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Lower expectations next season should give Mike D’Antoni a real chance with the Lakers

Jul 21, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT

New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni smiles during a media conference after practice at the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo, California Reuters

Mike D’Antoni was placed into a situation as head coach of the Lakers last season where he never really had a fair chance to succeed.

The hope in Los Angeles this year is that due to expectations being lowered significantly from the championship-or-bust mentality that (rightfully) surrounded the team a season ago, D’Antoni won’t be under as much pressure, and therefore, may be able to work some level of magic with the players he’ll have on the roster.

In other words, he might actually have a shot.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

Several times last season, D’Antoni paraphrased Winston Churchill in describing his approach to the Lakers’ ups and downs, “When you’re going through hell, you put your head down and keep going, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The pressure of a $100 million payroll that was built to be a contender and was struggling just to play .500 ball was persistent and intense. The Lakers are hoping that [Dwight Howard]’s departure will perhaps act as a sort of pressure release valve heading into the upcoming season.

“Expectations should be lower and I think that will ease the pressure on him,” said a source familiar with the Lakers front office’s thinking.

Never mind the fact that D’Antoni took over the team five games into the season after the unexpected yet deserved firing of Mike Brown, who had spent all of training camp trying to install a complicated offensive system that the players seemed to resist.

In addition to trying to right the ship once the season had already started, the injuries suffered by the Lakers reached comical levels before things were through, and the constant lineup shuffling made it impossible to see what D’Antoni might’ve been capable of without his best players available to play together for anything more than very small stretches.

None of that stopped the constant and scathing over-analysis, however, and as Howard will be the first to tell you, it was anything but fun to be in that situation.

It will be interesting to see what D’Antoni can do given a full training camp, and given the fair amount of talent added to the roster in the form of Chris Kaman, Nick Young, and Jordan Farmar.

There will be no intense pressure to win night in and night out, and the scrutinization of the team’s shortcomings by the media will be minimal, at best. If next season does indeed turn out to be a disaster, the blame will firmly be placed on D’Antoni’s shoulders. But no matter how it all plays out, he’ll be able to say that at least this time, he was given a fighting chance.

  1. soundsofsuccess7 - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Laker fans know the team isn’t as good but they’re still gonna expect good things.

    A lot of us are pretty unrealistic and that may hurt him, with the fan base.

    • adpac - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      As laker fans I must admit we’re spoiled by Dr Buss winning ways. That’s why this past and upcoming season is a tough pill to swallow. As much as the fans would like for Jim Buss to fire himself and hire Phil to take his place that wont happen. Mitch could take the fall but he’s at the mercy of Jim Buss. From day one D’Antoni wasn’t a fan favorite. Even if D’Antoni could get this team to play like his suns of a few years ago. If the Lakers aren’t playing in late June. The fans wont be happy.

  2. ProBasketballPundit - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    I know it’s tough to establish chemistry with a team… but how did D’Antoni not have a chance? He had the number one ball handler in the league in pick & rolls and the number one screener in the league in pick & rolls. So guess how many times he ran a Nash/Howard P&R? None that I saw. He blew it. Should be fired.

    • zxrated - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      Why are you trying to pin this on D’Antoni? Nash broke his leg in game one of the season. Mike Brown was still the HC. It’s common knowledge now that Howard flat out refused to run the pick an roll. Kobe and crew convinced MDA to let them run ISO post sets because of all the bad team chemistry due to roster friction and injuries that destroyed any chance of cohesion.

      People kill me reporting half the story so it fits their narrative.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:35 PM

        So a player refusing to do his job is somehow NOT the coach’s domain? And allowing your players to mutiny and do whatever they please means it wasn’t D’Antoni’s fault?

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM

        Phil Jackson? Phil Jackson is your example of how players can rebel against all coaches? You clearly understand nothing and are not worth debating with. Also, good job refuting none of my points.

    • kb2408 - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:47 PM

      Judging by your username, I just “assumed” you knew something about basketball. Obviously, I assumed in correctly! Did you even watch any LAKERS games last season?! You act as if the LAKERS team was intact for the entire season. Maybe I’m confused here but didn’t Nash miss a huge chunk of the season? And even when he returned, didn’t we watch Dwight sulk and give a less than a full effort and complain about the pick and roll offense? Dwight never bought into the offense even though it was obvious to the whole world that the pick and roll was and is the best offense for his skill set. Mike put Dwight in an offense that was best for him but he couldn’t force him to play in it. Remember this is the same petulant big baby that got a very good coach in Orlando fired. Only to then turn around and leave the franchise anyway! Mike D may not be the second coming of Red Auerbach but having a spoiled, cancerous player on the roster, who never wanted to be a LAKER, did not give him a chance to win.

    • axeffect - Jul 21, 2013 at 10:22 PM

      Dwight Howard didn’t want to play the P&R dummy. He wanted to post, which I doubt he can even in Houston. So don’t blame it entirely to D’Antoni. Dwight has always been the reason behind the struggles in Tinseltown. He fired another coach. Pau Gasol was forced out of the offensive system, which worked well alongside Kobe Bryant to win two rings, because of Howard’s immaturity of wanting to become a force he never was and will never be.

    • zxrated - Jul 21, 2013 at 11:34 PM

      What part of I just got here, and this is what I’ve inherited, don’t you understand? Didn’t Kobe Bynum and others rebel against Phil on several occasions? Phil had been coaching these players for several years.

    • c2poke88 - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      D’Antoni didn’t have a chance?!? What a cop-put. It was Mike Brown that didn’t have a chance. He’s the one that was fired only 5 games into the season. And as it turned out, the offense he was trying to install, the one the players supposedly “seemed to resist”, was the offense best suited for the slow aging roster the Lakers had.

      D’Antoni had the chance to evaluate the roster he inherited and use that roster in a way that gave the team the best chance to succeed. D’antoni had the chance to make every Lakers game a half-court game by running an inside-out offense that operated primarily through his two 7-footers. But he stubbornly CHOSE to run his offense with a team ill-suited to run his offense.

      Common sense will tell you that if you try to run D’Antoni’s perimeter-oriented up-temp offense while relying heavily on players as old as MWP, Kobe and Nash, injuries are going to be a problem all season long. D’Antoni had a chance. He just blew it. And he’ll blow it again next season because he was never the guy for the job to begin with.

      • ddarqwon - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:18 PM

        Truth.

      • sovietbornamericanman - Jul 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        “Common Sense” as you put it, would tell you that not having a training camp or, preseason, makes it difficult to evaluate your personnel. The fact that Nash and Blake were already injured before DAntoni coached a single game and Pau and Dwight were both shells of their usual selves due to injuries suffered long before DAntoni SHOULD tell you that blaming him for everything that transpired unfair and simply WRONG. Pau and Hill missed half the season as well due to various injuries so how the hell was Dantoni gonna use the 7 footers in any capacity when one of the 2 bigs wasn’t available for damn near half the season?! Seems like you had a chance at being a sensible, fair, objective human being only to blow it. at least TRY to sound objective, eh sport

      • zxrated - Jul 24, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        “D’Antoni had the chance to evaluate the roster he inherited and use that roster in a way that gave the team the best chance to succeed.”

        The first half of the season the team went 17-25. That’s what D’Antoni walked into and was evaluating on the fly. 28-12 was the second half results of that ON THE FLY evaluation period. Common sense tell you not having a training to implement a totally different offense puts you behind in the game. No HC has gone on to success inheriting a team like that in season.

        Phil Jackson was hesitant to take the job because of this and he had more than one player, who was not injured that knew his system. Again Nash was out from the jump. What a cop-out? SMH

  3. denverhoopdreams - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Maybe the front office doesn’t have any high expectations, but did you forget who the fans in LA are?

    • dirtydavis - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:12 PM

      agreed. I can’t stand Kings Fans

  4. xerocc - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    I hope this is a joke. if this team is still lacking defensively or in any other way that is reflective of a D’Antoni coached team ill still blame him and I expect everyone else to do the same

    • money2long - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:15 PM

      “If next season does indeed turn out to be a disaster, the blame will firmly be placed on D’Antoni’s shoulders. But no matter how it all plays out, he’ll be able to say that at least this time, he was given a fighting chance.”

      that was in the piece above. what joke are you talking about ?

      • c2poke88 - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:07 PM

        The “joke” is the implication that D’Antoni didn’t have a fighting chance this season. He had a fighting chance if he had chosen to be more adaptable. He spent the entire season trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by forcing the Lakers roster to run his offense, instead of changing his offense to match the roster.

        Also, it’s no surprise the Lakers sucked on defense last season. D’Antoni-coached teams have always sucked defensively because defense is nothing more than a necessary evil to D’Antoni. So implying (as the article does) that D’Antoni was an innocent victim thrust into an impossible situation is in fact a joke.

      • xerocc - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        c2poke nailed it, but I’ll add more. this entire article is a joke and should be deleted if the author has any belief in the phrase “saving face.” d’antoni had plenty of opportunity to take the roster he inherited and turn it into a winner, but he decided to spend all season running HIS system despite poor results and then acting all cocky and arrogant about it when questioned. the expectations for the team’s W/L record may be lower, but I can assure you any expectations for D’antoni are gone — lakers fans want him out. either way, the lakers won’t be able to lure lebron or any other top FA next year as long as he’s coach, so I think we’ll get our wish soon enough

      • sovietbornamericanman - Jul 24, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        Blake missed 37 games last year; Nash missed 32 games; Hill missed 53 games last year; Pau Gasol missed 33 games; MWP missed 7 games but really went 14-15 games playing 1 week removed from a torn meniscus. Dwight missed 6 games but damn near 40-50 games playing hurt and nowhere near his healthy self; more so, Jamison went 1.5-2months playing with a torn muscle in his shooting wrist (which was just about the only thing he did/does well rendering him close to useless). So I suppose all of these injuries were DAntoni’s fault and the squads core missing so many games was also his fault and “fitting round pegs in square holes” was a product of incompetence and not because of an extreme dire case of bad luck and factors that were FAR beyond coaches control.

        Seriously, wTH are some of you guys on that allows you to distort reality as badly as you all seem to do. If the team is healthy I see the team having just as good of a season as the Spurs did last year. Duncan was 37, Manu 35, Parker 31, Diaw 32-33, Neal 30, etc. ONLY 2 young guys on the squad were Kawkhi and Spliiter (Spliiter being close to 30 already). Seriously, you “fans” need to stop selling your team and players short and stop blaming everything **unfairly** might I add, on coaches/players/Management when inexplicable bad luck had more to do with the teams poor performance above everything else.

  5. onbucky96 - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Mad TV returns! “Lowered Expectations” presents your 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers.

  6. JHathwell - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    This team will surprise all of those who unfairly blamed the lakers demise on D’ Antoni. All they need is better luck in the injury department and I fully expect them to win 50 games, maybe even a little more.

    Anyone who even knows the slightest bit about the lakers should know that D’ Antoni never even got the chance to run his stuff last year because Dwight Howard, a noted pick n roll scorer, refused to play pick n roll with Steve nash, of all people. Even worse, he wanted to be featured in the post, and since management was going to go out of their way to placate him, Dwight ended up on the block and Pau Gasol was standing on the 3 point line.

    Now, does anyone here really think that Mike D’ Antoni, who has no love for Dwight Howard’s game and prefers big men who can shoot and pass, would actually want to post Howard and make Pau the odd man out?

    Really?

    This year, he’ll be able to run pick n roll with Nash and Pau and spread the floor with shooters, the way he prefers to. Quietly, this team actually has a little depth now, and enough long range threats (nash, jodie meeks, Farmar, Blake, Wes Johnson, Kobe, Ryan Kelly) to run the offense the way it’s meant to be run.

    Of course it’s all about staying healthy, but if that happens they’ll win plenty of games. D’ Antoni’s system is a proven winner when he gets a chance to use it properly and enough talent to make it go.

  7. dyn0myte - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    D’Antoni has a chance to succeed
    since the Lakers have lowered the bar for success.

    This is (was) one of the premiere franchises in all of professional sports.

    Pretty sure they got there by raising the bar
    not by lowering it…

  8. ambitoos - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    When the Lakers moved to LA in 1960 I became a Laker fan. No matter what happens next year I will still be a Laker fan. They have had their ups and downs over the years but a Laker fan is a Laker fan. I’m just happy they came west. I was very happy when Jack Kent Cook sold to Jerry Buss and I’ll support Jim Buss until the day I die. Now I’m going to take my nap.

  9. lastdukestreetking - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    The Lakers are gonna suck and their ownership knows it. Why spend more $ on another coach?

    • dirtydavis - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      Worst than last year??? I don’t think so. They will be better than T’wolves, Kings, Suns, Blazers, Mavs, Raptors, Wizards, Hornets/Bobcats, Pelicans, Celtics, 76ers, Pistons, Bucks, Hawks, Magic, Nuggets and Jazz. Lakers will finish the next season with better record than last year. Be expecting Nash and Gasol to click..

      • camodaddy26 - Jul 21, 2013 at 9:35 PM

        I see them finishing as a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs so you’re probably spot on with your assessment. Time will tell how things play out barring injuries.

      • drudefoe - Jul 21, 2013 at 10:29 PM

        *worse than*
        Nobody wants to be middle-of-the-road.. Especially considering next years Draft Class potential..
        T-Wolves, Bobcats, Pelicans, Celtics, Pistons, Magic, Nuggets & Jazz will ALL register wins over the Lakers, sad but true..!

  10. JMClarkent - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    If they are .500 or less at the trading deadline, they really need to blow it up.

    • brookwell2013 - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:47 AM

      No sure what you mean there JMClark…….the Lakers are actually alreay hard wired to blow up next year…….they have contractual obligations for 2014-15 with Nash at $9.7m, Sacre at $915,000, and a team option on Nick Young for $1.2million. Kobe and Pau are expiring after this year. So they have less than $11 million on the books for 2014-2015. They have set this up to try and re-sign Kobe and attract some free agents. It’s already a planned blow up……

      • sovietbornamericanman - Jul 24, 2013 at 4:38 PM

        lol if they were “wired” to “blowup” they’d amnesty Kobe. Trade Pau for picks and expiring trash. Likewise with Nash and MWP and resign D12 and ‘go all in’ so to speak, on the Wiggins sweepstakes. The fact just about everyone other than Young and Nash’s contract is guaranteed (Young if he opts in) only indicates that the team is going all in on the Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Melo etc sweepstakes. Resigning Kobe would actually be the opposite of “blowing up” the team, dumbie.

  11. dirtydavis - Jul 21, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    My low expectations on the lakers would be… 2nd round exit

  12. kb2408 - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    Some of you numbskulls are a riot!! You’re so eager for the demise of the LAKERS you totally forget that it’s only been 3 seasons since they won a title. THREE not 30! Only two teams have won a championship since the LAKERS last one number 16. Some of you act as if the LAKERS have a roster full of over the hill players with five years left on their contracts. Only Nash has a contract beyond 2014, and if he sucks next season he will be gone too. I understand where all the hatred for the LAKERS comes from. It’s because they consistently win more than any other franchise in professional sports!! Will they win a title next season? It’s unlikely. However, with the departure of D12 and with the return to good health of Kobe and Nash, the LAKERS will be better than they were last season. Kaman and Pau are much more suited for Mike D’s offense.

    • denverhoopdreams - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:28 PM

      *counts how many seasons have passed since the lockout started* 1… 2… 3…. yeah, your math is wrong dude.

      • denverhoopdreams - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:28 PM

        Oh, my math is wrong too. FFS.

    • smoothaswilkes - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:42 PM

      Not to nitpick but if you are going to be a Lakers fan, you should probably know that Robert Sacre is also signed to a beyond 2014 and Nick Young has a player option for 2015, which he probably won’t exercise to get more money.

      The other thing is that when you say “return to good health of Kobe”, maybe we should see him play a game or two before mentioning his return to health.

      Thanks for being a part of the Lakers Nation. Carry on.

      • brookwell2013 - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        Ooops, you’re right Smooth….Nick Young has a player option and it is not a team option as I originally wrote. Not sure how they dump Nash though, they have used their amnesty already………I think they are stuck with Nash for 2014-2015 even if he plays poorly this year. The team has an option on Sacre for 2015-2016…he is signed for this year and next. Gotta stick with the Lakers even when they’re down…..can’t jump ship when they have some tough years.

    • loungefly74 - Jul 22, 2013 at 8:05 AM

      preach on, LL…errr…i mean KB…hehe…

      yeah, man. been saying the same thing…especially to those that think the Lakers are going to be horrible for years to come. yeah…not going got happen. also, not a good paradigm of living rooting for a team’s failure…seriously, that’s bad..mmmkay.

      does this team have a chance at the playoffs? absolutely. thats a great goal to set. the article has a nice way of stating this will be a “true transition” year…and thats alright.

    • redbaronx - Jul 22, 2013 at 11:29 AM

      @kb2408 – KB…you exceed even your own idiocy!

      #1 – I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, but NBA fans do not have to love or hate the Lakers when they post comments. When people comment on here, for the most part they are reacting to the REALITY that you seem to be ignoring. The Lakers aren’t winning banners in the next two years barring a Shaq sized miracle or the next coming of Kobe, and I don’t see that happening.
      #2 – Even if Kobe returns to good health, the age signs were showing BEFORE Kobe’s injury. Kobe is going to need MAJOR help if they’re going to win another banner before he retires, so 2014 is their last shot. The 2014 free agent class will allow the Lakers to make a play for talent, but the Lakers would probably have to pick up at least one superstar matchup problem and another strong player to get to the level of contention.
      #3 – If you’re relying on Chris Kaman and Pau Gasau to return to their younger forms, you’re delusional. System or no system, Pau might still be a decent player, but he’s also visibly slowing.
      #4 – The only way you solve the age problem with the Lakers is to have some “Timmy Duncan” commitment to rededicating in the gym to fight the aging problem. I see two guys on that roster who can do that. Kobe and Nash. Forget Pau or MWP.
      #5 – Mark my words. The Lakers will be somewhere between the 5 seed or entirely out of the playoffs. To get as high as the 5 seed they MUST be healthy. I wouldn’t bet on that either, so it’s more likely they are out of the playoffs. My prediction is the 8 seed.
      #6 – Let Wizards fans tell you about Nick Young. He’s going to give you some good nights, but on other nights he’s going to shoot you right out of the game.
      #7 – Dr. Buss is dead and his son doesn’t seem to have a clue. People forget that part of the success of the Lakers was that Dr. Buss let the pros do their work. Jerry West, Mitch Kupchak, Phil. He allowed them to work without interfering. Jim Buss (“Junior” as I like to call him) even has Magic Johnson riding on him. As nice as a guy Magic is, he wants to win more and he’s seeing the same reality that we realists do, and he loves the Lakers more than all of us combined. Junior is part of the problem. If the Lakers are going to succeed again, he needs to take a chill pill and get out of the way so Mitch can make decisions. I have 100% faith in Mitch Kupchak. I have ZERO faith in little Jimmy, and the sooner he stops commenting to the media or interfering in the coaching selections, or pissing off loyal former Laker employees (like Brian Shaw and other former Phil assistants) the better!

      So keep telling yourself that the realists are “hating” on the Lakers. If it makes you sleep better at night telling yourself that, go right ahead. But the Lakers have an upper management problem right now, and you’re not going to win banners unless Jim stops making basketball decisions and lets his guys do their work.

  13. provguard - Jul 21, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    I guess they are starting earlier this year with “won’t be on the hot seat” editorials…All the Lakers going to do is pad Kobe’s career points…..

  14. dyn0myte - Jul 21, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    I’m excited by the way this team is coming together.

    I can’t wait for the very 1st

    “Los Angeles Lakers – Pacific Division Champions” banner

    to be raised at the Staples Center.

  15. BigBeachBall - Jul 21, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    The lockeroom has heard qouts from eastern philosophers for a decade, 5 titles later, dantoni thinks his british military leader qouts is what the doctor ordered? Players heard that material from their junior high p e coaches… Get some new material… Or pack your bags…

  16. internaldesolation - Jul 21, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Antoni’s never been that good, every team he’s coached was below par, and last year he had the Lakers, he had prettty much the same team that won the rings plus he had nash, and howard added to that, his style of play just isn’t going to win you rings

  17. onlyavoice - Jul 21, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    LMAO,
    I Had Lower Expectations The Day The Lakers Signed Queen Nash.
    Lower Expectations Didn’t Cross My Mind When They Chose D’Antoni,
    I Knew They Were Destined To Lose.

  18. ji8888 - Jul 21, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Mr Pringles!

  19. losanginsight - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    16xChamps

  20. alqj24 - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:27 AM

    At those talking about future commitments the Lakers have, it’s Nash, Sacre, and maybe Young(whom I doubt will pick up that option, though I wouldn’t mind it). Nash can be gone using the “stretch provision”. This rids the team of Nash while reducing his cap hit from $9.7M to about $3.2M, which creates more flexibility for FA next summer.

    • brookwell2013 - Jul 22, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      Yo alqj, you’re right, the stretch provision of the new CBA would allow the Lakers to waive Nash and pay him over the length of his contract remaining (one year) plus one extra (“stretch”) year. So…..his $9.7 would still be owed but could be paid over 2 years thereby reducing the cap hit to 1/2 per year or $4.85m per year…..a hit but still manageable. The details of the stretch provision can be found from the cap master himself Lary Coons by simply googling Larry Coons and stretch provision. Great point alqj.

  21. alqj24 - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:31 AM

    As for the article itself, this team still probably be as good as last year’s team record wise IMO. Their defense will still be lacking. And in regards to Pringles, he is a good basketball savvy person, but just not a good overall coach. It doesn’t seem players truly want to play their fullest for him, at least not last year’s team.

  22. mogogo1 - Jul 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Nobody is going to be happy if that team finishes out of the playoffs except possibly the owner–but he’s the only one that matters, so maybe D’Antoni will be just fine.

    Maybe Nash can have a healthy season, which would help. Maybe Kobe can come back strong earlier than expected. Lots of maybes and not only is the roster thin, but it still doesn’t look like what you’d expect given D’Antoni’s style. Some stuff can be blamed on D’Antoni directly, but the biggest issue I see is he remains kind of a square peg in a round hole I don’t see when the Lakers front office plans to give him the roster his style would really require.

  23. urodaddy07 - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    You think Kobe’s expectation are lower?

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