Mike D’Antoni responds to Pau Gasol’s criticism

Pau Gasol cryingPau Gasol publicly criticized his Los Angeles Lakers teammates after a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. The veteran forward felt that selfish play and a lack of discipline needed to be addressed. His comments about the Lakers being undisciplined were interpreted as a shot at head coach Mike D’Antoni.

The Lakers lost again on Wednesday night, this time at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Before the game, D’Antoni made it clear that he was unhappy with Gasol.

“The thing I just don’t appreciate … You just keep it in-house,” he said, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin. “It’s very easy just to come over and talk about your frustrations. We’ll try to work something out. We’ll figure something out.

“But to go to (the media) and to do it in the papers, that’s disturbing. I just don’t think that’s the way to go and people should understand that we’re all trying to solve the same problem, so let’s just put our heads together and do the best we can.”

Gasol was critical of D’Antoni on Tuesday for going with a small lineup after Wesley Johnson got into foul trouble. MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore, two players LA acquired at the trade deadline, combined for 29 shots during the loss to the Pacers. Gasol insisted he was not singling anyone out with his comments.

“It wasn’t an attack to anyone in particular,” he said. “I wasn’t blaming MarShon and Kent of anything. I like these guys a lot. They’re great guys, they came in, I’m happy that they’re getting this opportunity. But that’s why from a team standpoint, you have to help them make better decisions.”

D’Antoni seemed to take particular exception with Gasol accusing the Lakers of being undisciplined.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” D’Antoni said. “(Tuesday) night, like (Gasol) said, we should have had more ball movement, but I don’t know what that has to do with discipline. It has to do with guys trying too hard, guys not really understanding the system totally and not really getting ingrained into it and so I think in that aspect, I can understand what he’s talking about, but I don’t know why he used that word.”

D’Antoni also noted that several players on the team are playing for a new contract, so selfish play could possibly stem from that.

Perhaps the Lakers should have traded Gasol at the deadline. He went on a postgame rant last month and obviously has not enjoyed his time playing under D’Antoni. Gasol’s LA honeymoon is over

Magic Johnson rips Lakers, Mike D’Antoni

magic-johnsonMagic Johnson appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno on Tuesday, and he shared some of his usual thoughts on the current state of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are 16-30 and are well on their way to missing the playoffs. In fact, they have the second worst record in the Western Conference.

Leno asked Johnson why it is so bad in LA right now. His answer will not surprise you.

“We made a critical mistake in not bringing Phil Jackson back,” Johnson said. “That was a critical mistake. He wanted to come back, then they went with (Mike) D’Antoni.

“(D’Antoni) doesn’t teach defense. I can’t stand to watch the Lakers play because the same play happens every single time — pick and roll and the guard goes all the way in for a layup. We’re 40-something games into the season. The teams run the same play on us. We haven’t stopped it yet.”

Last year, Magic went on an epic Twitter rant and ripped the Lakers players for the team’s struggles. This year, he is placing the burden on the coaching staff and front office. Earlier this month, Johnson said owner Jim Buss is LA’s biggest problem. He reiterated that when speaking with Leno.

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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