Warming Up To The D’Antoni Era




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kobe Bryant smiling.

Dwight Howard playing like the low-post behemoth we all know him to be. Paul Gasol at ease and Metta World Peace fitting in as well.

Seeing the Los Angeles Lakers in a groove and playing like the contender the world expected them to be has an almost eerie feel to it after months of uncertainty about exactly what this super team might be.

If this is what the Mike D’Antoni era is going to look like, it won’t be hard for the Phil Jackson loyalists in the party to get on board with the new regime.

The Lakers halting the Brooklyn Nets’ five-game win streak Tuesday night was just the latest in a string of winning performances from the same team that started this season 1-4 and greased the skids for Mike Brown‘s ouster. No one was asking for the Lakers to look like a championship team right away. They only wanted to see them win in a manner befitting of a roster stocked with several future Hall of Famers.

So even when they perform without the sort of spectacular offensive flair people have come to expect from D’Antoni-coached teams and show obvious reasons why they cannot (and will not) do so in the coming weeks, there is still reason for optimism. The promise of a long and bountiful future together is what has to excite Lakers fans about this Lakers-D’Antoni pairing.

Steve Nash isn’t even healthy right now, with no real timetable set for his return, and the Lakers are toe-deep in learning the system that has served so many so well over the course of D’Antoni’s career.

More than anything, the Lakers looked more comfortable in their own skin now than they ever did under Brown, who is no doubt watching now and wondering where the disconnect was during his tenure.

“We know what we’re doing out there and that helps,” Gasol told J.A. Adande of ESPN.com. “There’s not much hesitation and that contributes to limiting the mistakes. That’s the main key. Even though it’s a new system, we’re playing out of pick-and-rolls, pistol actions, pindowns, post-ups. Very familiar, basic stuff that, thanks to our personnel, we get so much out of.”

Any outstanding concerns about the Lakers’ defensive effort or Howard’s longstanding issues at the free throw line (which included the Nets employing the “Hack-A-Howard” defense down the stretch) should be eased by the fact that this is only the beginning. And in defense of big men with no shooting touch from the foul line, Howard’s struggles there didn’t prevent the Orlando Magic from making it to The Finals in 2009. Plus, the Jackson-era Lakers were certainly able to overcome Shaquille O’Neal‘s career-long deficiencies there, too.

There seemed to be a nervous energy surrounding D’Antoni’s true arrival (on the bench), a feeling that lasted all the way until the final seconds of his first outing. And that’s a good thing for a franchise trying to relocate that edge that fueled them to back-to-back titles just three seasons ago.

Don’t let the aw-shucks routine fool you … D’Antoni knows his stuff. And by now he is fully aware of the magnitude of the job he has signed on for.

Coaching the Lakers isn’t just one of 30 NBA coaching gigs. It’s like being the manager for the New York Yankees, the starting quarterback at Notre Dame or any one of a handful of truly iconic positions in sport that come with an extra set of rules, regulations and expectations.

Winning big but not winning it all, the way D’Antoni did in Phoenix, will not be good enough in L.A.

D’Antoni’s in an all-or-nothing situation with these Lakers and the clock is ticking. The same rule he applied for playing his biggest stars the biggest minutes apply to his situation as well and his knee replacement surgery rehab won’t get him any kind of pass.

“They make a lot of money,” he quipped. “They’re going to earn every cent of it.”

And so it goes for everyone associated with the Lakers these days.

23 Comments

  1. Lakers-R-Us says:

    I notice a lot of Laker fans are not blogging much nowadays! It seems the only bloggers in the Laker columns are the Laker haters. On the other hand when the Lakers start winning; it’s the other way around. I can’t bring myself to believe that the Lakers are gonna keep sliding! With Kobe playing the way that he is; and Dwight playing outstanding, I think they’re gonna be OK! What people keep forgetting is that all of these teams gun for the Lakers. It doesn’t surprise me that Sacramento has a monster game against them in Sacramento. I keep the faith!

  2. Popoy Di Maunat says:

    I said before that the BOBCATS will dominate the lakers…. It’s true.. At least they manage 6-4 record…. Still better than your laker 6-6…AWFUL…. Not all contending TEAM can be bought by MONEY…. MEMPHIS,OKC… Many contending teams made a lot of sacrifice for a greater competition… HEAT(allen,haslem,lewis,battier,miller),NYK (kidd,camby,wallace)
    OKC(losing Harden) But they still have an intact rosters… lakers???? blake??? jamison??? You guys still don’t get it do you??? AGE ,BENCH,EGO… focus on that one so you may have an IDEA!!!!

  3. Popoy Di Maunat says:

    @wats wrong with this guy …. Am I a HATER maybe… but what I’ve stated before was TRUE…. They can’t even win on the ROAD…. against KINGS when COUSINS playing….. They I tell a while ago that the lakers will loss to them???? YES because Demarcus can GUARD howard single handed…. He knows Dwight’s EVERY MOVE……

    @jcmhar
    unstoppable or LAUGHABLE right NOW???? HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA uLOLs!!!!!!!!!

  4. jcmhar says:

    @16going417 you haters lakers prove that they are the better team right now after firing brown..they are not compete yet but sooner or later nash will come back to play his role as PG. watch out haters they going to crush your team..lol even the miami heats or the OKC… Lakers is unstoppable right now lol

  5. steve says:

    lake show is just starting to warm up!

  6. KOBE! says:

    Haters see the progress the lakers are starting to make and get scared sayin were trash to old and have no chance of being contenders. If offense stays strong it wont be long before defense starts looking better its a main concern already and something their working hugely on with that said Lakers = 2012/2013 Champs

  7. Paul says:

    Phil is so consistent, you konow what you get with him. I wish the buss family would have realized the 11 rings would have been 10 more then d antoni has now.

  8. Lou says:

    I agree that they still got some work to do and prove that they can be a real contender(keep in mind that the nets need to find each other as well) but saying that its a shame to give lopez 23 points is pour nonsense…

    Im excited to see a healthy nash with that d’antoni offense as he obviously knwos the system quite well. with kobe in his second(or still first) prime and a d.howard who starts to look like the monster he’s supposed to be…

    only thing that bothers me is the bench…give jamison some more minutes he can be lethal scorer and they need some more action from their second unit

  9. 16going417 says:

    You are VERY right Popoy. ALL of the Lakers victories have come at home. They have always been a good team at home. I am not impressed with their current style of play. They do not look organized or fluid. They are playing at a faster pace and scoring more, but this is not showtime 2.0 and their defense is horrible. They are scoring, but so is their opponent.

    As you said, until they can beat an elite team on their court I’m still not convinced the Lakers or their style of play can win a championship.

    Prove me wrong D’Antoni……….Please….

  10. lakerfan says:

    cousins is waiting to get crushed tonight

  11. lakerfan says:

    hey guys. the lakers are just starting to put things together. after like ten more games they would be unstopleble. they are in game shape, they just need a good coach to lead them.

  12. Popoy Di Maunat says:

    They just manage to win by 5 points now they are contending team????? If your bigs are intimidating(PAU,HOWARD) how come they gave Brook Lopez 23 points? really LOPEZ???? uLOLs…. Dwade didn’t allow lopez a free dunk, remember DWADE blocks lopez dunks……. But for lopez he doesn’t get intimidated by PAU or HOWARD… And that ain’t a great win…. 5 points…. HEAT trashed BKN by points…. For a team with no True CENTER…. all your lakers can do is to win by 5 points???? brace for more disaster… But please don’t blame D’Antoni and don’t even fire him if the lakers won’t win in the road… to refresh your memories… They still haven’t win a single on the road……. SAC is a scrub team but COUSINS will be waiting again for Howard….

    • wats wrong with this guy^ says:

      hater

    • No love says:

      you know that b.lopez is one of the better centers out there, at least top 5 in the league right now. he has more post moves than dwight and bynum combined, he just aint as athletic. A W is a W

    • L8keshow says:

      I like how you celebrate all that and to think we still have NASH to come back….. Things are looking up on the left coast AKA the best coast

    • KeCe says:

      Beating a team by 5 is still a W

    • sacrableu says:

      lopez is not a pushover.. he is definitely one of the better centers out there however to say he is not intimidated by howard or pau is a joke, he was shooting jumpers for the most part.

  13. Popoy Di Maunat says:

    Win against HEAT on the road…. or in OKC 1st… Before talking about championship….. they’re still a BUST (BUSS)….

  14. carlos says:

    the lakers need to get Ariza back

  15. punnyjr says:

    it’s great win but i still dont like those big minutes they have. if he still punks this way i’m not sure how far LA can go.

    they extremely need to take 4 – 5 minutes off to all La stars. it would give some minutes to someone in a bench to play though.

  16. eddie says:

    Kobe can sense that this team can be great! hes gonna do everything he can for his last years to make a push for the title with the guys he has .while playing nothing short of amazing in the last…oh ..idk 5 + games?? this guy is ridiculous… all the minutes and years behind him he STILL gets it done . TRUE CHAMPION

  17. Objective Onlooker says:

    What I would like to know is how people are overlooking the level of play of Kobe Bryant right now? What he is doing, and how he is performing at the age of 34, is nothing short of brilliant. His efficiency in particular is outstanding. Hope he keeps this up. #Agelesswonder

  18. Bob M says:

    I am a D’Antoni fan. He has an exciting and fun style that maximizes talent. In Phoenix, we needed a couple of pieces (or pieces that stayed healthy). In NY, he had the Dolan Factor. If they waited for Melo to become a FA and kept all their young pieces, he would be there today with a contending team. This is his best chance to win it all. As a Knick fan and loving the Heat style of play, I am pulling for the ……….. Lakers? hahaha. I want the D’Antoni style to finally prove it can win a championship. Age is against them, talent is for them, and the future is unknown..