So much for Phil Jackson. We East Coast basketball fans woke up this morning to a pleasant surprise – the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach. We weren’t the only ones caught off guard. Phil Jackson is reportedly stunned.
The hiring isn’t going over well in LA. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times:
Mike D’Antoni is a great guy and a charismatic presence. If they add some younger and quicker pieces, the Lakers could eventually be wildly fun. But he has even less credibility with players than Mike Brown. He is exactly as one-dimensonal as Mike Brown. And his postseason basketball success makes Mike Brown look like, well, Jackson.
If you want to hire D’Antoni, you give Brown more than five games to get this roster figured out, because the transition time for D’Antoni is going to be long and the rewards are going to be questionable. If you want to hire D’Antoni, you make darn sure this season is trashed first, because there are no guarantees that his system can get any team past the second round.
D’Antoni is a decent NBA coach. He won 60+ games twice in Phoenix and reached the conference finals twice. Steve Nash thrived in his system during those years. Experts say Dwight Howard will excel in D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll sets.
The knock on D’Antoni is defense – he doesn’t coach it. I’m told the Knicks were top-10 in defensive efficiency in his final season. Okay… I still need more convincing.
So while Showtime is coming back to Los Angeles, the questions that surrounded this team with Mike Brown at the helm remain.
Can D’Antoni manage the egos? He sure as hell had a tough time with Carmelo Anthony.
Can D’Antoni handle the pressure? Remember what Magic Johnson said, the Lakers are about winning championships now.
How will the Lakers bench perform? Steve Nash’s health is even more important now that he’s the focal point of the offensive scheme.
I think this hire is a lateral move. The Lakers will be fun to watch offensively, but there will be a drop-off defensively. And there’s no guarantee D’Antoni has the cache to handle this team.