When you make a misstep along the way, which we all do, treat it like your opponent scoring a basket on you. Don't dwell on it. Inbound the ball and get up the floor as fast as possible to get your next offensive play in motion.

Don't dwell. Don't ever hang your head. Energy. Energy. Energy.

Treat your monthly executive and all-hands meetings like halftime. Review all your KPIs. What plays are working? Run more of them. What plays are failing? Discard them or make adjustments. How is your team's energy? Who needs a rest? Who's ready to play more minutes?

Use a full-week in mid-year and end of year as your "off-seasons." Deep dive into all the metrics of your business. Review your results. What major off-season adjustments do you need to make? How is the market changing? How can you continue to stay in front of the competition?

Like the NBA, you're going to go through tough seasons. You may lose an All-Star employee to free agency. If you implement a completely new offense, it may take a year to start netting results from the updated playbook.

During this transitional time, focus on maintaining and exuding constant energy. Run the floor. Don't dwell. Always be moving. 

If you're well-prepared, the ball will eventually find your energy and your business, like the Rockets, will enjoy new career highs.