D'Antoni a great fit for Lakers
NOV 12, 2012 6:20p ET
In fact, Jackson's agent was scheduled to come to Los Angeles to negotiate a contract on Monday. That's how close Jackson came to his third run as the Lakers head coach.
So why jump ship and hire D'Antoni?
First let's give a little background on why Mike Brown was fired.
Brown is a very good basketball coach, but when you take the Laker head coaching job, you either win big or you get fired - there is no middle ground.
He had a perfect storm hit and did not do much to help himself navigate the ship.
Dwight Howard was coming off back surgery and not 100%. Steve Nash had a cracked bone in his leg and will not be back for another week or so. Bryant was playing well but on tired legs that could not practice. The Laker bench was under whelming at best. Add to this the ridiculously high expectations for this team, a winless preseason, a 1-4 start to the regular season; all that adds up to firing your coach within the first few weeks of the season starting.
Brown did not do much to help himself. The Princeton offense, although effective in certain circumstances, was plainly not working for the star-studded Lakers. It is an offense of multiple options and perhaps a better fit for a starless team that needs to equally distribute the ball. But for as much that was made of the ill-fated Princeton offense experiment, it was the lack of defense that really got Brown in trouble. Along with turnovers - almost 100 in four games - the lack of defense shook the Laker championship hopes to the core.
And it certainly did not help that their in-town rivals, the Clippers, have gotten off to such a great start. They are a very exciting basketball team with two huge stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They get tons of positive press and they share Staples Center with the Lakers.
With the Brown early departure, it seemed a given that Jackson would ride in on a white horse to save the day. We may never know what really derailed his third comeback. It may be in his salary requests, although according to Phil's camp no salary had been discussed. It may be an issue of control, although everyone knew each other well and this seems unlikely. It may have been health and the rigorous NBA travel schedule. Ultimately, the Lakers may have decided that the triangle offense just did not fit for this group of stars.
Regardless of the reason - Jackson is not coming back to LA, D'Antoni is.
On the surface, D'Antoni may not seem like the logical choice but as you dig a little deeper, he may come out as the most natural fit.
He piloted the Nash-led Phoenix Suns to 54+ win seasons every year. During this time, Nash was a two-time MVP. So he has Nash's vote.
Bryant idolized D'Antoni as a player, during his youth in Italy. Kobe also played on the gold-medal men's Olympic basketball team in which D'Antoni was an assistant coach. There is a strong relationship, which gives you Kobe's vote.
Howard and Pau Gasol have seen what D'Antoni's offense did for Amare Stoudemire. His pick and roll and star centric offense has revolutionized the way the game has been played over the last 10 years. Howard and Gasol would get the ball a great deal more. They are in.
Although D'Antoni has a reputation for poor defense, it is simply not true. His offense scores a great deal of points and it gives any opposition many more looks at the basket. Distilled down, the statistics show that D'Antoni actually is a very good defensive coach. Nowadays, most head coaches hire a defensive coordinator anyway. Anybody have Nate McMillan's number handy? Nate worked with D'Antoni on the last two Olympic campaigns and has a reputation as a hard nosed, defensive minded coach. Defense taken care of.
D'Antoni is also non confrontational. He is one of the nicest people around and one of the easiest to work with. Those points were not lost on Laker management. He has a proven track record of success and this would be the best NBA team he has coached.
He is under no illusions that this is going to be an easy task and that he must win big.
If not, then see Brown, Mike.
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