Early Monday morning, the basketball world found out that the struggling Lakers decided to sign Mike D’Antoni as their new head coach. Let me start by saying that the Lakers interim head coach, Bernie Bickerstaff, is 2-0 since the firing of Mike Brown and I think Bernie deserves a couple of more games to prove whether or not he can manage this juggernaut team. That being said, D’Antoni has been chosen as the Lakers front office’s first pick to fill the coaching void and now there is some questions and controversy surrounding their decision. Once Brown was fired, everyone in the world thought that the Zen Master himself would retake the helm and lead this team to his twelfth Championship ring. Well, Phil Jackson is still jobless and Mike D’Antoni is about to lead an ideal lineup for any coach in the league, but is this decision the right choice?
Obviously, as a Knicks fan I have my extreme skepticism’s about D’Antoni’s coaching ability. This is a guy who has made it abundantly clear over his two decades as an NBA coach, that he has no regard whatsoever for the defensive end of a basketball game. Sure, Mike won Coach of the Year for his 2004-2005 season managing the Phoenix Suns to their first year of relevancy since the days of Charles Barkley, but he did so by leading the league in scoring and he also had a PG named Steve Nash, in his prime might I add, on his way to his first of two NBA MVP’s. Don’t get me wrong, I think that D’Antoni is one of the smartest offensive basketball minds to ever grace the hardwood, but if you are a true NBA fan, you know that Championships are not won on the offensive end.
When there became a vacancy in the Lakers head coaching position, everyone’s first thought was that Phil was going to come back to help Kobe match the six rings he helped put on Michael’s hands. Even Kobe addressed the media saying how he thought “he never truly gave Phil a quality farewell season”. The Staples Center roared with chants of “We Want Phil! We Want Phil!” The only problem with that thought was no one thought Phil was going to want to come back to the NBA so soon; only 1 year removed from retirement. The Lakers front office, The Buss family and Mitch Kupchak, visited Phil early Saturday morning and after some short talks, Phil was under the impression that he would have until today to work out the kinks and make his decision. Well Phil, you snooze you lose!
Having found out about D’Antoni’s hiring yesterday, Phil told the media, “No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a hand shake and an understanding that I would have until Monday to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to the that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened on Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a 3-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team.”
First off Phil, there is no way that the Lakers thought Mike was “the best coach” for the job. The way I see it is that Phil, in the final seasons of his coaching career, was very high maintenance with his restrictive traveling schedule and constant health issues. Mike, on the other hand, will be the perfect puppet for Jerry Buss to bounce on his knee and do whatever it is he wants done with his team. D’Antoni doesn’t have the type of pull that Jackson would demand and that is a lot more comforting for Kupchak and the Buss family. The truth of the matter is that D’Antoni and Phil can not even be mentioned in the same sentence when referring to their coaching abilities. Phil is arguably the greatest coach there ever was and Mike D’Antoni is just eh. D’Antoni has had a couple of successful regular seasons under his belt and he has proven that he can match anyone’s offense output, but the Lakers always make the playoffs so the regular season is not their problem. They need to win once in the postseason and Mike has proven time and again that he can not coach in the playoffs.
I do understand the signing of Mike though. He obviously has a report with Nash and when Kobe was growing up in Italy, D’antoni was his favorite player to watch. Add that to the fact that Mike coached both Dwight and Kobe on multiple Olympics teams and you have a coach who has pretty good chemistry with his core players. Kobe even went on to post on his Facebook page, “It’s been a wild week to say the least. I’m happy to have closure and can’t wait to get to work with Coach D’Antoni.. spacing, ball movement. And despite the chatter, I believe we will be phenomenal defensively. I’m looking forward to getting started with him and his staff this week. Mamba out.” Phenomenal defensively? I doubt it.
I honestly feel that anyone with the slightest bit of basketball knowledge can coach this Lakers team to the NBA Finals because of how talented their roster is. There was so much fuss over their 1-4 start, but lets not forget that the Miami Heat started with a 9-8 record when they first joined Lebron-Wade-Bosh. Chemistry takes time and I can assure all of the doubters out there that the Lakers will be a force to recon with for the rest of the season. As to whether or not Mike was the right choice to lead them to their successes, well that’s just something we will have to wait and see.
I love Drama! Do you know who else loves drama? Los Angeles. That is why the sports world is gobbling up the recent lovers quarrel between the new and old Supermen. Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard have been jabbing each other back and forth for a couple of days now. Shaq thinks that Dwight isn’t half the center that Andrew Bynum is, or even Brook Lopez, which is a little far fetched, and Dwight thinks Shaq is old and should move on with his life. With nearly identical starts to each of their respective careers, one can only think about which of these players are better…and who would win in a fight.
First off, I wish Celebrity Death Match was still a television show because watching the claymation versions of these two giants go at each other leaves a big smile on my face. I’ll start by saying that Shaq is holding on to his past grudges a little to long, but since I find Dwight Howard such a big annoyance, I’m quite happy about it. After TNT analyst, Shaq, stated that he felt Brooks Lopez and Andrew Bynum are better than Howard based solely on the fact that they both play with their back to the basket, Howard responded with a sly remark of his own. “I don’t care what Shaq says,” Howard told reporters after practice Thursday morning. “Shaq played the game. He’s done. He’s gone. It’s time to move on.”
There are people saying that Shaq’s comments are stemming from past frustrations with the Lakers organization and more specifically, Kobe Bryant. There’s also the fact that Dwight Howard seems to be living Shaq’s life a decade behind him. Both players were drafted by the Orlando Magic as the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and eventually carried their teams to the NBA Finals where they each fell short. After four years with the Magic, Shaq looked for the big bucks and signed with the Lakers where he went on to win 3 NBA Championships and put his name along side Lakers center greats like Wilt and Kareem. Dwight didn’t want to wait out Free Agency as he demanded to be traded and eventually ended up with the Lakers where he is now considered to be on a championship caliber team. In both instances, the Orlando Magic drew the short end of the stick and found their franchise in shambles while their former superstars enjoyed the LA glamour.
So why does Shaq seem to hate Dwight so much? Maybe it’s because Shaq’s former frenemy, Kobe Bryant, stated that Dwight was the best defensive Center he had ever played with, which was a clear jab at Shaq. Or maybe it’s because Dwight is trying to steal the spotlight that Shaq enjoyed so much while he was donning the gold and purple. Maybe it’s because Shaq’s self-dubbed nickname “Superman,” is now being used by Howard himself after the unforgettable slam dunk contest performance. Never the less, Shaq is pissed and he is taking out his anger on Dwight. Dwight has stated multiple times that he isn’t trying to follow anyone’s career and that he is an individual who just wants to be himself. I find it hard to believe Dwight because since he moved to LA I have heard from my sources that he is in the works of creating Kazaam 2 and Blue Chips: Back to School.
Shaq does make some valid points that Dwight is a “soft” Center and he doesn’t play the traditional role, but Shaq didn’t win his first NBA Championship until he was 27, and guess how old Dwight is?…27. I do believe that Dwight will win the title this year with help from the before mentioned Bryant, Gasol, and Nash, but when it comes to the end of Dwight’s career, there will be no chance in hell that he can compare with the true “Superman.”
When did the NBA become a sport where players get to pick their bosses. This past Wednesday, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard exercised his verbally agreed upon right to request his head coaches firing…or so we heard. In the beginning of this current strike-shortened season, the Orlando Magic did everything in their power to retain the Superstar center whose contract expires at the end of the season by trying to give him whatever he wanted. This included speculated rumors that he was in complete control of whether GM Otis Smith and current Head Coach Stan Van Gundy would keep their jobs. To me, this idea of letting a player pick their coach and GM is ludicrous. Maybe this is because the Magic have never really recovered from Shaq leaving their organization to the Lakers in the late 90’s and making the Magic irrelevant for many years.
“I was told it was true by people in our management,” Van Gundy said referring to the rumors of Dwight’s request to have him fired. In interviews before the game Thursday against the New York Knicks, Stan Van Gundy addressed the media and said, “They haven’t told me anything,” (referring to the Magic Management) “and they don’t need to. I’m the coach right now, and I’m the coach until they decide I’m not the coach. It’s 12:02 right now. If they want to fire me at 12:05, I’ll go home and find something to do. I’ll have a good day.” This was a nationally televised game on TNT which is never a good place to stir up team controversies…especially in the midst of a playoff run. The Van Gundy pregame interview became an extremely awkward situation when the talked about Dwight stepped up next to him and put an arm around the coach and asked, “Stan, we’re not worried about that, right?” Clearly not pleased with Dwight, Stan quickly diverted the rest of the questions towards Dwight and left the area.
ESPN analyst Stephen A Smith said in an interview Friday morning that he thinks Stan could have made these comments on national television to ENSURE he gets fired at the closeout of this season. It’s understandable based on the fact that the organization he works for relinquished more power to his star player then they did to himself. If I was Stan Van Gundy I would have handed in my resignation forms the second I heard these allegations. Van Gundy has helped resurrect the Magic franchise and even brought them to the 2009 NBA Finals. He will have no problem getting another coaching job in a league where it is feasible that up to 10 coaches could be fired by the end of the season.
Dwight on the other hand is a different story. Stephen A Smith went on to exclaim that Van Gundy will definitely be gone after the season, mostly on his own merit, and Dwight should be gone as well. The problem with this is that having a whining bitch of a player has proven to be a bad thing for NBA teams. Dwight will now be considered a Prima donna punk that causes controversy with no regard for its side effects. Yes, he is the best defensive player in the game, and yes, he is the best player at his position in the game, but should that all overshadow his on and off court antics? Should a player have this type of control over their own team’s organization? I think it’s bullshit and he should be traded to the lowly Sacramento Kings as punishment for his “cry-baby” mentality.
P.S. How sick would a Jeff and Stan Van Gundy sports show be?