Wow, with one of the most baffling moves, the Los Angeles Lakers hired former New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni, over the “Zen Master” Phil Jackson late last Sunday night. D’Antoni, with a career 388-339 coaching record, agreed to a three-year deal worth $12 million, with a team option for a fourth season. Apparently, the crowd chanting “We want Phil” was not enough to get him hired.
Although there was never any question that the vacant job was between these two coaches, not many, if any, thought D’Antoni would become the next coach. I know I didn’t. The decision has left many Lakers fans scratching their heads after this announcement. All I know is that something fishy was going on that we were not privy to. After Jackson meet with the Lakers on Saturday the 10th, Phil supposedly had until Monday the 13th to render his decision to coach the Lakers or not. GM Mitch Kupchak called Jackson to inform him that they had hired D’Antoni.
The last time he was the Lakers coach, Phil enjoyed a $12.5 million dollar salary along with Presidential Suite accommodations while traveling for road games. This time around, the rumor was that Phil Jackson was “asking for the moon”, wanting a minority ownership in the Lakers for one. His health had to be another concern, as that was the main reason he stopped coaching the Lakers after their disappointing 2010 season (losing to the eventual NBA Champs, the Dallas Mavericks). Other rumors were floating around that their star player Kobe Bryant did not want Phil back. Kobe wants to be the brightest star and Phil would definitely take away from that, just ask Shaquille O’Neal about that. Kobe ran him out of town after they had their falling out back in 2006. O’Neal, the next season, would then go on to join forces with Dwayne Wade in Miami. That ended with the Heats first NBA Championship in franchise history.
What will be the Lakers fate for this year? It is hard to say right now. D’Antoni has said he wants to bring “Showtime” back to the Lakers. I, for one, would love to see that happen. I remember those great Lakers championship teams from when I was in high school, back in the mid to late ‘80’s running up and down the court scoring at will. They were led by Magic Johnson’s, no look passing to James Worthy, or Michael Cooper, with his knee-high socks, draining 3’s from downtown. You cannot forget about the old man Kareem in the middle, with his indefensible signature move, the “Sky Hook”. Fast forward to present day. Can the Lakers reproduce that up-tempo offense? I believe they can. Remember, D’Antoni was most successful as a coach in Phoenix, where he ran an up-tempo offense, led by Steve Nash. Problem was they played no defense, so they had to score 110+ points a game to have a chance at winning! This will not be the case in LA, as he will have Dwight Howard patrolling the middle. Metta World Peace, aka Ron Artest, is also a great defensive stopper. Say what you want about Kobe, but he is still no worse than the 3rd best player in the NBA.
Bottom line: I believe that D’Antoni is the better choice for the Lakers. Showtime could be just what the Dr. ordered for this ailing offense. If the Lakers develop a bench and the starters stay healthy all season long, the Lakers will go far in the playoffs this year.