HONOLULU – Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni smirked as he stood up and twirled his right index finger, signaling to the referees that he was challenging an offensive foul called on James Harden with 2:02 remaining in the second quarter Thursday night.
“In a preseason game?” LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers hollered with a laugh from the other bench.
“Somebody’s gotta be first,” D’Antoni replied.
It was the first instance of a coach utilizing the rule instituted by the NBA this offseason allowing them to challenge a call.
D’Antoni playfully took pride in making history during the Rockets’ 109-96 win over the Clippers at the University of Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center despite the challenge being unsuccessful.
“Mike was saying he wanted to be the first one so he beat me to the draw,” Rivers said. “We were going to have a contest, Mike won. I forgot about it to be honest.”
D’Antoni figured the play was worth challenging because the Rockets were in the bonus, so a reversal of the call resulting in a defensive foul would have sent Harden to the free throw line. He admitted that he wasn’t certain that the call was wrong when he decided to challenge it.
“It’s easy to screw up,” D’Antoni said. “It’s going to be a little adjusting. It takes a while to get used to. We don’t have the regular flow of information that we’ll have in a regular game. They’ll tell me before that I should go out there and challenge.”
Coaches are allowed to use only one challenge each game, regardless of whether the call is changed after the replay review.
D’Antoni and Rivers both said that their teams’ analytics staffs have encouraged them to not necessarily save their challenges for late-game situations.
“You know, it’s going to be something that is going to take a little bit for us to get used to and when to use it,” Rivers said. “My guess is we are going to use it first half, if it’s one of your better players that you think didn’t commit a foul, you may use it to make sure he gets the foul back. Analytically they said we should use it anytime which I don’t agree with that. We’ll see how it goes.”