Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Mike D'Antoni's Los Angeles Lakers Debut
They are doing it by ratcheting up expectations, largely disappointing and then wildly correcting course. Quite the show, wouldn't you say?
The game will come against the head coach's former Phoenix Suns. It's a winnable game, which makes losing a pretty dangerous proposition.
Here are the best and worst cases for D'Antoni's much-anticipated first effort.
Best Case: Defensive Smothering
Mike D'Antoni could use this debut to ordain a renewed approach at the defensive end. After all, the Knicks were a decent team on defense before Carmelo, er, the Knicks fired D'Antoni.
While L.A. will always have issues playing two bigs in an increasingly smaller game, Dwight Howard can make up for a lot of flaws. When healthy, he is the best defensive player in the league.
D'Antoni is no Tom Thibodeau, but he can show that defense is as much about personnel as anything else.
If Dwight can key a stingy performance, perhaps one in which the Suns shoot around 30 percent, the public might get the message.
Worst Case: Defensive Meltdown
You've heard it time and time again: The offense wasn't the issue for the Lakers, the defense was. Despite that, it would seem that the Princeton offense played a role in Mike Brown's ouster.
Mike D'Antoni has a reputation as an offense-first, defense-never game planner. In all fairness to D'Antoni, though, I'd say that building a defense around Amar'e Stoudemire is like building a house on a swamp.
Still, reputations frame perception, and the Lakers would fuel a negative one with a defensive collapse. They're on thin ice when it comes to that side of the ball, especially with Dwight Howard still on the road to recovery.
His rehab hasn't exactly been linear. Some nights, he's Dwight. Other nights, he's slow and ineffective. Howard had better show up if this debut is to go smoothly.
Best Case: Blowout Win, S.S.O.L Nirvana
For those who don't know, "S.S.O.L." stands for "Seven Seconds or Less," which is the phrase used to describe Mike D'Antoni's shoot-first offense back in Phoenix.
The league has been bereft of this basketball innovation for some time, and it be poetic to see it make a return in Arizona.
Here's the problem: Los Angeles doesn't quite have the personnel to matchup with D'Antoni's vision. The team have two centers in its starting five, and D'Antoni thrives on spacing and long-range shooting.
We'll all be keyed on what he has planned for the Lakers, but a flowing, speedy offense is unlikely—at least in his debut.
Worst Case: Blowout Loss, Followed by "We Want Phil" Chants
Just because the Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni doesn't mean the chants will cease.
Should the Lakers stumble, expect sarcastic jeers. Obviously, Jackson will not be hired in any conceivable scenario. But that doesn't mean the fans can't use a ready-made slogan to express their displeasure over his snubbing.
Will this happen? Probably not. The Suns aren't very good.
Mike D'Antoni is lucky to avoid debuting Wednesday against Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs.