By Kevin Figgers
After striking out in their attempt to bring back Phil Jackson for the third time, the Los Angeles Lakers settled on former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach, Mike D'Antoni to replace Mike Brown. While D'Antoni boasts an excellent regular season resume, his shortcomings in the postseason and two and a half forgettable seasons manning the sidelines of MSG should be cause for concern for fans of the Purple and Gold.
Yes, Kobe Bryant has gone on record to say that he loves and respects D'Antoni, yes D'Antoni coached Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns to multiple 60+ wins seasons and yes he has one of the most exciting offenses in the NBA. The problem? - It hasn’t resulted in any championships. You can argue about the controversy in 2007 when Robert Horry bumped Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire got suspended for game 5 all you want. But Amare did play in game 6 and the team did not get the job done, plain and simple. Championship caliber teams find ways to win when faced with adversity.
As I said on 570 RAW this past Saturday night, Mike Brown did not get a fair shake as the head coach of the Lakers. Last season he had no training camp, no bench, and a glaring weakness at the point guard position that was evidenced by how much the Lakers improved with the addition of a career backup named Ramon Sessions. Carry that over into this season where Brown never had a completely healthy roster to work with. Dwight Howard missed most of training camp and although his play has been better than average, is admittedly not where he expects to be health-wise. Steve Nash has played in a game and half, and the bench that was supposed to have been bolstered by the additions of Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks is just as hapless now as it was last season. I'm not saying all of this to make excuses for Mike Brown, I'm simply stating facts.
Despite all of the hate directed towards the
Brown is not absolved responsibility here though. To say that his rotations were puzzling at times would be an understatement. Meeks who was brought in to be the backup 2-guard was relegated to the end of the bench in favor of Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks. He was intent on playing Antawn Jamison at the small forward position when it was clear that his best spot was as a backup power forward. He put his starters back into a game that they were winning handily late in the 4th quarter (ironically enough the interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff did the exact same thing in the Lakers last victory over
And that brings us to D'Antoni and how he fits with this current Lakers roster. So lets look at some more facts:
As I mentioned, despite the high rate of turnovers and all of the complaining about the
Another fact: Steve Nash is 38 years old and along with battling a bad back, he's had to deal with a sprained ankle he suffered in the pre-season and a fractured fibula that could keep him out for a month. Need we be reminded that D'Antoni's offense is basically a pick and roll scheme where the point guard is trusted to make the right reads every time down the floor? And with Nash out indefinitely are they really going to entrust Steve Blake with that sort of responsibility?
Another fact: 34, 32, 26, 38, 32
Those are the ages of the 5 Lakers starters - a lineup that has spent all of training camp and the early season practicing the slow and methodical
Now I'm not naive enough to think that D'Antoni won't adjust his offense a bit to suit the talents of this team. But I'm also not naïve enough to believe that Mike D'Antoni had some epiphany after being fired by the Knicks mid-season last year and all of as sudden will change his entire coaching philosophy and start running traditional NBA sets and start preaching defense either.
To answer the question in the headline - Would the Lakers have been better off keeping Mike Brown? Well, if the alternative is Mike D'Antoni then answer is - Probably. At his core, you know that Mike Brown is a defensive minded head coach who brought in Eddie Jordan to teach a complicated but extremely effective offensive system. A little more time for comfort and chemistry to be built between the players within the offense and the Lakers COULD have been a well oiled machine headed into the postseason. OR, its possible that they never would have grasped the offense, the defense would’ve continued to struggle and this season that started poorly could’ve turned into a disaster. What's more likely? Call me crazy, but with a roster of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, something tells me that they would have eventually figured it out.
If you were going to fire Mike Brown at this point in the season then you needed to bring someone who was a significant upgrade. D'Antoni for all of his success as an NBA head coach, has similar credentials to Brown. Both have led multiple teams to deep playoff runs with nothing to show for it. Maybe D'Antoni will come in and breathe new life into the Lakers roster and lead them to the NBA Finals, but the more likely scenario is that Laker fans will be sitting at home watching the Thunder, Clippers or Grizzlies (yes im not jumping off of that wagon) in the NBA Finals as they complain about their All-Star laden roster who could score with anyone but couldn’t play a lick of defense.