The Other Man: D’Antoni, the Lakers, and a Buss with the Wheels Coming Off
The Mike D’Antoni regime is set to begin tonight in Los Angeles as the Lakers take on the Phoenix Suns, and leave it to Jim Buss to place the onus of a high-expectation squarely on the shoulders of a man who had nothing to do with the situation a week ago.
That man, of course, is D’Antoni, the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers following the firing of Mike Brown and interim regime of Bernie Bickerstaff. But everyone, including D’Antoni, knows he should still be unemployed.
The job should’ve gone to Phil Jackson. Of this there is no denying. I know it, you know it, and D’Antoni knows it. I can only wonder if somewhere, deep down inside, Jim Buss knows it, too.
The fact of the matter is that this refusal to hire Jackson has brought this feud between the franchise’s greatest coach and a forgettable front office executive to an all-time new low. If Phil Jackson and Jim Buss were tied together for a three-legged race, Jim Buss would shoot himself in the foot just to make sure Jackson didn’t taste any kind of success. THAT is where we are now.
Because Jim Buss HAS shot himself in the foot. D’Antoni, by no means, is a bad coach, but he wasn’t the right man for the job here.
You can hide behind all the excuses you want. Jackson’s offense doesn’t suit the new guys on the block, Nash and Howard. D’Antoni’s offense is simpler and easier to install midseason. Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s all just nitpicky reasons that have been thrown at us to make you believe the right move was made it here.
The irony, of course, is that Buss is hiring D’Antoni to try and account for his ORIGINAL goof-up: Hiring Mike Brown. As with D’Antoni, the point in which the hiring of Brown made any amount of sense just doesn’t exist in reality.
We can beat around the bush and play this charade season after season, but here’s the truth: Phil Jackson is the right man to coach the Lakers and Jim Buss is the one obstacle in the way of that. The only question is how many wrong turns does this Buss have to take before Los Angeles realizes they’ve lost their way.
This isn’t to say Mike D’Antoni can’t win a championship here and now with this team. Or even that he won’t. The way the NBA is shaped today, the superstars nine times out of ten determine the outcome of a game. Look at the Lakers roster: Kobe, Gasol, Howard, Nash, and Metta World Peace. With that much talent all wearing the same colors, the real objective of a modern day NBA head coach, more than anything else, is to just not get in the way.
For the most part, that’s how Erik Spoelstra “led” the Heat to a title last year.
No one is saying the placement of D’Antoni as the Lakers’ new head coach hinders Los Angeles’ chances of getting back to the NBA finals, it just doesn’t help as much as having Phil Jackson would have.
In a way, it sort of makes the writing of this article pointless. Like laying down a cogent argument for why the sky is blue or why one plus one equals two, 99.9% of people here are in agreement. And the rest are blind and/or toddlers.
Which brings us back to Jim Buss. If I could ask the man one question, it’d be this: do you want your Los Angeles Lakers to win as many title as fast as possible? Because only with him could such a layup of a question be construed as “gotcha journalism”. If he says no, he obviously has no place in the organization. And if he says yes, what he is saying verbally goes in direct contradiction with his actions.
And it’s about time his actions have consequences. Not for the Lakers, but for himself.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NBA updates and other shenanigans.
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