Mike D' Antoni is the man (for this job)

And I can sum it up with a conversation I had today.

Friend #1: I am honestly much more intrigued by D’Antoni at coach than Phil.  I’m tired of Phil and I like some variety.

Me: You know, bringing back Phil again felt like going back to the same girl over and over.

Friend #2: Sometimes your ex is hotter than your friend’s ex though.  Its not like either one is gonna last might aswell go back to the one you know is wild in bed.

Me: But what if she’s super high mantenance and has two fake hips and wants to change your whole apartment around?

Thing is, the Phil thing was almost purely sentimental. Oh, for the good times. In reality, the expectations for this time, high as they already are for this season, would have shot past the moon. Title or scorn. All or nothing. Win or be thought a failure.

Now, I don’t have the best memory, but it’s hard to forget the very underwhelming ending to PJ’s second coaching tenure here. There’s getting swept, and then there’s getting completely emasculated. That Laker team felt both out of gas and completely entitled. Doesn’t matter if Kobe was playing hurt and Pau was, well, whatever the fuck he was in that series, the fact is that Laker team played as if they could have been pushed over by a stiff breeze, and that Mavericks team was much more than that.

That was only half of it, though. As big as his ego is, Jackson asked for the whole nine yards. To do any less would have deprived him of the opportunity to watch Jim Buss swallow his entire pride in one big bite, as if admitting that his hand-picked coach Mike Brown was a total failure wasn’t humbling enough. Give me a truck full of cash, complete say over roster moves, a few roads trips off AND the chance to groom my successor. Fact is, that’s Jackson rubbing it in. Asking Buss to admit he needs Phil is perfectly reasonable, but asking him to grab his ankles was where the whole thing fell apart. A man without his pride is a man with nothing, or whatever.

Maybe Jackson the groundswell of fan support and the endorsement of the star players was enough to get him whatever he wanted. Maybe, just maybe, he overplayed his hand here. Had he gone just a little lighter on the demands the job probably would have been his. But he didn’t, and it isn’t.

Let’s not get the math wrong here either. There was a time when Phil Jackson might have equaled a guaranteed championship or something close to it. That was yesterday, though. Today, there are no certainties.

For my money, D’ Antoni is a great hire. Not only was he the best fit, he was considerably less high-maintenance. All he asked for was a decent-sized contract and the freedom to install his system. No grandiose demands or ego statements to make.

Strategically, Steve Nash would have been just as bad a fit in the Triangle offense as he had been in the Princeton, which is to say he hardly fit at all. If nothing else, we know for a fact that D’ Antoni will unleash Nash where Brown has relegated him to a “stand in the corner and shoot jumpers” guy. For this roster, all it will take is a tweak here and a tweak there and the Lakers will be unleashing a whole new brand of showtime.

Oh, and the “D’Antoni can coach defense” stuff is overblown. The advanced statistics tell us that the Phoenix defenses were no less than average in yielding pointe per possession, and really that’s all that matters. After all, what’s wrong with giving up 100 when you score 110?

Some of this decision had to be about keeping Dwight Howard happy, since he’s where the Lakers’ future bread will be buttered at all. If Howard is happy, D’ Antoni might be here a while. If not…well, we know that drill.

I think this can work. If I have a worry, it’s about whether this team can play at a D’ Antoni tempo for 100 games without some of the older guys falling ill, but injuries are always a factor in sports. Otherwise, I think this new system will find everyone in their proper place, and if they grasp what’s happening sooner than later, they’ll be quick to regain the kind of hype and momentum they had right up until the start of the season.

Yeah, I rooted for Phil’s last ride but now that all is said and done, this just makes more sense to me.

After a year of Mike Brown, it’s hard to complain.

-JH

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