Well, this isn't exactly what we saw coming.
As confirmed by D'Antoni's agent to ESPN Los Angeles, the move comes as even more unexpected than the decision to fire Brown in the first place.
It certainly has ESPN's Chris Palmer scratching his head:
Lakers fire Mike Brown after 5 games then hire Mike D'Antoni. Really?— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) November 12, 2012
Why's Palmer so puzzled?:
Mike Brown got criticized for being too nice. D'Antoni is the only coach NICER than Brown.— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) November 12, 2012
Of course, there's more to it than that. D'Antoni has always fashioned himself an offensive wizard, a practitioner of a run-and-gun method that once had Steve Nash's Phoenix Suns scoring their way to perennial postseason appearances.
When it came time to cash in on those trips, something was missing—namely the defense. That was the knock against D'Antoni in Phoenix and New York alike, a troublesome subplot in light of the fact that L.A.'s defense was ranked in the middle of the pack last season.
Mark Medina summarizes the debate:
Before hiring, some sources worried about D'Antoni's lack of defensive principles, micromanaging on offense. Others think it's a perfect fit— Mark Medina (@MedinaLakersNBA) November 12, 2012
The right decision or not, it won't necessarily be a popular one, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard:
Lakers know they will take PR hit for choosing D'Antoni over Phil.— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) November 12, 2012
All the same, the Lakers seem to be behind this pretty enthusiastically—at least everyone who matters, according to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan:
Laker spokesman John Black: "Dr. Buss, Jim Buss + Mitch were unanimous that Mike D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 12, 2012
Oh yes, there is at least one other guy who matters, but by all accounts, he approved too.
Kobe Bryant's quote on Mike D'Antoni after Friday's game: "I love D’Antoni and what he brings." Loves Phil, but D'Antoni, too.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 12, 2012
And, ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi reminds us of Kobe's much earlier sentiments:
Mike D'Antoni was the reason Kobe Bryant chose No. 8 at the beginning of his career. twitpic.com/bcjkpc— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 12, 2012
So yeah, that probably had something to do with all this. For the record, however, Markazi notes that Kobe wasn't the only one buying into the D'Antoni hire:
Most important thing about the D'Antoni hire is that the Lakers' players are seemingly all on board. That wasn't always the case with Brown.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 12, 2012
For a locker room seemingly always on the brink, that's a good sign.
While Kobe's childhood memories and Summer Olympic ties give him something of a history with his new coach, he doesn't know him like teammate Steve Nash does. As Trudell points out, those two shared plenty of success in Phoenix:
Nash won 2 MVP's playing for D'Antoni. Mike D in L.A. "would be seamless & terrific for me & I think the team," Nash told reporters.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 12, 2012
So, everyone's on board with D'Antoni. But what happened to that other guy, the one who used to coach for the Lakers? It seemed as though Jackson was a lock for the job up until now, really. It turns out there were some deal-breakers, according to Bresnahan:
Mike D'Antoni signed a four-year deal with the Lakers. Phil Jackson was "asking for the moon," accoring to source familiar w/ the situation.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 12, 2012
And by "moon," we mean what exactly? Markazi breaks it down:
Aside from salary, personnel demands and travel restrictions, Jackson's commitment was year-to-year. Lakers wanted more stability than that.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 12, 2012
Lakers fans who find themselves bent out of shape by this turn of events should take that last bit to heart. The last thing the Lakers needed was to go through all of this again in another year or two.
And in the meantime, they'll make do—even if there's yet another adjustment period ahead, as ESPN's Marc Stein suspects:
Lakers' roster clearly ain't perfect for D'Antoni's system but wasn't for Phil's, either. Step 1 is getting all the stars in a good flow— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 12, 2012
By Marc Spears' calendar, D'Antoni has a little over a month to make that happen:
Knicks-Lakers game on Christmas a lot more interesting now with D'Antoni. What's bigger Xmas game: NYK @ LAL or OKC @ MIA?— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) November 12, 2012
I vote Knicks-Lakers. We've seen enough of those other two teams. Intriguing subplots aside, the Lakers really just have to be ready to go by the playoffs. According to the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding, the Lakers are banking on a better fit:
I'm told Lakers ultimately decided D'Antoni's system would be better fit for Lakers personnel (Dwight/Nash), which was a concern all along.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) November 12, 2012
Likewise, Phil Jackson's Triangle offense may have been a bit too similar to the read-and-react Princeton schemes the team was attempting to embrace, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard:
Lakers insist they chose D'Antoni over Phil. Say triangle offense similar to Princeton and would not have been good fit for roster.— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) November 12, 2012
Yes, D'Antoni's prized pick-and-rolls will look mighty fine with this personnel—at least when he gets back on his feet and starts coaching. That won't be just yet, reports David Aldridge:
D'Antoni, still rehabbing post knee replacement, hoping to get to L.A. by Wednesday or Thursday. Bickerstaff likely to coach vs Spurs Tue.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) November 12, 2012
However you feel about the Lakers' new direction, we have to join Marc Stein in wondering if this young season could get any more intriguing:
Harden trade. Now Brown out & D'Antoni in. What else big can get done before Thanksgiving (for a change) w/league on such a good early roll?— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 12, 2012