Mike D’Antoni arrives in L.A. to take over as Lakers coach
Mike D’Antoni landed in Los Angeles on Wednesday, settling in at an undisclosed hotel and taking a meeting with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
It’s a little backward to accept a three-year, $12-million job before sitting down with your bosses, but that’s what happens when you’re laid up in New York because of recent knee-replacement surgery.
The new Lakers coach has some busy days ahead. He will conduct his first practice with the team Thursday and also be formally introduced at a news conference in the afternoon. He will probably not coach against Phoenix on Friday, instead making his Lakers debut Sunday against Houston.
Meanwhile, the outcry continued for former coach Phil Jackson, the latest objection coming from a Lakers executive.
“The reason I haven’t tweeted in 2 days is because I’ve been mourning Phil Jackson not being hired as the Lakers head coach,” Magic Johnson said on his Twitter account. “My mother always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Johnson, a Lakers vice president, tweeted something nice a few hours later, thanking a printer/copier company for a “great time” while speaking at its conference. Ideally, it wasn’t the same company that made D’Antoni’s broken fax machine and stalled the final step in negotiations with the Lakers on Sunday night.
In a sign of the times, after the Lakers’ 84-82 loss to San Antonio on Tuesday, Kobe Bryant was asked more questions about Jackson than anything else.
He even referred to himself as the “baby Zen master” and said he wouldn’t be the player he was now without Jackson’s guidance over 11 seasons, five of which ended in championships.
Bryant was also fine with the hiring of D’Antoni, in case anybody cared.
D’Antoni has been using a crutch or cane to walk around in recent days. He only hopes his roster isn’t limping around as well.
Steve Nash hasn’t played since Oct. 31 because of a small fracture in his left leg. He won’t play against his old team, Phoenix, and has only a small chance of playing Sunday.
Nash’s backup, Steve Blake, sat out Tuesday’s near-victory over San Antonio because of a strained abdominal muscle. His chances of playing Friday are slightly better than 50-50.
Reserve center Jordan Hill suffered a sprained right wrist Tuesday and was seen with an electro-stim machine on his hand after the game. He is considered probable for Friday’s game.
The absence of Nash and Blake was a contributing factor to the first loss in the Bernie Bickerstaff coaching era.
Bryant, the interim point guard, had 28 points and eight assists with only two turnovers against San Antonio, but he played 38 minutes, perhaps the most important stat for a team trying to get him more in-game rest.
It would help if the Lakers had a bench, but Jodie Meeks was scoreless against the Spurs, Antawn Jamison scored five points to raise his season average to 3.8 per game, and Hill missed numerous layups.
Some starters had trouble too. Metta World Peace made four of 14 shots and continued his season-long shooting slump (36.5%).
Copy and paste part of the above for Pau Gasol, who made three of 10 shots Tuesday and was shooting a numbingly low 40.4% this season. Gasol was a 52% career shooter coming into this season.
Gasol’s missed three-point shot in the final seconds sealed the Lakers’ loss to San Antonio. He then appealed to get more shots by the basket instead of around the perimeter.
“Hopefully, I’ll get closer looks to the basket,” Gasol said. “Most of my looks are made outside the key and I would like to mix it up a little more, make it a little more balanced.”
Add it to D’Antoni’s list of things to fix. It’s a long one, as expected for a 3-5 team.
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