Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hiring Coach Mike D'Antoni--Another Laker Blunder

The LA Lakers have done it again. They just hired the wrong coach, Mike D'Antoni. He's replacing Mike Brown, who was dumped last week because the Lakers finally realized they had, you guessed it, hired the wrong coach.

A narrow-minded defensive coach, Brown force-fed his snail's-pace system to the Lakers, who spit it up. The losses piled up. After last week's fiasco in Utah, in which it was clear he'd lost the team, the owners canned him. With this new hire, around midnight on Sunday, they went totally in the opposite direction, handing the job to D'Antoni, who's just as narrow-minded--but focused totally on offense.

Can't think of a dumber move.

D'Antoni is famous for his racehorse Phoenix Suns teams of the 2007-08 seasons. They'd run and shoot but play no defense. It was fun to watch but his teams would flame out in the playoffs, where half-court sets and  gritty defense rule. Next, he took his act to New York, coaching the Knicks for four years. Again the teams, much less talented than his Suns' units, were fun to watch, but were never a power in the defense-minded Eastern conference.

To successfully execute D'Antoni's offense you need what the Lakers' don't have--young, athletic, speedy shooters and a solid bench full of quick gunners to spell exhausted starters. The Lakers are fossils, the second oldest team, after the Knicks, in the NBA. They're not physically able to run an uptempo offense.

Point guard Steve Nash, who led D'Antoni's best Phoenix teams, is nearing 39. He's in top shape but his age is starting to show. Currently out for a few weeks with a slight shin fracture, he's already breaking down--and this was while he was playing in Brown's slow-down offense. How is Nash, who's critical to the success of D'Antoni's offense, going to survive operating at a blistering pace? At least Brown's system protected Nash. D'Antoni's doesn't.

Nor will this new offense be great for star center Dwight Howard, who's only about 80% after back surgery. Expect him, after sprinting up and down the floor game after game, to break down regularly. Don't expect the other thirtysomething starters, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol, to thrive in this offense either.

The owners are eager to bring back a modern version of the Lakers' flashy, "Showtime" championship teams of the '80s. Good idea--if you have the players.

After bringing in one-dimensional Brown and seeing that didn't work, why bring in another one-dimensional coach? Without the proper personnel for his system, D'Antoni is destined to flame out even worse than he did in New York.

The new coach has another serious problem, one that's not his fault. He'll forever be in the shadow of  ex-Laker coach Phil Jackson, who was supposed to get his old job back. But, after setting up the fans over the weekend for Jackson's return from retirement, the Lakers decided, late Sunday night, to hire D'Antoni instead. Jackson, who led the Lakers to five titles, felt mistreated. Rightly so.

Jackson was severely dissed (punked, some insist) by the owners, who could have rejected him in a respectable way. Many fans felt just as let down as Jackson. These Phil followers are going to be slow to warm up to D'Antoni, who's going to be measured against some impossible standards. Unless D'Antoni leads the Lakers to a title, fans will always gripe that, had Jackson been hired, he would have guided the team to another championship.

Hiring Jackson would have made more sense. For one thing, his triangle system, which doesn't require a first-rate point guard, would be more suitable to an aging Nash. Its read-and-react style, which allows for defensive pressure, makes the team more likely to advance in the playoffs. A system, like D'Antoni's, that pays no attention to defense, is just plain idiotic.

Just as idiotic as the Lakers' latest choice for head coach.