With the Lakers well under .500 at 41 games – exactly halfway through the NBA season, Mike D’Antoni is another “our season starts Sunday” claim from being the laughing stock of NBA coaches.
Actually, I lied.
The first time he said that cemented his place as the butt of every LA-related joke as of the past two weeks. Anyways, if things don’t change – and quickly – for the team from the right side of the tracks in Tinseltown, Mitch Kupchak could be firing his second Mike of the year.
After taking an embarrassing loss at the hands of the lowly Toronto Raptors just two nights ago, head coach Mike D’Antoni decided it was time to shake things up. So he decided to move Pau Gasol to the bench, permanently. Last night, the Lakers lost their third straight game to the Chicago Bulls, and replacement starter Earl Clark didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
Yesterday’s loss isn’t the problem with this though. Nor is it the fact that D’Antoni is thinking out the the box. It’s that he’s trying to solve the wrong problem. In the loss against the Raptors, Pau Gasol was by far the Lakers best offensive player. Guess how many times he shot the ball in the fourth quarter? 5. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Now guess how many times Kobe, who was 6-32, shot the ball in the fourth quarter: 12.
Sure, it may not help that Pau has been playing out of position for the past 5 years – a fact that was clouded by the fact that Andrew Bynum played a total of 3.68 games in his last few years as a Laker – but there’s got to be a way to get Gasol into a position he likes without banishing the struggling perennial all-star to the bench.
Not to mention, Pau isn’t exactly the kind of guy that takes well to this kind of criticism. Just last week, he laughed at the thought of coming off the bench. According to ESPN, this is what he said:
I’ve been a starter my entire career. I’ve been a star starter my entire career, so I want to continue to be a star starter.
The problems in Los Angeles aren’t going to be solved by any line-up changes, as radical as they may be, and D’Antoni is well aware of that. The Lakers look like a team-divided and they aren’t about to make any lasting changes until Kobe Bryant can come to terms with a reduced role and Dwight Howard adjusts to the bright lights of the Staples Center.
Herein lies the difference between Phil Jackson and every other coach to hold a clipboard in the NBA: No one can manage superstar ego’s like the most winningest coach in NBA history. With the more-than-predictable problems that are facing the Lakers right now, it begs the question: What were the Lakers thinking when they hired Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson?
Ten year’s from now, when ESPN makes a terrible 30-for-30 revolving around the Los Angeles Lakers 2012-2013 season, tonight – some Monday in late January that ended in a 17-24 record for LA – will mark the date that Jerry Buss realized he got it wrong.