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Mike D’Antoni postpones debut as Lakers coach, plans to retain Bernie Bickerstaff

Nov 18, 2012, 9:05 PM EDT

New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni is interviewed as Lakers' championship trophies are seen in a window above the Lakers' practice court, following a media conference at the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo, California

LOS ANGELES — Mike D’Antoni will not be on the sidelines for the Lakers on Sunday, postponing his debut until later this week due to health reasons.

He said that the team doctors talked him out of it, knowing that his energy level would be a question mark in the later parts of the game, and that physically, he’d be in a dangerous position should players come flying into the bench area with his lack of mobility while still recovering from knee replacement surgery.

D’Antoni met with the media anyway before tip-off, and with no pressure on him to coach the team to victory tonight, the mood was very light — both for D’Antoni’s presser, and the one held by Bernie Bickerstaff that followed.

“I’m a little disappointed, I wanted to be on the bench,” D’Antoni said. “After talking with [Lakers head trainer] Gary Vitti and going through the why, he convinced me a little bit not to do it. I’m anxious to get out there and get ready to go, but one, I don’t want to be a side show. These are important games at home. Two, the biggest problem I have is just the energy kind of waning toward the end.

“Bernie does a great job, players understand what’s at risk. I do get through practices OK and all that’s good, the next step will be a game. And that could be Tuesday, could be Wednesday, I don’t know yet. But with Gary, we’ll figure it out.”

D’Antoni won’t have contact with Bickerstaff or the team during the game, as he prefers to let the one doing the coaching make those decisions live. He will, however, provide a few words of wisdom along the way.

“Before the game, halftime, after the game, but not during the game,” D’Antoni said. ‘When you coach you coach by instinct and on the fly, and you do certain things so I would never give Bernie a directive or anything. He’s great. He knows the rotations probably better than I do — how guys react and all that, and he’ll have a feel for the game.”

D’Antoni was asked if he plans to retain Bickerstaff once he gets back to the bench, and while no official announcement has been made, his response made it seem like the decision was a no-brainer — pending the outcome of tonight’s game, of course.

“Bernie? Oh yeah, he’s here … unless he loses tonight,” D’Antoni said, which was followed by big laughs all around. “No pressure.”

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