By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald
The Los Angeles Lakers hired the most logical coach for the job, and no that’s not Phil Jackson.
When the Lakers made the decision to fire Mike Brown after only five games and four losses they made it clear it was time for a change. Many believed the rumors that Phil Jackson, the 11-time champion former Lakers and Bulls head coach was coming back to the sidelines.
The Lakers went in another direction with Mike D’Antoni. What ensued on Monday was an unprecedented ridicule towards a move that actually makes sense.
If you let ESPN tell it, you know the Worldwide Leader in Sports, the Lakers failed miserably by not bringing back Jackson. While we’ll never know all the details it appears Jackson didn’t want to travel to all the road games, some morning shootarounds, and wanted an ownership stake in the Lakers as well as final say on personnel decisions. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Nobody is saying D’Antoni is a better coach than Jackson, but D’Antoni’s system is better for what the Lakers currently have on the court.
During D’Antoni’s time as head coach in Phoenix, his “seven seconds or less” offense turned current Lakers point guard Steve Nash into a two-time MVP and one of the best to ever play the position. In addition, the pick and roll sets Nash ran with Amar’e Stoudemire turned him into plenty of uncontested dunks. What many people are so conveniently not understanding is that the point guard position has no place in Jackson’s legendary triangle offense. In all five championships in Los Angeles, Jackson had Derek Fisher. In Chicago he had B.J. Armstrong, John Paxson and Ron Harper, not exactly Steve Nash.
Also, the top point guard and top forward/center in pick and roll situations last season were Nash and Lakers center Dwight Howard, when you look at it like that it appears this is a perfect fit.
The biggest issue any fan base would have with the D’Antoni hire is that his defense isn’t exactly top notch.
His lack of defense has been greatly overstated by analysts wanting to discredit him as a coach.
The problem with this theory is in Phoenix, D’Antoni had Nash and Stoudemire, neither of which had any interest in playing defense. In New York, he had Stoudemire again, and Carmelo Anthony, another prolific scorer with no interest in playing defense.
When you have a team dynamic where the top players don’t play hard on defense, the rest of the team follows.
With the Lakers, D’Antoni will already have Dwight Howard, the best defensive player in the league, Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace. Bryant has made nine All-NBA first team defensive teams and World Peace has long had a reputation of a staunch one-on-one defender. Howard was the defensive player of the year each year from 2009-2011, and the only reason he didn’t win last season was because he had a back injury that forced him to miss significant time.
Ultimately, D’Antoni will be under a intense microscope that will hang over the entire Lakers franchise all season.
The only way to satisfy all of his detractors is to win the NBA championship at the end of the season. Not even a appearance in the Finals in a losing effort will suffice. D’Antoni knows the stakes, as do the rest of his team.
The season will be non-stop drama in Los Angeles. I like the Lakers chances to win its sixth championship since 2000.
One thing is for sure, the Lakers have the right man for the job.