It has been the hottest topic of debate in this early NBA season – is Mike D’Antoni the guy for the Los Angeles Lakers? After the Lakers stumbled out of the gates to a 1-4 start, management fired head coach Mike Brown. The team had championship-level expectations after trading for Dwight Howard and signing Steve Nash. On paper, they looked like the only unstoppable squad outside of South Beach. Early injuries and lack of offensive identity led to early struggles and the Lakers’ Front Office decided they’d seen enough.
It initially looked as though the legendary Phil Jackson would return to the Staples Center sidelines, but then almost overnight, the team decided to coach former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. Now all of Laker Nation’s pressure is on Mike’s shoulders. He is known as an offensive guru but a coach whose teams struggle on the defensive end. It is what many blame for his lack of a title while in Phoenix.
But Mike has a great relationship with Lakers guard Steve Nash, who he coached for six seasons in Phoenix. Nash won two NBA MVP awards under Mike’s up-tempo offensive coaching, and his pick-and-roll system is a perfect fit for the new acquisitions Nash and Howard. Kobe Bryant played for Mike under Coach Mike Krzyzewski with Team USA in the Olympics so he has a familiar history with the coach as well.
But can his system revitalize a “Showtime” element in LA? It remains to be seen. Sunday night will be Mike’s first game as Lakers’ coach, but don’t expect fireworks this early. Most analysts believe it will take the team a couple of months to get into a rhythm with the new offensive system, but once they do, watch out. The Lakers will be a juggernaut before season’s end, but NBA legacies are forged in June when the playoffs and Finals occur.