Let’s not forget about the Carmelo Anthony saga, either. GM Donnie Walsh and D’Antoni were both totally against bringing Carmelo to New York, but Jimmy Dolan heeded Isiah Thomas‘ whispers, and brought in ‘Melo anyway. In exchange for Denver’s superstar, the Knicks handed over the entirety of the roster Walsh and D’Antoni had built to complement D’Antoni’s offensive stylings. Doesn’t that sound like something Jim Buss would do with this Lakers team? Anyway, we now know that D’Antoni and ‘Melo clashed last year, and that was the primary reason D’Antoni stepped down – although, neither party admitted as much.
Even with Amar’e playing one half of a year in 2010 at an MVP/superstar level with Mike D’Antoni as his coach, they differed in Phoenix during STAT’s churlish early years. D’Antoni also bungled the Starbury situation almost as much as Starbury bungled any chance he had to be an NBA star. Then, most recently, we have the Carmelo saga. Three superstars, and three relationships that either ended badly or were handled poorly by not being handled at all.
Burying one’s head in the sand might be Mike D’Antoni’s modus operandi when faced with a strong-willed superstar, but this Lakers team needs a wakeup call, and the Zen Master could have at least spoken some truth to power, which is possibly why Phil’s not in power anymore (ahem, Jimmy Buss). Conversely, Mike D’Antoni is only successful when dealt players – like Nash – who are internally motivated to succeed, and who follow the coach without question. Yes, Nash is in L.A. too, but how healthy will he be without the Suns’ leading training staff?
Dwight Howard is the ideal contemporary superstar to annoy D’Antoni’s no-frills brand of coaching, and dumping the ball down low in the post – where Howard lives – is almost as frowned upon as passing up an open three.
Metta could become more meta as his quickness continues to be sapped, and Pau is still experiencing the psychological torment in his current spot as the Lakers’ biggest trade chip for the Chris Pauls, Dwight Howards, or – in just two years time – Kevin Loves of the world. Kobe Bryant has only two years left on his contract, and eventually even his platelet-rich German doctors won’t have an answer for his knee’s deterioration. What happens when Kobe can no longer perform and looks for scapegoats when his double-teamed, off-balance shots to end the game aren’t even drawing iron? These are all issues D’Antoni will have to deal with, whether he likes it or not.
This Lakers team came into the season facing a mountain of question marks, and with the early season firing of Mike Brown, that list of questions became longer and murkier. Now, with the polarizing Mike D’Antoni replacing Brown on the Lakers’ bench, those questions have amplified. Most prior evidence suggests this coach is the last guy you want coaching a team of superstars. Even Steve Nash won’t be enough to save Mike D’Antoni if he loses a grasp on Kobe or Dwight, and there’s very little reason to believe D’Antoni has the experience necessary to challenge those two superstars. Even if he did, the guy does not like confrontation. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what D’Antoni will be forced to contend with in Los Angeles. A team of superstars, in a city of superstars, coached by a guy that doesn’t really like dealing with superstars.
Now is about the time Phil Jackson is lighting up his peace pipe in some cabin. Unfortunately, D’Antoni could use a couple hits. He’s got a long road ahead of him.
Will this coaching change work out for the Lakers?
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