Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni: ‘We just messed up royally’ in Wizards loss


Mike D’Antoni laughed before the question could be completed, fully knowing where the query was headed.

Was the Lakers coach referring to Kobe Bryant when he criticized his team’s defense on Trevor Ariza and its tendency to go one-on-one Friday during an appalling loss to Washington?

“Am I talking about Kobe?” D’Antoni said Sunday, the first time he had spoken with reporters since his postgame rant. “I’m talking about Kobe, I’m talking about me, I’m talking about Dwight [Howard], I’m talking about Steve Nash, I’m talking about everybody. Now, will I say one is more guilty than another? Nah. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the Lakers’ screw-up and the Lakers are going to go forward and try to fix it.”

There was no shortage of problem areas to address after the Lakers lost an 18-point lead against the Wizards during a 103-100 defeat. Bryant took 10 shots but had no assists in the fourth quarter, essentially reducing Howard to a bystander on offense. The Lakers also committed 17 turnovers and were dreadful on defense, with Ariza repeatedly making open three-pointers during a 25-point performance.

Bryant, the primary defender on Ariza who later tweeted of the game that he would “Flush it,” did not speak with reporters Sunday.

D’Antoni was uncharacteristically incensed when he met with reporters after Friday’s game. He said two days later he had been “pretty livid all year” because the Lakers were failing to fulfill their potential.

“You try to pick spots because you just can’t be a madman the whole time,” D’Antoni said. “But sometimes the adrenaline gets to you and gets the best of you, but also the players have to know that we just messed up royally, coaches and players. Hopefully the message got through.”

Howard said he was not aware of his coach’s comments because he didn’t watch television.

When a reporter relayed D’Antoni’s concerns about complacency and ball movement and his contention that even if the Lakers made the playoffs, without correcting their deficiencies they would be blown out in the first round, Howard paused for a few seconds before responding.

“OK,” he said with a look of mild disbelief.

How did Howard take what D’Antoni said?

“The same way I just took what you just said,” Howard said. “We understand where we’re at. We have to get better, we have to hold each other accountable. So no need to go back and forth about what he said.”

D’Antoni said he stressed the need to get Howard more involved with the offense late in games.

“He’s got to have the ball somehow,” D’Antoni said. “If you make the easy play, the ball will find him, and we just don’t do that.… Sometimes we try to orchestrate plays of, ‘I’ll get it to you, you get it to me, you go there,’ like a chess match instead of just playing basketball.”

Clinging to eighth place in the Western Conference, the Lakers (36-34) face the possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years. D’Antoni said he still believes his team has an upside despite its many issues.

“I’ve told these guys that if we play to our max, I’m not afraid of anybody, I don’t care who it is,” D’Antoni said. “And I think everybody thinks that — fans and media and everybody else. But we’re not there and we keep talking about getting there and it’s tiring. We just need to do it.”