Around the World (Wide Web): D’Antoni’s Hire Sparks Debate

Darius Soriano —  November 13, 2012

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los AngelesWith the hiring of Mike D’Antoni complete, the Los Angeles Lakers now have had as many head coaches (three) as they have wins through the first seven games of the season. However, Dwight Howard said after practice Monday that the turbulent times and 3-4 early record will only benefit the Lakers in the long run. “It’s not disappointing,” Howard said when asked if he’s been let down by the rocky beginning to the much-hyped start to his career with the Lakers. “Everything happens for a reason. There’s a reason why we’ve been through so much so early in the season. I think it’s good for our team. It’s good for the chemistry. It’s good for us just to show how strong we are as individuals and as a team.” It’s also a good sign for Lakers’ management that Howard publicly signed off on D’Antoni’s hiring Monday, even though the All-Star center said he wasn’t consulted about the decision over the weekend.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN.comPhil Jackson said he told Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president Jim Buss that he had “confidence that (he) could do the job” when he met with them about returning to coach the Lakers on Saturday. Jackson then left the meeting with a hand shake and understanding “that (he) would have until Monday (today) to come back to them with (his) decision.” Jackson was prepared to return to the Lakers on Monday morning if negotiations between his agent and the team went well, a league source told ESPN late Sunday night. But before he could do so, Jackson said Kupchak woke him around midnight on Sunday and told him the team had instead signed Mike D’Antoni to a three-year agreement and “they felt (D’Antoni) was the best coach for the team.”

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: The Lakers are 2-0 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff in part because he stripped down the offense — Kobe Bryant called it “pick-up basketball” But in that offense the Lakers spaced the floor well, made passes and got good looks. As a team they made good decisions and Bickerstaff praised the Lakers for this after the game. (The other factor for being 2-0 was soft competition.) For the same reason Bickerstaff had success Mike D’Antoni could work as the new head coach of the Lakers — his offense is not overly complex and is about attacking, spacing and getting easy buckets. It’s about playing on instinct. It’s an offense that is going to be hard to stop because the Lakers key players can all pass. We saw it in the Lakers win over the Kings — Dwight Howard feeling the double team in the post and whipping a pass to Metta World Peace on the weak side for a wide-open corner three. We know Steve Nash is a fit, Kobe Bryant fits in any offense and D’Antoni will love a complete player like Pau Gasol.

From Bill Plaschke , LA TimesIn the final minutes of practice Monday, the Lakers were playing a pickup game. The rich and gifted athletes were running up and down the gym floor like chaotic children on a playground, gunning and fouling and arguing. They were playing like a team without a coach or a vision, which was appropriate because, at that moment, they had neither. Has it really been less than three years? Was it really just June 2010 when they experienced one of the greatest triumphs in franchise history with a Game 7 NBA Finals victory over the Boston Celtics? Have they really fallen this far, this fast? Less than three years ago, the Lakers were in the discussion of the greatest franchises in the history of American professional sports. Today, they are a drifting, dysfunctional mess. Less than three years ago, Jerry Buss was arguably the best sports owner ever. Today, his declining health, combined with his decision to delegate his power to curious son Jimmy, has left the Lakers looking uncertain, unsettled and increasingly unstable.

From Zach Lowe, Grantland: But a coach can only work with the players on hand, and the Lakers’ roster brings some structural issues — largely outlined here — that were going to challenge whomever the team named as Mike Brown’s in-season replacement. In a shocking reversal, they’ve chosen D’Antoni’s spread pick-and-roll system over the triangle and Phil Jackson, whose salary demands and requests for broader organizational control were apparently too much for the Buss family, per the Los Angeles Times and others. Inking D’Antoni to a three-year deal, with an option for a fourth season, may also be a signal that the Lakers believe his style is a better fit for the only pieces — Steve Nash and Dwight Howard — on the books beyond 2013-14, assuming the Lakers convince Howard to re-sign this summer on a max deal. The other stars, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, are Jackson acolytes and triangle wizards, and Jackson’s 11 rings stand as evidence he may have been the very best choice for the 2011-12 Lakers. If D’Antoni was a second choice, he stands as a very fine one. You know his history with Nash. Those Phoenix teams were not just great offensive squads; they were some of the very best in basketball history. D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant are tight dating to Bryant’s childhood years in Italy, where D’Antoni was an elite player, and now to D’Antoni’s work as a longtime Team USA assistant. Howard may be the most efficient pick-and-roll big man in the world, and the Lakers will now build their offense around Howard and perhaps the greatest pick-and-roll point guard in NBA history. That will drive Bryant into a secondary role, but he has already shown that he can thrive finding easier buckets as an off-ball cutter and post-up beast against weaker defenders. Pau Gasol will find his spots, because he’s Pau Gasol and that’s what he does — all while making everyone else around him better with his next-level passing.

From Kevin Ding, OC RegisterOnce you cut through the mind-bending drama of the Lakers really saying no to Phil Jackson after he brought them five championships in a 10-year span, this boils down to one simple thing: The Lakers see greatness in Mike D’Antoni, too. From the beginning Friday, the Lakers were torn between Jackson and D’Antoni, inclined to believe that D’Antoni might really be the better fit for this team going forward. Only a fool would doubt Jackson’s proven greatness, however, and it’s patently obvious that the atmosphere surrounding the Lakers now upon signing D’Antoni is not the “We’re back” bravado that would’ve roared in with Jackson’s return. D’Antoni’s Lakers will have much to prove – which isn’t all bad. One of the risks involved with Jackson, Part III, was that it has been done before and done before that. Even if Jackson’s mouth was said to be watering at the prospect of returning to coach Dwight Howard, the consistent weakness of Jackson’s Lakers teams was entitlement that often tipped over into complacency.

From Ian Thomsen, Sports Illustrated: The hiring of D’Antoni makes sense for now and for the future. The Lakers should be able to pick up his offense in relatively little time because it was made for Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol should thrive in it and it will create easy baskets for Dwight Howard in transition as well as in the half court. While the Suns won by keeping the middle wide open, D’Antoni has always wanted to develop a style of play around a dominant big man who could also anchor the defense — after all, he asked the Suns to acquire Shaquille O’Neal in 2008. The Lakers’ bench is going to look more impressive under D’Antoni because open shots will be created for players who are capable of making them — Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Chris Duhon and even Darius Morris. Think about how Raymond Felton looked like an All-Star and how Shawne Williams (now seeking employment in the NBA) looked like a keeper while playing for D’Antoni in New York. D’Antoni has a longstanding record of making a half-empty glass look half-full.

From Ben R, Silver Screen & RollWith the entire basketball universe expecting Phil Jackson to reunite with the Lakers and lead them to another championship, that the Lakers took a sudden about face and went with arguably the next best candidate in Mike D’Antoni is, needless to say, a massive surprise. As such, it behooves us to get the elephant in the room out of the way first in that Phil would have been a spectacular hire. The players believed in him, we thought that Phil and Steve Nash could have found a happy medium between the triangle offense and Nash’s traditional domain, and he would have constructed a system that brought success to everyone involved. But make no mistake: D’Antoni is no slouch in this department either. After going through the paces in implementing an offense many feared would restrict Nash’s talents, the Lakers are going with one that unambiguously uses them to their fullest capacity. Under D’Antoni’s auspices, we can expect Nash to beNash once more, and this was what excited the imaginations of Laker fans when we obtained him this past July.

From Vincent Bonsingnore, LA Daily NewsI probably took 50 or more calls from friends and colleagues Friday in the hours following Mike Brown’s dismissal as head coach of the Lakers. I could fund a weekend trip to Las Vegas if I had a dollar for each time I argued in favor of Mike D’Antoni as his replacement over Phil Jackson. I even expressed that sentiment in a column Friday shortly after the Lakers fired Brown, my instincts telling me D’Antoni would better fit the Lakers’ needs for a long-term commitment and an offensive system that enables their current roster rather than disables it. But every time I heard Lakers fans chant “We want Phil!” during games against Golden State and Sacramento this weekend, I cringed thinking the Lakers might cave under pressure and pull Jackson out of retirement to come save them.

-Ryan Cole

Darius Soriano

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