While the talking heads all over the sports world are beating up on the Los Angeles Lakers today for hiring Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson, the team’s management must have had some good reasons for making the choice that they did.
And while everyone else seems to think it’s the wrong decision, there are plenty of good reasons to explain why maybe it’s the right choice after all.
First of all, we all know that Jackson has won 11 NBA championships. He is obviously a great coach and he would never be a bad hire. He’s like ranch dressing, he makes everything better.
And we all know that D’Antoni is still 11 NBA championships behind Jackson and that he has not even gotten a team to the NBA Finals yet. He has gotten close before, but that’s about it.
So why would D’Antoni make sense?
First of all, we need to remember that the last time Jackson was coaching in Los Angeles, he did not win a championship. His team had great talent with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Metta World Peace, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and others, but did not win the title. Just because the team has a few new players now does not mean that Jackson would be able to lead the Lakers to a championship.
Jackson’s last group of Lakers ran his system well, but was beaten in the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks in part because the Lakers guards could not stop the penetration of the Mavs guards.
Replacing Fisher with Steve Nash is not going to help the Lakers solve that problem if they now have to face Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.
And while Dwight Howard is a great defender to have inside, Bynum was already a very good defender inside, although he was inconsistent.
On the offensive end, Jackson’s triangle offense is very good but it may not be the best fit for Nash and the roster as it is currently set.
The best fit for Nash would seem to be the system that he ran for so many years with the Phoenix Suns while D’Antoni was coaching.
It could be that management believes that Dantoni’s offensive system will simply be a better fit for the roster as it is currently set up.
Any offense that provides a lot of shots for players is going to be one that Byrant embraces, especially if a lot of the shots to go him. This team should be able to run the floor and also play pick-and-roll offense, and all of that appears to fit perfectly with what D’Antoni wants to do.
Also, people beat up on D’Antoni for not being a great defensive coach, but maybe it had more to do with the players he had on his roster than the systems he ran with the Suns and the New York Knicks. He never had Bryant, Howard, Gasol and Peace anchoring his defense, and those players are bound to make him look like a much better defensive coach now.
Also, after things did not work out well for him with in New York, it is likely that D’Antoni is anxious to prove himself as coach. He is hungry to win, and his extra motivation should help him be a better coach and help the team improve. Jackson, meanwhile, has retired several times and simply might not be as motivated to win as D’Antoni is.
It’s likely that plugging Jackson and his system back in with the Lakers would have made the team better, but would not have set the team up for a championship. This team was built to win a title right away, so management took a chance on someone different to see if he could get the team to the NBA Finals. Maybe that chance will pay off with D’Antoni and maybe it won’t, nobody knows yet.
It’s a risk, but management believes it’s a risk worth taking, no matter what all of the experts around the country think.