Mike D'Antoni says Lakers ‘can be better than most people think’

Coach Mike D'Antoni's Lakers went 28-12 in their final 40 games last season to qualify for the playoffs despite a rash of injuries.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Coach Mike D'Antoni looks forward to his first full season with the Lakers.

“I think we can be better than most people think,” D'Antoni said on ESPN LA (710 AM) radio Tuesday to Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson. “I think Mitch [Kupchak, Lakers general manager] and [owner and executive] Jim Buss have done a great job of retooling as well as we could.”

Center Dwight Howard left in free agency to join the Houston Rockets. The Lakers added Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and rookie Elias Harris to their roster.


D'Antoni expects three starters in Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant -- once Bryant returns from his Achilles’ tendon injury.

The Lakers coach has yet to decide who will round out the lineup, although it will likely be either Jordan Hill or Kaman next to Gasol up front and Young or Johnson at small forward.

“A lot of combinations can happen,” said D'Antoni. “The guys that come in [to camp] and win the battle -- they will they settle [the rotation] amongst themselves. I foresee 11 guys playing a lot of minutes.”

The big question is Bryant and his return from April surgery.

“Everybody is hoping for the best,” said D'Antoni. “Doctors don’t really know until probably another month or two -- where he is realistically.

“I do know that his work ethic and the way he attacks the injury,” he continued. “I’ve never seen anybody like this, the hours he puts in.”

D'Antoni expects Gasol to be a major part of the Lakers’ success next season.

“I expect him to have the best year he’s ever had,” he said. “I’m extremely happy he’s on the team.”

The Lakers coach also believes Nash will rebound well from an injury-plagued debut season with the team.

“He’s going to have as good a year as he’s had in a while,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to having Steve at 100%.”

As far as Howard leaving for the Rockets?

“It’s hard for me to sit here and criticize or even understand why he left a place like L.A., that’s kind of mind-boggling a little bit, but that’s in his DNA and what he wants to do,” said D'Antoni.

What will the Lakers’ offense look like next season? Will it be at a higher pace than last year’s team that struggled to run with Howard and Gasol in the lineup together?

“I would like it to be in theory but I’ll have to watch the players and see where they can go with. Do we want to shoot a lot of threes? Yeah, that’s kind of where the league is going,” said D'Antoni. “If you look at it analytically, that’s a better shot than the old traditional one inside the arc kind of jumper. It just mathematically makes sense that you want to try to get threes, layups and fouls.”

The question for D'Antoni isn’t the Lakers’ offense.

“Can we come together as a group and defend? We’re going to score. We’ve got a lot of scorers out there,” he said. “If we can, we’re going to be really good.”


Lakers’ week in review in review

Pau Gasol looking forward to a bigger role in the Lakers’ offense

Lakers hire Kurt Rambis, Johnny Davis as assistant coaches

Email Eric Pincus at and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.