T.J. SIMERS

Mike D'Antoni gets to work but looks as if he should call in sick

Mike D'Antoni makes his sideline debut Tuesday as Lakers coach, but he's clearly in pain as he recovers from surgery. Why risk making things worse?

We hear about players playing hurt, but as Mike D'Antoni walks down the hallway for his first pregame media briefing as Lakers head coach, I'm telling him he looks like a wreck.

And he's not disagreeing, pulling a coat around himself because, as he says, "I'm just so cold."

The new Lakers coach looks just awful, and not for the reasons we were detailing a week ago.

No one needs a medical degree to see he should be home in bed, D'Antoni letting it slip that's where he's been spending 12 hours at a time.

He's off the crutches but still on the meds, including blood thinners; so why is he pushing himself to coach against Brooklyn?

Why is he placing himself in the draining position of coaching four games in the next five days with stops in four cities?

Someone please tell him Bernie Bickerstaff is not going to take his job, no matter how long he takes to recover.

When D'Antoni meets with the media, he does so with his arms tightly wrapped around his chest as if trying to ward off the chills.

He's masterful in deflecting attention away from his shaky condition with a heavy dosage of humor.

"Have you reached out to anybody for advice since you took this job?"

"No, I'm on meds," he says. "I might've, but I don't remember. They might've told me some stuff, but I don't remember."

And everyone is laughing, but there's obviously a hint of truth there.

"How are you going to prevent yourself from jumping off the chair in the heat of the moment?" he's asked.

"Pain will do that," he says.

"Are you pain-free at this point?"

"No, I'm never pain-free; I'm 61 years old," he says. "I haven't been pain-free since I was 30."

He's 61, and his energy is a concern, "among other things," says Lakers trainer Gary Vitti before the game.

Vitti asks D'Antoni, would he sit behind him to reduce the risk of anyone running into him. D'Antoni declines.

Vitti says years might go by without anyone running out of bounds and into the bench, "but as soon as someone gets a knee replacement, what happens?"

It might've made more sense for D'Antoni to wait until next week, when the Lakers come off the road, to make his debut.

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