Mike D’Antoni doesn’t have the best reputation amongst a large legion of Lakers’ fans. He’s the guy who captained last season’s championship caliber roster into the ground; the guy who took Phil Jackson’s rightful place on the sidelines. There’s shades of truth in those beliefs, though they’re also both woefully short of fully describing all the variables that factored into what was one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent memory.
For all of D’Antoni’s faults — both actual and perceived — one thing he is not is oblivious to the struggles last year’s team faced. In fact, in the video above, D’Antoni essentially owns up to many of the mistakes made last year — from trying to play too quickly, to miscasting Pau Gasol as a stretch forward, to relying too much on Nash’s eventual return as the trigger for a turnaround. At the time, as I’m sure he’d admit, there were valid reasons to believe those things would work. Hindsight, however, shows those decisions were faulty.
Heading into next season one can only hope D’Antoni has learned from some of his errors and finds ways to better utilize the roster he has on hand. The roster, of course, has been reshaped and some of the pieces better fit what he’s traditionally liked to do offensively. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he still must account for an aged Nash, a returning from injury Kobe, and a still-best-in-when-in-the-post-Pau Gasol. Finding the balance between his ideal offense and what talent he has on hand will be one of his bigger challenges this off-season.
And while the biggest story-lines are still ones associated with whether the team’s best players can return to form, the one that’s probably most important still revolves around the man calling the signals from the sidelines. Because regardless of how fans feel about him, he’s still the guy with the job and how far this team goes will depend on all the talent on the roster, including the talent of the head coach.