The Los Angeles Lakers made headlines this week when they hired Mike D’Antoni as their head coach. Now, that in a vacuum would typically be very well received. D’Antoni ran an offense in Phoenix that produced points at a rate nobody had ever seen before. Steve Nash took two MVP Awards in the prime of Kobe Bryant’s career in D’Antoni’s system. So, of course this should be seen as the perfect antidote for the Lakers’.
Had the narrative been, “Lakers fire Mike Brown then hire D’Antoni,” then Laker fans would be absolutely thrilled to have D’Antoni. However, the Lakers went back to the well. They called the great Phil Jackson and he was interested. But the Lakers turned Jackson down! That shocking turn of events triggered an overreaction by fans and media.
The lack of respect shown to a man with the pedigree of Jackson’s is remarkable. If this was truly a basketball decision, it could have been made without bothering Jackson. They knew exactly what they were going to get with Jackson as the coach so there could not have been any new information gained by going to talk to him. I will never understand why they bothered Jackson, and few will, but that should not detract from the fact that D’Antoni is a great hire.
D’Antoni’s offenses in Phoenix produced these incredible points per game numbers: 114 (’04-’05), 111 (’05-’06), 114 (’06-’07), 113 (’07-’08). He had over 50 wins in each season. The Suns won 26 Playoff Games and haven’t won a series since he was their coach.
Most importantly, he has a similar collection of talent with Nash at the point and an athletic big in Dwight Howard. Kobe Bryant will see plenty of open looks in transition as will Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake.
The Lakers will score plenty and will win enough to satisfy the “Showtime” moniker in Los Angeles. The question will come in the postseason, of course. This team can’t just win 55 games. They expect a ring this season. Howard is headed to free agency unless the Lakers can give him a very good reason to stick around. Can D’Antoni live up to those expectations? He wasn’t able to in New York, but they did have one winning season under him.
The talent on this team exceeds any he has ever had, particularly on the defensive side of the basketball. Howard, as everyone knows, is a monster on defense. Metta World Peace is always tenacious as well. That may make a difference for D’Antoni this time around.
One thing is for sure, the next few months are sure to be a show in Los Angeles.