Seeing as how the Lakers are, uh, no longer with us, it’s time for the annual “report card” schtick, even if most of them give everyone As or Bs, leaving it unclear how the season went to hell.
Of course, I have a better idea (according to me, anyway).
I’d like to tell you who these guys are, as opposed to who you think they are.
I’d also like to suggest why things got as bad as they did.
So, let’s start with Pringles!
That would be D’Antoni, who, someone decided, looks like the cartoon character on the potato chip package. He’s also known as MDA on Twitter, with the resistance gathering online at FireDantoni.com which even sells gear, although with hoodies at $29.95, it’s no surprise that you don’t see everyone wearing one.
So, let’s start with the fact that D’Antoni hasn’t coached a full season and if they let Laker fans vote on it, wouldn’t ever get one.
So, what’s the problem?
If you ever coach an NBA team, you’d better hope it’s one that didn’t all but announce it’s re-hiring Phil Jackson, who won five titles with your team and before stepping aside and letting it go over the falls in a barrel.
Laker fans went to bed on Nov. 11, 2012, thinking Jackson would be the coach, after a two-day courtship as easy and natural as driving from the El Segundo facility to his place in Playa Del Rey.
At 8 p.m., D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, said the job was Phil’s to turn down.
Shortly after 10 p.m., LeGarie said later, Mitch Kupchak called him and said, “let’s make a deal.”
LeGarie said he was so stunned, his first response was, “‘c’mon, Mitch, don’t use us.”
Lakerdom’s response was horror, as articulated by First Fan Magic Johnson, (“I love Dr. Buss, I don’t believe in Jim Buss. I don’t feel Mike D’Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers. Especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there, who wanted to be the Laker coach. The fans were cheering for Phil Jackson two nights in a row.”)
Then there was D’Antoni’s start, as bad as they get.
Steve Nash is out, so forget about running the uptempo offense they hired him for, or any other kind.
With Nash’s Dec. 22 return came the astonishing discovery he and Dwight Howard can’t run a pick-and-roll, the most basic play in D’Antoni’s offense that starts possessions by throwing defenses off balance.
Dwight slips picks, leaving Nash, who needs a good one at his advanced age, sandwiched between two defenders, unable to get him the ball.
Worse, you can’t just tell Dwight to set a stronger screen.
Or, you can tell him. He just doesn’t do it.
When you come right down to it, Dwight’s having a communication problem with Kobe, and just about everyone else, including the soft-spoken Nash.
It takes the Jan. 23 meeting in Memphis to get everyone on the same page… although you can’t really tell until Dwight changes his tune after the break, with the whole league buzzing that he mocked Kobe before the All-Star Game in Houston.
By now, if Laker fans could bring flamethrowers, D’Antoni would be toast.
The year before, Mike Brown got a pass from the fans, even as a Jim Buss hire with the Lakers, who’d been in three of the last four Finals, finishing No. 3 in the West, nine games out, before the Thunder’s 4-1 second-round walkover.
Actually, the insiders I talk to say Jerry, not Jim, spurned Phil and hired Mike.
It may have been a legacy call—in part because Jerry feared Phil and Jeanie might tilt the Jim-Jeanie balance he had designed.
For sure, Jerry was the one who wanted to get back to the uptempo, Showtime style he envisioned and enacted.
Jim cared less about style, hiring Brown, an Eastern slow-down coach.
(Of course, if an Eastern slow-down coach was okay, why not the very best, Jeff Van Gundy?)
Two days after hiring D’Antoni, Kupchak sat down with the beat writers, hoping to quell the uproar, noting it “revolved almost completely around the personnel that we had on the team and the style of play.”
Brown, at least, finished the season with a healthy team.
There was little left of D’Antoni’s with Bryant out, Nash able to make only a breif return and players dropping like flies, although Howard had to get himself ejected in the finale to join the wounded.