Chris Webber hasn't made many headlines since he retired at the end of the 2007-08 campaign, but he's certainly making some now.
We get on players for getting tickets and driving too fast...he (D'Antoni) quit in the middle of a year. You go in the locker room you sell winning, and you sell family, and you sell all that...and I'm proud to be the only one that says this. As I listen to friends on different stations, no one says this and I'm proud to be the only one that says it. But guys got to trust you in the locker room and it has to be more than Kobe. It has to be. You don't want your coach writing a book about you, you don't want your coach talking about you and you don't want your coach quitting on you and it being your fault. Ask the guys in New York. And they played better when he left. So I don't think this is about Phil Jackson. I think this is like 'How the heck did he get this job?' You all want to be that different from Phil Jackson? That's my honest opinion: How the heck did he get that job?"
Wow. That's a lot to take in. But let's take it in nonetheless.
Webber clearly is emotional about this hiring and goes on to note if the Lakers were going to stray away from Phil Jackson, they should have sucked up their "pride" and chased Brian Shaw. But despite his overwhelming emotion, he does make some valid points.
D'Antoni did, in fact, quit in the "middle of a year." And once he left, the New York Knicks started playing much better.
Which makes Webber right—to an extent.
Yes, D'Antoni jumped ship midseason, and yes, the Knicks proved to be better off for it, but that means nothing in the scheme of things for the Lakers.
New York was a completely different situation. Not only were there rumblings of Carmelo Anthony's desire to see D'Antoni be fired, but the team—as Webber noted—was losing. When D'Antoni resigned from his post, the Knicks were 18-24 and failing out of the playoff picture fast.
It just wasn't working. Anthony wasn't buying into his system and he was failing to change that reality.
So he quit. And the boys in orange and blue closed out the regular season by going 18-6 after he left.
Are we to believe that if a pairing isn't working, those involved have to wait until the end of the season to attempt and resolve it?
Absolutely not. In all likelihood, the Knicks would have imploded had they continued the course they were traveling. Whether 'Melo wanted to oust D'Antoni is irrelevant. One of them had to concede that it wasn't working and subsequently walk out the door.
D'Antoni did the Knicks a favor. He saved the franchise from any more embarrassment, giving them an opportunity to put themselves in a situation to win.
As for Webber's "ask the guys in New York" sentiments, many remained D'Antoni supporters, at least publicly, even after he departed.
Given all that, let's not pretend D'Antoni's divorce from the Knicks affects his standing in the Lakers' locker room. He already has the support of Kobe and Steve Nash, and even Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have reacted favorably to his presence.
So how exactly is this a "how the heck did he get this job" situation?
Sure, Jackson seemed like the obvious choice, but he was asking for the world and the Lakers balked. Which renders D'Antoni's hiring a sensible one; Jackson was asking too much so they went with the next best thing.
Let's not get caught up in these useless nuances. There is no shortage of respect for D'Antoni in Los Angeles. He wouldn't have been hired if the Lakers players and higher-ups didn't respect him.
However, there is an opportunity for him to win his first title, for Kobe to win his sixth and for the Lakers' star quartet to win their first together.
Maybe it won't be this year. Maybe it won't be the next. Maybe it won't ever happen.
Whether or not it does, though, will have nothing to do with how D'Antoni left New York.
And it certainly won't have anything to do with Webber's shortsighted interpretation.