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What D'Antoni Makes the Lakers

November 12th 2012 20:14
Check out my short-ish, RMOG BLOG post, "What D'Antoni Makes the Lakers" at Really Long Link

Well, like everyone, I was a little surprised to hear the news this morning that the Lakers had hired Mike D'Antoni in lieu of Phil Jackson; a statement in and of itself that is a bit of a misnomer. It's not like Phil was DYING to have the job and he got passed over. He went in with a list of contingencies (that none of us can state) and it may have been a mutual agreement that it just wouldn't work out. Phil is a very smart guy and he's well aware that the Lakers needed him a lot more than he needed them. So who knows what he was asking for, especially in terms of "having power over all basketball related decisions."

From a pure basketball standpoint, I was hoping they'd hire Phil. He's the greatest coach in NBA History, and Kobe's had little-to-no success without him (Pau has been completely useless since he left). But it's not like he would have been a perfect fit. The triangle isn't designed to maximize the abilities of a great point guard like Steve Nash, and if Phil had to be convinced to take the job (which it kind of felt like he did), I don't know that the Lakers would have been getting all the Zen he had to offer. So not getting him is disappointing, but I don't think it's the end of Western Civilization.

I'm actually a little surprised that Jerry Sloan's named was never mentioned. It seems like he would have been the best match on paper. He worked with a great point guard in John Stockton for all those years, and he's a hard-nose, gritty guy who did well with older, slower parts. But the Lakers obviously weren't interested in him, for whatever reason. Which brings us to Mike D'Antoni.

Before they hired him, my feeling was, "If they can't get Phil, and they don't want Sloan, at least D'Antoni is better than Dunleavy (why the hell was he on the list?)" My big concern with D'Antoni is that the Lakers aren't built for his uptempo system. And worse yet, most the top-dogs in the NBA are.

What I mean is -- if you were constructing a football team to contend with the Patriots, you wouldn't opt for a pocket passer and a high-powered offense. Because you're not gonna out-Brady Brady. You'd lean on a solid defense and a great running attack to try to keep the Pats off the field.

But LA obviously didn't hire D'Antoni to run a slow-it-down, half court offense. In effect, they've decided to try to out-Brady Brady. So now the Lakers are gonna have to beat teams like OKC, MIA, LAC, SAS, DEN, MEM, etc. at their own game. I'm not sure that's wise.

That said, the Buss Family and Mitch Kupchak aren't stupid (Jim Buss may be a little dumb, but he at least seems to be coming to that realization). I have to believe they've got some personnel moves in the hopper. If not now, they must at least be considering moves at the deadline, if things aren't working out. That's the only way the D'Antoni hire makes sense.

The most valuable/likely chip they have is clearly Pau Gasol. Because they're not trading Kobe, Howard or Nash. And Pau's trade value is probably a bit higher than he's really worth at this point. Prior to the D'Antoni hire, Bill Simmons tweeted (paraphrasing) "The best thing the Lakers can do is Hire D'Antoni and trade Gasol to ATL for Josh Smith and Kyle Korver." That would make the most sense to me of all the "fan generated trade possibilities."

Another potential suitor would seemingly be MIN, as I suspect they'd overpay for the chance to pair Gasol with Rubio. They wouldn't overpay to the tune of Kevin Love, but they could build a nice package around Derrick Williams, who'd be better in D'Antoni's system than Pau anyway. And HOU, who we know loves Gasol, has already said they want to add another big piece before the deadline. But after acquiring Harden, I don't know what they have to left to give.

So I guess my feeling is that I don't hate the D'Antoni hire, but the Lakers sure have put themselves up against it. They passed up Phil Jackson, the Holy Grail of NBA coaches, to bring D'Antoni in, and they almost assuredly have to make roster moves for this to have a chance of working out. My fear is this...

What if it doesn't work out? What if LA never really adapts to D'Antoni, ends up as the 6-ish seed in the West and gets swept in the 1st or 2nd round by OKC or SAS (or even worse -- ANYONE else)? Then what? The Lakers already ate a ton of money with the Mike Brown debacle. Are they gonna swallow D'Antoni's contract if he sucks too? And if you can him, then what? Are you gonna go crawling back to Phil again at that point? Because he'll probably laugh in your face (Heaven forbid he's interested, he'd have them over a barrel). And what does next year hold if this season doesn't end well? Kobe, Nash and possibly Pau will be another year older and Howard could very well be a Brooklyn Net (he's not exactly the type to stick it out in hopes of a better future).

All in all, fingers crossed Laker fans...

you can follow me on twitter at - Really Long Link

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