Los Angeles Lakers are Mike D’Antoni’s problem now
By Tracee Hamilton,
Surely we have better things to do with our hands than wring them over the fate of the Los Angeles Lakers. The boo-hooing that began when the Lakers lost their first three games crescendoed to a caterwauling when they were 1-4 — with the lone victory coming against the wretched 0-7 Detroit Pistons.
During this trying period for the nation, we were subjected to daily film clips of an unhappy Kobe Bryant. No one wants that, if only because everyone is sick of seeing an unhappy Kobe Bryant, including Lakers management. The Lakers had appeased the mighty one by acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard during the offseason, but the offerings were not enough. One more was needed.
Paging Mike Brown. Mike Brown, please call your agent.
Mike Brown, Mike Brown. Why does that name ring a bell? Oh, sure, he was the guy LeBron James didn’t like in Cleveland. So he was fired after taking the Cavs to the Eastern Conference semifinals just three seasons after a trip to the NBA Finals. The grateful James then left for Miami.
James and Miami are relevant to the discussion for more than just James’s history with Brown. The Lakers’ slow start was reminiscent of that of the Miami Heat two seasons ago. Remember that? The Heat brought in James and Chris Bosh in a revolting display of dry ice and hubris — and then they got off to a rocky start. There was hand-wringing and celebrating, depending on your point of view about the Three Kings, but as usual, judgments in November about an NBA team’s future was premature.
On Nov. 27, 2010, those Heat were 9-8 after a 106-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and the sky was falling. Yet somehow, they finished 58-24 and made it to the Finals, where they lost in six games to the Mavericks. That was a disappointment to the Heat, of course, because James wanted a ring worse than Gollum. But anyone watching that series knew the Heat were very close. And they were. The next June, they won their first championship.
But the Lakers weren’t that patient. Maybe it’s because they didn’t hold a cabaret-like unveiling in which Nash appeared in a puff of smoke and Howard had a TV special — although the coverage of Howard’s quandary at times seemed like a TV special. Maybe it’s because they’re the Lakers.
In any case, at 1-4 they fired Brown last Friday, which brought immediate results — wins over Golden State and Sacramento. After trying to bring back Phil Jackson, the Lakers turned to D’Antoni, who was a star with the Knicks until he wasn’t.
D’Antoni takes over a 3-4 team. That’s right, 3-4. Quelle horreur! Wizards fans, raise your hands if you’d like to be 3-4 right now. Let’s see, one, two, three . . . okay, every one of you. Thanks. You may put your hands back over your eyes and continue your weeping now.
Weep not, however, for D’Antoni, who got a three-year deal worth $12 million after Jackson had the temerity, a source told the Los Angeles Times, to ask “for the moon.” Well, why not? He has more rings than fingers. More importantly, he has Bryant’s seal of approval. And that’s really the secret handshake to the Lakers’ locker room.
“They know how I feel about Phil,” Bryant told the Times. “They know how I feel about D’Antoni. I like them both.”
The Lakers, interestingly, called D’Antoni the best coach for the team “at this time.” (In other words, Mike: Rent, don’t buy.) Nash was more enthusiastic about the news because he played four seasons for D’Antoni in Phoenix, winning two MVP awards.
“Obviously, I think everyone knows how much I love Mike,” Nash said. “If he were the coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well.”
The seamlessness will have to wait. D’Antoni won’t take over right away, because he had knee replacement surgery earlier this month and hasn’t yet been cleared to travel.
By the time he is, perhaps the Lakers already will have worked out the kinks, just as the Heat did two years ago, and will be playing Laker-like basketball again. Chances are, the Lakers will have a winning record by the time D’Antoni makes it to the bench. And he’ll have something like 85 percent of the season remaining to get the Lakers back to where the Lakers think they ought to be, because let’s face it, it’s a long season.
It’s particularly long when you have to listen to all this whining.
For Tracee Hamilton’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.