In the instant, overreactive world of sports, it’s always folly to make sweeping, long-term statements.
For example, the Lakers started 1-4 this season and a few voices wondered aloud if the city of Los Angeles might become a Clippers town.
It’s important to understand those who uttered such nonsense did it without eyes rolling, a dismissive grin or fingers crossed, which is troubling because the Clippers will be a threat to Lakers popularity along about the same time Donald Sterling is referred to as a beloved owner.
While the firing of Mike Brown was viewed positively by those who did not like Brown’s slowtime offense, the fact that Sir Phil Jackson was not brought in as a resident savior was a blow (Excellent behind-the-scenes narrative here on the Phil fiasco from colleague Mark Heisler).
But in the last week or so, many of the Lakers faithful have made the startling discovery that Mike D’Antoni is not all that bad as a head coach.
I know that because I heard it on talk radio while spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Los Angeles. On one of the popular afternoon shows, I was informed that D’Antoni has a pretty good offensive philosophy and, well, he may not be as horrible as advertised on defense.
After averaging 97.2 points a game under Brown, the Lakers played two games under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff before D’Antoni was hired. Bickerstaff was on the bench for three more games although D’Antoni was running practices, so it was difficult to get a read on the team.
And allowances had to be made for D’Antoni taking over on the run (which he literally couldn’t do because of knee replacement surgery, so he limped and tottered) and the fact that Steve Nash was not playing because of a fracture in his left leg.
Until Nash returns – and that may be awhile – Lakers fans will not really know what their team might look like in April. Nash is one of those players who is the polar opposite of a coach killer.
Put the ball in his hands, and Nash can make a good coach become great. D’Antoni knows that better than anyone from the four years the two spent together in Phoenix. The Suns averaged 59 victories a season during the Nash-D’Antoni tenure.
But they still have to prove themselves to the toughest of critics – the Lakers fans who do not take greatness for granted as much as they assume it’s their divine right.