The Lakers Stun Everyone By Hiring Mike D’Antoni; A Bench Player Blows Up The Heat

By: 11.12.12

Mike D’Antoni‘s offenses work best when they’re taking seven seconds or less to take a shot. If the speed his Phoenix offenses worked at took many off guard when he took over the Suns, the acceleration the Los Angeles Lakers showed in naming him head coach wasn’t far behind, and took even more by surprise. Yes, that’s right: In a late-night announcement, the Lakers have hired D’Antoni to pilot the listing Lakers ship instead of 11-time world champion Phil Jackson. The Los Angeles Times broke the news first, adding that Jackson was asking “for the moon” to return, demands that included control over personnel decisions much like Pat Riley has in Miami, in addition to travel restrictions because of recent surgeries. D’Antoni will come with a similarly bum knee — replacement surgery is expected to keep him out of actual sideline duty for a couple weeks — but at a lower cost: $12 million guaranteed for three seasons, with a fourth season as a team option. (Side note: His agent, Warren LeGarie, is having quite the week: He’s the agent for deposed Lakers coach Mike Brown, too. Also, that’s half of what D’Antoni’s four-year contract to coach the Knicks was worth.) Despite Mike Dunleavy‘s interview Sunday with the Buss family and Laker management, L.A. chose D’Antoni seemingly the moment they couldn’t get right with Jackson’s contract Phil-osophy. … So now the question becomes, can the Lakers actually implement D’Antoni’s system that led Phoenix to the ’05 and ’06 Western Conference Finals with its current roster? Steve Nash, once healthy, is an obvious ‘yes’ for his ability to lead this attack once again. Kobe Bryant never hid his disdain for the 2004-08 Suns but has publicly praised D’Antoni, whom Bryant idolized growing up watching him star in Italy, wore No. 8 in L.A. because of him, and has been coached by on two Olympic teams. He’ll do fine, but he’s more of a floor-clogging guard than there ever was in Phoenix, which thrived with perimeter-only shooters. Metta World Peace is still capable athletically but isn’t a burner running the lanes. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard? They’re superior to any other inside duo in the NBA but in a system this fast we’re not sure how they fit on the court at the same time together. … Meanwhile P-Jax gets to play the “you can’t afford me” card. It’s been said he wants to get back into the NBA, but it’s hard to blame him for driving such a hard deal. For one, is any coach more deserving of nearly ultimate control? Two, he didn’t end on wonderful terms upon his last retirement from L.A., and thus probably enjoyed seeing the Lakers come running back to him. Sure, he didn’t get it, but so what? In the NBA, it’s about what you’ve done for me lately. Five titles wins cachet in L.A., but doesn’t bulletproof himself from the insane demands that job requires every single year. He played his hand, it backfired, and he moves on for the next opportunity. If he truly wants back in, someone will hire the best coach in NBA history. … Hit the jump to hear about Boogie Cousins’ run-in with the NBA law. …

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