Mike D’Antoni might have been moving a little slowly on crutches during his 1st practice as coach of the L.A Lakers, but he promised to get his new team playing at a championship level fast.
“As (GM) Mitch (Kupchak) has said and as I’m sure you guys know, we’re built to win this year,” D’Antoni asserted during his introductory press conference. “This isn’t a project. We have a window and we’re going to try and get thru it.”
D’Antoni flew into Los Angeles and observed from the sidelines as his older brother, Dan D’Antoni, a new assistant coach on his staff, ran the team thru a selection of shooting and pick-and-roll drills during the hourlong practice.
D’Antoni, named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2004-05 after steering Phoenix Suns to a 62-20 record with Steve Nash running the show, stated that he will bring his trademark up-tempo offense to the purple and gold.
“We would be very pleased to be able to play ‘Showtime’-type basketball,” D’Antoni recounted. “Now, they might have done it the best you can do it. We wish to get some place close to that. I think that’d be awesome.”
Through 8 games, the Lakers are just 3-5, and their 96.5 points-per-game average ranks 20th in the NBA. The Heat entered tops in the league with 104.9 points-per-game average. D’Antoni is setting the L.A Lakers’ bar much higher.
“I told the team if we are not averaging 110-115 points a game, we want to talk,” D’Antoni related. “That’s our goal. It should be easily done.”
Kobe Bryant, who praised D’Antoni as an “offensive genius” earlier in the week, continued with the compliments.
“He has a very calm demeanor about himself,” Bryant recounted. “He simplifies the game to its purest form. It isn’t overcomplicated for him.” Basketball betting lines
Bryant also supported the timing of the hire, regardless of whether it meant firing Mike Brown just 5 games into the season.
“It’s better than doing it halfway through the season, if you’re going to do it,” Bryant asserted. “For us, we’ve been struggling, so it isn’t like we’re leaving anything because we never really learned what we were doing in the 1st place.”
There were one or two questions on Phil Jackson, the 11-time championship-winning coach whom D’Antoni beat out to get the job. D’Antoni recognized the scrutiny he faces by being picked over the Zen Master.
A major reason that decision was made is perhaps because the Lakers’ brass believes the muster might be able to pick up D’Antoni’s system rather quickly, thanks in large part to Nash, who won 2 league MVPs while running the same sets in Phoenix.
“I was just talking to Steve,” D’Antoni announced. “It’s weird. When he feels better, I may start to feel better. I’ve stated that it before, and I don’t really want to repeat too many lines, but I tried coaching without him and that didn’t work too well. So, he’s feeling pretty good, so I’m feeling pretty good.”
Nash (fractured fibula) has missed the Lakers’ past 6 games, but he announced that he would be back in “1 or 2 weeks.” D’Antoni is confident the 38-year-old Nash still can keep his offense running like a fine-tuned machine.