He May Not Be Phil Jackson, But Mike D'Antoni Deserves A Chance

By Joshua Casey

It hadn’t even been 24 hours from the time the Los Angeles Lakers had announced that they were bypassing legendary head coach Phil Jackson, for the opportunity to hire former New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni, and already Laker fans were upset. Although, maybe unwarranted, one could understand why this sort of anger had suddenly arisen.

The Lakers had a chance to put the greatest NBA coach of all time at the helm of a somewhat reeling ship, and steer them back on path to the promised land, an NBA championship.  Instead they opted for a head coach who has never been to the NBA finals, and whose defensive philosophy has been called into question many times.

But, many people have stated that they feel this was the best move for the Lakers at this time. D’Antoni brings to the Lakers one of several missing pieces, an electric offense. D’Antoni’s famed 7 seconds or less offense is the correct model for what the Lakers need, primarily because it will correctly utilize the talents of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. Nash will be able to run the offense he is so accustomed to, picking defenses apart with the best pick and roll partner in the NBA, Dwight Howard.

On the wing Kobe Bryant will be able to have the sort of space that he hasn’t seen since he was barely entering the league. Additionally free agent additions Antawn Jamison, and Jodie Meeks will be used what they were actually brought here for, to knock down open shots and bring an offensive punch off the bench.

The one glaring hole in the D’Antoni offensive system is this, the Lakers aren’t young, and they’re not exactly built to be running up and down the floor at a blistering pace. What people don’t seem to realize, though is that D’Antoni is an offensive genius, and everything you have said about the Lakers current roster, he already knows.

Do you really think he is dumb enough to implement a system he knows will not work? The Lakers may play a little quicker than usual, but they will hardly be the 2006-2007 Phoenix Suns. D’Antoni knows he will need to tweak his offense to fit the needs of the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers.

On the other side of the ball is where D’Antoni has been famously ridiculed, often being called Antoni, with people taking out the D in his last name just to make a point. While it is true that D’Antoni has not had teams that were outstanding on defense those same people who were calling for Jackson should know this little fact.

During the 2009-2010 season, the same season the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, the Lakers ranked 25th in defensive efficiency. Compare that to the 2006-2007 Phoenix Suns, the same team that allegedly played no defense, and you find that they ranked 16th in defensive efficiency. Like the old saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.”

So why the call for Jackson again? Yes he has won 11 NBA titles, and his presence on the Lakers sideline will never be replaced. Heck, his presence on the sideline may never be replaced, regardless of NBA team. But Laker fans need to realize that now, after all that has happened these past few days, Phil is never coming back. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Do any Laker fans remember the 2010-2011 playoffs? Getting swept by the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks wasn’t exactly fun now was it? Why would Jackson’s return be any different.

He may be the Zen master, but he isn’t a miracle worker. His defense, the same one that ranked 25th in defensive efficiency in 2010-2011, and 12th in the 2010-2011 playoffs right behind D’Antoni’s Knicks, would not have been any different. A case can be made that the game had passed Jackson by, like it does to so many legendary coaches. Teams seemed to figure out the triangle offense, and their defense wasn’t winning them any games either. Why do you think Jerry and Jim Buss, and Mitch Kupchak opted to go with a defensive minded coach in Mike Brown? Ironically his teams lack of defense is also what got him fired, but I digress.

Even with the best defensive player in the NBA in Dwight Howard, opting for Phil Jackson just did not seem right for this Lakers team. While the 5 championships he brought to L.A were amazing, Phil’s time in Laker land has passed.


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