Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni uses humor to keep sanity

Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni gives instructions to his players during a game against the San Antonio Spurs last month at Staples Center.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Mike D’Antoni thinks of it this way: don’t make a bad situation worse.

As the losses pile up at a record-setting rate, the Lakers coach often responds with humor while fielding reporters’ questions. It’s sometimes self-deprecating and usually followed by a laugh, his way of coping with a season to be remembered for two things: many injuries, many losses.

“You’ve got to be careful because if you get in these situations it doesn’t help to swing wildly and just take everybody down,” D’Antoni said. “You’ve got to get through it, you’ve got to look for small victories, you’ve got to look to the bright side of things, understanding that it’s not pleasant for anybody to go through. Nobody’s wished this on anybody.”

The Lakers (25-53) clinched their record for most losses in a season since moving to Los Angeles after a 145-130 defeat against Houston on Tuesday.


If it’s any consolation to D’Antoni (unlikely) and Lakers followers (equally unlikely), there won’t be a franchise record for worst winning percentage if the Lakers lose their final four games. That distinction goes to the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers, who were 19-53 with a dreary .264 success rate.

D’Antoni hasn’t been asked about that yet. He’d probably throw out a gallows humor response.

A recent sampling:

D’Antoni on whether assistant coach Mark Madsen should suit up for the damaged front court: “He’s always ready. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.”

D’Antoni on a slew of players listed as “probable” last week: “We’ll ‘probably’ show up at 7:30 to play. Well, sometimes we don’t and sometimes we do. But it’s probable we will.”

In December, when Kobe Bryant was healthy and demanding a lot of pick-and-roll sets against Atlanta on one side of the court, D’Antoni offered, “I think they’re going to have to repaint the right side of the floor because we never got to the other side. We’ll probably have to pay for damages.”

And last month, when asked about his job security, D’Antoni said, “I don’t sit around and look into hot chocolate and say, ‘Aw, I don’t know.’ ”

Lakers players that aren’t injured have kept a decent demeanor. No locker room fights. No outright hatred. More or less a resignation that seeps in after losses but evaporates the next morning on the practice court.


Bryant isn’t happy, but that’s nothing new in a losing season. He has experienced only two of them in his 18-year career and was part of this one for only six games.

So the Lakers trudge through one more week, their season mercifully ending Wednesday in San Antonio.

Seven players are pretty much done for the season because of injuries. Jordan Farmar, one of the healthy ones right now, summed it up.

“This is an asterisk-type season with all that we’ve been through,” Farmar said. “We haven’t had a fair shot as a team to see if we’re really that bad.”


Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan