Kobe Bryant loves to win. Getting a vote of confidence from him means he believes you can help lead the Los Angeles Lakers closer to a title. So new head coach Mike D'Antoni has already passed a key test after being chosen instead of Phil Jackson.
The superstar has kept his reaction to the move, which was completed late Sunday, brief. Speaking to ESPN, he said, "I love PJ but I'm very excited about D'Antoni." He provided a similar short but positive response to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
"I love him," Kobe Bryant simply said about Mike D'Antoni via e-mail to Y! Sports early Monday morning.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) November 12, 2012
Bryant was just hours removed from scoring 20 points to help lead the Lakers to a 103-90 victory over the Orlando Magic when the news broke. He probably didn't have enough energy left in the tank to talk about every aspect of the hiring, but he sounds pleased.
One of the key factors in both the dismissal of Mike Brown and the hiring of D'Antoni was the direction of the offense. The ESPN report states the team didn't believe Jackson's Triangle approach would be the best choice for the current roster.
D'Antoni, who previously coached the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks, is still working his way back to full strength after knee surgery, making it unclear exactly when he'll take full control from interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
When he does take over after signing a four-year contract, the Lakers will adapt to his more free-flowing offense after the transition to Brown's Princeton style failed to impress. It will give more freedom to Steve Nash, who played for him in Phoenix, once he's healthy.
The Lakers have too much offensive talent to rank in the middle of the pack in points per game, as they do right now. Hiring D'Antoni should go a long way to ensure the Lakers are being given the best opportunity to maximize that talent.
Bryant, in particular, should be able to thrive with the opportunity to play a more open style. It will be a lot harder for opposing defenses to key in on him under D'Antoni than it was under Brown, especially in the early going this season.
The Lakers are still going to be a work in progress, though. It takes time for superstars to gel, which makes the decision to change coaches this early a little surprising, but the front office apparently wanted to change course before it was too late.
D'Antoni will have an insane amount of pressure on his shoulders once he takes his spot on the bench when you consider he was chosen instead of Jackson. Also, it's clear anything less than a championship will be a disappointment in Los Angeles.
At least he heads into the fire knowing the team's biggest star has his back.