The Los Angeles Lakers‘ defense has been a disaster ever since Mike D’Antoni stepped foot in the city last season. Despite having defensive-minded players such as Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard on the roster last year, Los Angeles finished the season tied for 18th in opponent points per game. Wait, it gets worse. This season, the Lakers are ranked 26th allowing their opponents to score an average of 107 points per game, while scoring 101.5 points per game on the offensive end.
These numbers are sickening, especially when they are being associated with such a historically competitive franchise such as the Lakers. To make matters worse, the team has given up over 130 points in each of the last three games, none of which went to overtime. Is D’Antoni to blame for these struggles? Definitely. Are the players to blame as well? Absolutely.
Having a coach who does not put any emphasis whatsoever on defense of course affects the players. As a result, players tend to just not care as they know for a fact that they will not be benched for the sole reason of playing poor defense. Franchises cannot win championships, or games for that matter, without having a solid defensive presence. This being one reason why D’Antoni has never won a championship, even with his 60-win Phoenix Suns teams years ago.
All of the blame cannot be dumped on the coach because the players are the people actually playing the game. It’s not even that the Lakers do not have the skills necessary to be elite defenders, but it’s that they do not give any effort. When a team has no desire to apply themselves, heads turn toward the coach. Usually, this is a sign of a coach losing the locker room for reasons that eventually are leaked to the public later on. This is no excuse to not give 100 percent every game. Each and every one of the Lakers’ players are paid handsomely to play the game of basketball, so when they do not care enough to exert their energy on the court, they no longer deserve the privilege to play in the NBA. Simple as that.
Furthermore, often times when a coach loses his locker room, that coach is immediately fired; however, GM Mitch Kupchak and owner Jim Buss have decided to retain D’Antoni even after the largest loss in franchise history. This decision has caused an outrage amongst many fans, but at this point in the season, there is no reason to fire D’Antoni. Los Angeles is headed for the lottery either way, so relieving the coach of his duties has no purpose other than costing the franchise more money. D’Antoni is under contract until the end of next season and the Lakers are still paying off former coach Mike Brown‘s contract. Taking on another additional coaching contract is pointless at the moment. Although, I would be surprised if the Lakers decide to allow D’Antoni to stick around for next season.