COMMENTARY | In looking over the history of coaches the Los Angeles Lakers have employed in the last 25 years, other than Phil Jackson, we see a mish-mash of questionable choices that seemed like bad ideas at the time and only got worse.
The Lakers have been like that one friend that we all have who just makes questionable dating choices time after time -- no matter how many red flags are clearly on display. The friend never seems to learn from past mistakes no matter how many times you (and everyone else) go over the obvious reasons in excruciating detail.
So, it wasn't really too surprising that the Lakers brought in Mike D'Antoni last season to replace the extremely questionable hire of Mike Brown. D'Antoni had the name-recognition that a Lakers coach probably needs, but his track record was dubious.
Like our "dating friend," maybe the Lakers thought they could be the ones who get him to achieve his potential. That's a big maybe and the results of D'Antoni's first season weren't much more than additional maybes.
Overall, the season was a disappointment by the Lakers' standards. They did make a late-season surge and snuck into the playoffs -- only to be soundly beaten by the San Antonio Spurs.
But there were a lot of "reasons." D'Antoni wasn't there for the preseason to really implement his system. The roster didn't match his system. Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant all had injury issues. Howard didn't "mesh" with D'Antoni. Nash was under-utilized because Kobe was the primary ball-handler.
Oh man, that many excuses starts to sound like our dating friend again.
No one is sure whether this season will be a success or a disaster -- as I wrote before. As far as D'Antoni is concerned, things are a lot different. He has the whole preseason to work with a team that was built around his system -- more so anyway.
Howard is gone and Gasol moves to his more natural position of center. Nash is going to be allowed to be Nash -- at least until Kobe decides that it's his turn.
In a way, Kobe's torn Achilles recovery is actually a good thing, since Nash can establish himself as the team's floor general. Kobe is one of the league's all-time greats -- as I wrote about earlier this week -- but no one gets away from the mileage of playing season after season. The torn Achilles was hardly a surprise to anyone watching him logging huge minutes in addition to running the show.
How the team performs once Kobe is up to speed will be what determines D'Antoni's fate as coach -- not just as the Lakers coach but as an NBA coach anywhere.
Most NBA fans enjoyed watching his Phoenix Suns do their high-scoring, high-flying act. However, it never amounted to a title and when D'Antoni went to New York, his system didn't work well. But there were excuses there as well about the roster and meshing with players.
Last season's excuses have been addressed for the Lakers. This is D'Antoni's team and what he does with it this season will determine whether he's considered a good coach or if he was just the right coach at the right time for that Suns' team.
The Lakers may be foolish when it comes to hiring coaches but if things don't work out with D'Antoni, they won't mess around when it comes to firing him.
And they'll be back on the dating scene once more.
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- Kobe Bryant