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There's No "D" In D'Antoni

There's No "D" In D'Antoni

There's No "D" In D'Antoni
By Jesse Schule

Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the NBA season so far, is the struggling L.A. Lakers. After acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the summer, the Lakers were favored to compete for the Championship. Now nearing the midway point in the season, it appears that it's going to take a miracle for L.A. to even make the playoffs.

So what went wrong? Well they came out of the gate a little slow, with a 1-4 start, but with new players still getting used to playing together in a new system, it hardly seemed like time to panic. Well that is exactly what Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss did, hastily firing head coach Mike Brown just five games into the season.

There was plenty of skepticism regarding Brown's Princeton offense, but perhaps the bigger problem was the team's shoddy defense. Brown is known to be a defensive specialist, and had he been given time, he may have been able to solve some of the issues on the defensive side of the ball.

Immediately following the departure of Brown, the rumors persisted that the return of legendary coach Phil Jackson was all but imminent. There were other names thrown around in the mix, but most had assumed the job was Phil's if he wanted it. Jackson met with Lakers brass on a Saturday, and left that meeting with the understanding that the job was his if he chose to accept it, and he would have until Monday to make a decision. Jackson was shocked to receive a call the next day, informing him that the Lakers had hired Mike D'Antoni.

Now two months later, the hiring of D'Antoni has done little to turn around the Lakers misfortune. They are are mired in their longest losing streak in over six years, and while they are among the highest scoring teams in the NBA, averaging 103 points per game, defense continues to be their Achilles heel. This shouldn't be any surprise when you think about it, as D'Antoni's lack of attention to defense has dogged him throughout his career.

To make matters worse for the embattled coach, former player Amare Stoudemire drew even more attention to D'Antoni's defensive shortcomings, when he told reporters: "I've never been taught defense in my whole career."

D'Antoni is well aware of his reputation, and he offered the following comments about former three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard: "Maybe he can put the D back in my name," D'Antoni said.

Well, as of today, there is still no "D" in D'Antoni, and the Lakers don't appear to be any closer to turning this thing around. While many will point the finger at Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, it seems clear that the blame has to fall on the coach, as well as those who made the decision to bring him in over a proven winner like Phil Jackson.

As a betting man, my money says D'Antoni's days are numbered in L.A.

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