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Spurs-Lakers Preview

AP - Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers will no longer be searching for a new coach when they take the floor Tuesday night, but their newest employee won't be on the bench quite yet.

Two days after hiring Mike D'Antoni as their new head coach, the Lakers will face the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.

Los Angeles made the hire late Sunday night, though it remains uncertain when D'Antoni - who underwent knee replacement surgery recently - will join the team. His first game likely won't be until at least Friday against Phoenix, one of his former teams.

"Dr. (Jerry) Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak unanimously agreed that Mike was the best coach for this roster at this time," Lakers spokesman John Black said.

D'Antoni most recently coached New York before resigning in March. His hiring by Los Angeles brings him together with Kobe Bryant, who idolized the former Olimpia Milano star while growing up in Italy.

The new coach will likely have to wait a while to utilize point guard Steve Nash, who is expected to miss at least another week due to a small fracture in his leg. Nash, who won two NBA MVP awards while running D'Antoni's offense with the Suns, has missed the last five games.

Steve Blake, who started those games in place of Nash, will miss Tuesday's contest with a minor abdominal strain.

The Lakers also met with former coach Phil Jackson on Saturday, but decided to go with D'Antoni.

Los Angeles (3-4) has already smoothed things out a bit after a 1-4 start under former coach Mike Brown - their worst beginning to a season since 1993-94. The Lakers are 2-0 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, though those wins came at home against Golden State and Sacramento, teams with a combined 5-9 record.

Dwight Howard tallied 23 points and 18 rebounds in a 103-90 win over the Kings on Sunday.

"I've been around a lot of teams, and this is the consummate professional group," Bickerstaff said. "No one's naive. They've been around a long time and we've been around a long time, so they understand."

They could face a greater challenge against a Spurs team coming to Los Angeles to finish a four-game road trip, although San Antonio hasn't been playing the polished brand of basketball that its 6-1 record might indicate.

The Spurs averaged 13.8 turnovers in their first four games - all victories, three of them at home - but they have at least 20 in each game on this trip. Opponents have taken advantage, averaging 100.3 points after San Antonio's first four foes averaged 89.5.

The Spurs needed a career-high 27 points from Gary Neal - including 20 in the second half - to manage a 112-109 win at Portland on Saturday. Gregg Popovich's team trailed by as many as 14 points in the third quarter.

Neal played 32 minutes, almost twice as many as he averaged in the first six games, as point guard Tony Parker sat out with a flu virus that has been plaguing the Spurs. Stephen Jackson missed their win at Sacramento on Friday with the bug and Tim Duncan has also been affected, though he hasn't missed any games.

"He carried us on his back," Popovich said about Neal. "Sometimes a player will do that, and he picked a good time for it."

The Spurs and Lakers have split their last 10 meetings, with San Antonio taking two of three last season - including a 112-91 road victory April 17. Parker had 29 points on 14-of-20 shooting along with 13 assists in that game, which Bryant missed with an injury.

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