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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Dwight Howard reportedly frustrated with Mike D’Antoni

Dwight-Howard-LakersThe latest news surrounding Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers should come as a surprise to no one. While most people feel that Howard will return to LA next season if for no other reason than the Lakers can offer him over $30 million more than any other team, the decision may not be that simple.

According to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin, Howard is reportedly frustrated with Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. Howard  was one of several Lakers to hold a personal meeting GM Mitch Kupchak after the season, during which sources say he discussed his relationship with D’Antoni.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to (Kobe) Bryant and Steve Nash for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice.

Kobe Bryant is obviously the leader of the Lakers, but apparently Howard felt that his influence over the team was undervalued. That could be one of many reasons he has decided to clear his head before making any decision about his future.

McMenamin also pointed out that Lakers assistant Steve Clifford, who spent five seasons with Howard in Orlando, could potentially leave to take a head coaching job with another team. One source said Clifford’s departure would “remove the buffers” between D’Antoni and Howard and could result in clashing.

The Lakers obviously want Howard to return and the max contract they can offer him gives them a major advantage, but a certain former NBA coach could tell you all about how difficult Howard can make things when he doesn’t get along with the people who are calling the shots. If Howard is planning on staying in LA, the best thing he could do is hammer out the contract before the media makes things ugly.

Kobe Bryant: Mike D’Antoni not at fault for torn Achilles’ tendon

Kobe Bryant AchillesKobe Bryant absolved Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni from all responsibility for his torn Achilles’ tendon injury when he spoke with the media on Tuesday.

Bryant conducted a news conference after the Lakers held their exit meetings following their disappointing season. Bryant took the opportunity to absolve D’Antoni of responsibility for the injury, and he also vouched for teammate Pau Gasol, who may be let go by the team.

Many people have felt that the extraordinary amount of minutes Kobe played in late March and April contributed to his body falling apart and that D’Antoni could (and should) have curbed that.

“Mike’s really going to tell me when to go in and out of the game?” Kobe said bluntly before laughing at the notion.

Bryant said he would have done the same thing again even with hindsight.

Bryant acknowledged that the extra minutes — he played 41 or more minutes in seven straight games, including a full 48 twice — may have played a role in the injury, but he said D’Antoni wasn’t going to stop him from playing.

Bryant said he took his lead from Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, who both would check themselves into games. He also said he behaved the same way — regulating his own minutes — under Phil Jackson.

As far as Gasol goes, Kobe said in no uncertain terms that he wants the Spaniard back.

“I want Pau here. It’s not a question or discussion. He gives us the best chance to win titles,” Bryant said, via Mark Medina.

In the end, most people would probably agree that Bryant’s body broke down because of age and all the minutes he has played throughout his lengthy career (think practice, NBA, summer, international competition, etc.). His extra minutes probably exacerbated the condition. But do you think Kobe would have had it any other way? If the Lakers were in danger of missing the playoffs — as they were — there was no way Kobe was going to let them go down without his best effort.

Mike D’Antoni seemed annoyed by Kobe Bryant tweeting during the game (Video)

Mike-D'Antoni-rolls-eyesThe Los Angeles Lakers were outmatched by the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night, and one of the main reasons for that was that Kobe Bryant had to watch from home. As you know, Kobe is out for the playoffs with a torn Achilles tendon. In order to stay connected to the team during Game 1, he sent out a series of tweets.

“Post. Post. Post,” Kobe wrote. “Gotta milk Pau (Gasol) in the post right now and (Dwight Howard). What would I do if I was there right now? (I’d say), ‘Pau get your ass on the block and don’t move till you get it.”

A number of people — mostly media members — interpreted Kobe’s coaching from the couch as criticism of LA’s approach. Head coach Mike D’Antoni was asked about it after the game.

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Mike D’Antoni: I was wrong about Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol

Mike D’Antoni was extraordinarily harsh on Pau Gasol when he took over the job as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in November, but he’s finally softening his stance on the big man.

Gasol returned to the starting lineup on March 25 after missing six weeks with a foot injury. The team has gone 8-2 in its last 10 games — all of which Gasol has played over 30 minutes. Save Sunday’s win over the Spurs, Gasol has been shooting the ball extremely well. He has also been posting great rebound totals (9.7 per game in that span), and averaging 5.6 assists per game over his last 10 contests. His production has not come at the expense of the team’s other big man, Dwight Howard. Howard has routinely shot over 60 percent, grabbed double-digit rebounds and scored over 20 points in recent games.

“I’ve come to realize that we can play with the two big guys,” D’Antoni said in reference to Gasol and Howard while speaking with the media on Tuesday. “I was a little skeptical at first. I think with both of them being close to 100 percent, yeah, they can play together easily. I kind of had a preconceived notion that probably wasn’t right.”

It’s better that D’Antoni made his discovery before it was too late. I honestly thought he was crazy when he was benching Gasol for Earl Clark.

The funny thing is that Howard says nothing is different now from how it was before.

“Nothing has changed,” said Dwight Howard. “We can play together. That’s why they brought us here — so we could play together.”

Though Howard didn’t say it, the big difference is probably the health of the players. Gasol’s conditioning was in question when D’Antoni took over, and D’Antoni was blunt about benching the Spaniard. Maybe the reason Gasol didn’t look so good was because of his knee and foot problems at the time, which have likely improved. We know based on his improved play that Howard is recovering from offseason back surgery.

Maybe the Lakers were not poorly constructed this whole time. Maybe they just were not healthy.

Photo credit: Matthew Emmons, US Presswire

Mike D’Antoni: Lakers should be a top-four team, don’t fear anybody

Mike-D'Antoni-LakersThe Lakers have done a tremendous job over the past five months of reminding sports fans that crowning a paper champion is never a wise decision. With only five games remaining in the regular season, LA is currently on the outside looking in at a Western Conference playoff spot. The Lakers’ loss to the Clippers on Sunday left them one game behind the Jazz, who defeated the Warriors in Golden State.

Prior to Sunday’s game, Mike D’Antoni said his team is not afraid of anyone and that they feel they are one of the four best teams in the West.

Again, nothing is decided on paper. Oh wait, playoff seeding is. The Lakers need to win two more games than the Jazz over the last five, which is not impossible. If they are able to grab the eighth seed and sneak into the playoffs, D’Antoni could turn out to be right. But that will not be an easy task, especially given the way LA has played all season.

The Lakers have home games remaining against the Hornets, Spurs, Warriors and Rockets with one road game against the Blazers. The Jazz have home games against the Thunder and Timberwolves and will also travel to Memphis and Minnesota. Simply put, the Lakers are in serious danger of missing the playoffs altogether.

If LA does get in, they will likely be facing either the Spurs or Thunder in the opening round. Unless we see a completely different Lakers team than the one we’ve seen all year, I highly doubt they can beat either of those two teams in a seven-game series. Motivational tactics like this from D’Antoni seem to go in one ear and out the other.

Photo Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports