Mike D’Antoni to discouraged Lakers fans: ‘Find another team to root for’

Mike-D'Antoni-LakersThe Los Angeles Lakers will return home to face the Miami Heat on Christmas Day after being blown out in back-to-back road games. Now that Kobe Bryant is expected to miss another six weeks with a fractured knee, the Lakers are looking to form a new identity. And if their fans can’t stick with them while they do that, Mike D’Antoni thinks they should hit the road.

After Monday’s 117-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns, D’Antoni was asked if he has a message for any discouraged Lakers fans.

“If they’re discouraged, then find another team to root for,” he snapped, via Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times. “We’re not going to give up. Are you kidding me? Discouraged? That’s not even fair to these guys.”

The Lakers are 13-15, Kobe is on the shelf again, Steve Nash has not appeared in a game since Nov. 10 and Pau Gasol seems to get more miserable by the day. If role players are unable to step up in a big way, LA will disappear from playoff contention before Bryant even begins practicing again. I’m sure D’Antoni is aware of that, but he was very irritated by the “sky is falling” questions on Tuesday.

“Guys, I mean, it’s like, OK, we lost two road games,” he said. “It takes some adjusting. We’ve got to get somebody healthy. We’ll be back. We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to fight and we’re going to try and stay above .500. We’ve got a nice homestand coming up and if anybody hangs their head, they don’t need to be on our bandwagon.”

D’Antoni was then asked why he didn’t put Nick Young into the game earlier in the third quarter after his 15-point performance in the first half. He gave a very sarcastic response and then ended the press conference.

“I think that was the whole game right there. I screwed that up,” D’Antoni said jokingly. “Are you kidding me? I’ll look at the tape. I mean, maybe. I’m out, guys. I’m done.”

The best way for D’Antoni to show he is not worried about the future of the team would be to not snap at reporters. I guess it’s too late for that.

Mike D’Antoni fires back at Pau Gasol; Lakers hold meeting to clear the air

Pau-Gasol-Steve-Nash-LakersPau Gasol has not been happy with Mike D’Antoni’s offense since D’Antoni became the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol wants the ball in the post. He has been most effective during his career when he can post defenders up and work around the basket, but D’Antoni runs an offense that is not always conducive to that type of play. Gasol complained about that once again earlier this week.

“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he told Bill Plaschke of the LA Times. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity.”

Gasol has played poorly since D’Antoni took over. He does not think that is a coincidence. When asked specifically if D’Antoni’s coaching style and system are the reasons his production has dipped, Gasol was very blunt.

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Mike D’Antoni defends Steve Nash against retirement talk

Steve Nash LakersLos Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash cannot seem to stay healthy. Considering he will turn 40 in less than three months and is in his 18th NBA season, that isn’t exactly a surprise. On Monday, the Lakers announced that Nash will be sidelined for at least two weeks with nerve issues in his back. The veteran also dealt with neck pain during the offseason.

With the Lakers looking about as bad as most of us expected, some have wondered if Nash will ponder retirement. Head coach Mike D’Antoni fluffed some of that chatter off earlier this week.

“We’re not going to debate it or talk about it,” he told reporters, via Mark Medina of Inside the Lakers. “He’s going to try to get ready and try to play. That’s about it. It’s simple for us. If anybody has followed basketball the last 10 years, you would know he is one of the best in the game and the best ambassador of the game. If that doesn’t build you equity, so be it. Then you don’t follow sports.”

Nash may be an “ambassador” for the NBA, but he can’t play forever. He missed 32 games last year with a variety of injuries and it is starting to look like he could miss more this season. Still, D’Antoni seems to think he has more than enough left in the tank.

[Related: Pau Gasol is concerned about Steve Nash's health]

“He’s only (6-foot-3) and one of the best screen setters in the league,” D’Antoni said. “He battles every second. He gets hit, knocked around and he’s always battling something. His back has never been good. He’s in the middle of a remarkable career. You can’t doubt what he’s done. There will always be questions in should he do this or do that. That’s normal. But I’m just happy I’ve been able to coach him.”

Again, I don’t think anyone is doubting what Nash has done. The problem is he came to the Lakers to try to win a championship, and that is very unlikely to happen. Unless Kobe Bryant returns to his 2006 form when he’s done rehabbing his Achilles injury, LA is going nowhere. With that in mind, Nash has very little left to play for.

Mike D’Antoni admits he felt pressure to run offense through Dwight Howard, not Pau Gasol

Pau-Gasol-Steve-Nash-LakersPrior to last season, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the better offensive teams in the NBA. Then they got Dwight Howard. The Lakers were the preseason favorite to win the Western Conference, but things went south in a hurry. Part of the reason for that was they couldn’t score.

During a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, Mike D’Antoni acknowledged the issue of having to run his offense through Howard when the team had been so fluid running it through Pau Gasol in previous seasons. D’Antoni basically admitted he had no choice.

“It was very uncomfortable,” he said. “I knew I was messing on (Gasol) last year. That’s not fair to him. But that was the situation we were in. How do we make the best of it? I was just trying to make the best of it. But no, it wasn’t fair to him.

“I think it was all (politics). It was all that. We wouldn’t do that (normally). If nobody had names on their jerseys, and we were just playing? You go through Pau. There’s not a question. No question.”

Gasol was relegated to a bench role last season before D’Antoni finally admitted that he was wrong to not play both Gasol and Howard. He initially thought his offense would not work with two big men, but it turned out to be more effective when Gasol was on the floor. Even Kobe Bryant sent out some tweets while he was injured about how his team needed to put Gasol in the post and feed him the ball.

The air between D’Antoni and Gasol is supposedly cleared, and Gasol will need to be the player he was before the Howard era if LA wants to stand any chance this season.

“I definitely believe I can do it,” Gasol said. “I know it. I bounced back really well. The procedure went well, my tendons are a lot healthier now than they were before. I have a lot more healthy tissue that regenerated well. I worked hard during the summer to be in the position that I’m in today, and I look forward to just to going out there and doing what I know best.”

With Kobe coming back from a torn Achilles’ and Steve Nash nursing a number of injuries, Gasol could be the go-to guy in the early part of the season.

H/T Pro Basketball Talk

Mitch Kupchak: Lakers ‘clumsy’ informing Phil Jackson of Mike D’Antoni hire

Phil-Jackson-KnicksThe Los Angeles Lakers took a lot of heat for a number of reasons when they chose to hire Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson last season. For starters, Jackson is a legend in LA and he was clearly interested in returning to the team he coached to five NBA titles. In addition, most people felt he would be the best candidate to get the most out of Dwight Howard.

Instead, the Lakers made a surprise move and went with D’Antoni. In fact, it was so much of a surprise that the way they handled it became as much a source of criticism as the move itself. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak addressed that in an interview with ESPN Radio earlier this week.

“There was really no other way to get around it,” Kupchak said, via the LA Times. “In this business you don’t make announcements until you have signed contracts. The last thing we wanted was for Phil Jackson, who we love in the organization, the city loves him, to wake in the morning or to get a phone call from somebody at 4 or 5 in the morning saying, ‘Guess what? Didn’t Mitch tell you?’”

After defending the way things went down, Kupchak admitted the team could have handled it differently.

“Really there was no other way to do it, and you could say it was clumsy,” he added.

There is no doubt the Lakers could have approached the situation with a bit more grace. It took enough to convince Jackson to come out of retirement to begin with, so pulling the offer was shocking. Doc Rivers felt that they embarrassed Jackson with the way it played out and Charles Barkley agreed. We’ll find out this upcoming season if the decision was worth it.

H/T Pro Basketball Talk

Mike D’Antoni on Dwight Howard: Houston Rockets run the same offense I do

Dwight Howard LakersDwight Howard’s dislike of Mike D’Antoni’s offense is believed to be one of the biggest reasons why the center chose to leave the Los Angeles Lakers to sign with the Houston Rockets. Howard reportedly expressed frustration with D’Antoni’s offense and coaching methods in May, and he even admitted he wanted the Lakers to hire Phil Jackson as coach after firing Mike Brown in November.

On Tuesday, D’Antoni addressed Howard’s problems with him by making a fair point.

“The thing that cracks me up is Houston, they do the exact same thing,” D’Antoni told the LA Daily News while reportedly chuckling. “And so (Howard) is gonna go to Houston? OK, so did they talk about change there? Don’t tell me that it’s that different.

“He’s a force and he can be really, really good and dominate the league. But it’s in an area that he’s not loving right now. He wants to dominate a different way, in the low post and all that. But he needs to get better there, and he will. But his greatness is in defense and being a physical force. I think he’d be better served if he embraces that. But he’s good.”

[Related: Dwight Howard reportedly disliked Mike D'Antoni's system]

D’Antoni, who has admitted that he misused Howard and Pau Gasol, is referring to Houston coach Kevin McHale’s guard-heavy approach, which in some ways is similar to D’Antoni’s. That doesn’t mean the Rockets won’t do a better job of adapting their offense to suit Howard’s incredibly picky needs, but you can see the irony that D’Antoni is referring to.

Regardless of what went wrong, D’Antoni said he was as surprised by the lack of success as everyone else.

“Steve Nash and Dwight Howard on the pick and roll, and that’s what I do?” D’Antoni remembered thinking to himself when the Lakers hired him. “I just thought, ‘Boy, that’s gonna be a staple.’”

Now, Houston is hoping James Harden and Howard will be a deadly combination. While the Lakers tried desperately to keep the All-Star center, part of D’Antoni must be happy to see him go. In losing his center, he also lost a headache that likely would have become a migraine.

H/T Ball Don’t Lie

Phil Jackson on Lakers hiring Mike D’Antoni: ‘I laughed’

Phil JacksonPhil Jackson was probably as stunned as the rest of us when the Los Angeles Lakers decided to go with Mike D’Antoni rather than bringing him back as their heard coach, whether he is willing to admit that or not. You would think a guy who has won five championships with a franchise would be able to return to the bench anytime he wanted, but that was not the case.

However, LA’s decision to hire D’Antoni instead of him did serve as a source of entertainment for the Zen Master.

“I laughed,” Jackson told ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning on Wednesday when asked what he said when the Lakers informed him they had hired D’Antoni. “It was humorous to me when Mitch (Kupchack) said that we think that Mike is a better coach for this group of guys.”

Jackson said he understood that the decision probably had a lot to do with D’Antoni’s history with Steve Nash in Phoenix, but he had his doubts about whether or not Dwight Howard would be properly utilized.

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