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

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. …

Oh yeah, there was a Laker game Sunday night, a 103-90 win over Sacramento. Steve Blake‘s abdominal injury leaves the team’s depth at PG now parchment thin, but when Dwight Howard is going for 23 points and 18 boards, there’s some room for error. Jimmer Fredette had 18 points in only 11 minutes off the bench to lead the Kings and Chuck Hayes (six points, eight boards, five fouls guarding D-12) provided unexpected comedy when all 6-5 of him was shutting down Dwight early by simply stripping him every time Howard brought the ball low before going up for a shot. … There were actually two storylines going on in this game, though. Besides the coaching search that led Laker fans to yell “WE WANT PHIL” so often it was like 1999 and your Discman was skipping, the Kings found themselves in a bizarre situation, too. DeMarcus Cousins confronted Spurs announcer Sean Elliott for comments the latter said about the former’s smack talk about Tim Duncan this weekend when the Kings and Spurs played. Boogie heard about it and went back on the court in full uniform to have a polite discus– nah, argument about it. Now Cousins has been suspended without pay for two games. Just as Cousins is known for his rep, Elliott is known for his pro-Spurs take on everything. We don’t see either guy backing down from his ideological perch in this argument. If you’re Cousins, it’s a knuckleheaded move, an obvious no-no. Still, two games? … Meanwhile, D’Antoni probably would have lost his lunch if he watched the Clippers’ 89-76 win over Atlanta on Sunday. The teams combined to score ZERO fast-break points. Despite the traditional half-court offense, DeAndre Jordan only got eight points after consecutive 20-point nights. … Wayne Ellington went hard like he was back playing in the Smith Center in Chapel Hill to lead the Grizzlies in a beatdown of Miami, 104-86. Ellington had 25 points with seven threes off the pine. That included a back-breaking triple in transition off a Jerryd Bayless block on Ray Allen that was so brutal we felt like a witness to a mugging just watching it. The Heat went small all night, barely playing Joel Anthony off the bench and giving Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis just 34 combined minutes off the bench. LeBron had 20 points, 10 boards and six dimes in the traditional forwards’ stead … Check out Dwyane Wade‘s clean Veterans Day kicks. … It’s early but we’re not sold on the Nets’ killer instinct after last week’s Minnesota meltdown. They were up 20 against Orlando on Sunday but let them come within five points in the second half in an 84-72 win. Kris Humphries had 14 points and 21 rebounds and a nasty follow block on Glen Davis, and Deron Williams put up 17, seven and seven. … Russell Westbrook had 27 points to lead the Thunder in a 106-91 win over Cleveland, and nothing was a bigger highlight than his 32-foot bank shot to beat the third quarter buzzer. It reminded us a lot of his running flip shot against the Lakers last spring, from the spot he took it to the way he did an airplane celebration route. Kevin Durant had 26 points, too. … We’re out like P-Jax’s candidacy.

For breaking news, rumors, exclusive content, and contests sent right to your inbox, sign up here for the Dime Email Newsletter.

Follow Dime Magazine on Twitter

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook