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Mike D'Antoni is in a great position to be the hero in Los Angeles.
Phil Jackson never won a Coach of the Year award with the Los Angeles Lakers; the regular season was outwardly a gift for the veteran coach, and the only award that mattered was a championship trophy.
But suddenly, the Lakers are in need of a hero and the man who can fix it will receive all the accolades.
Mike D’Antoni has inherited a Lakers team in dramatized disarray. The pressure is thick and critics are ready to malign the veteran coach with “Phil wouldn’t have done that” remarks.
But the truth is that D’Antoni has received a gift. And if things go as well as they should, he will be labeled the savior of Lakers Land - as artificial of a repair job as it may be.
First, the media will love him. They’ll oversimplify the pick-and-roll and assume it will instantaneously work to perfection when it’s run 70 times per game.
But when the team goes 8-6 in December, including a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, the first Los Angeles freak-out will commence.
Kobe Bryant will be furious, reportedly of course. Steve Nash will take the blame. Shaquille O’Neal will point back to the team’s mistake of not getting Jackson.
Then, reality will set in.
D’Antoni’s offense will truly begin to click after the New Year and the Super Lakers will start to roll.
Bryant will flash that creepy grin as if he never said a bad thing about his coach, Nash will decline the credit, and O’Neal will say Jackson would have been undefeated.
In the meantime, D’Antoni will have “turned around” a Lakers team that, in reality, had only lost four games with Mike Brown before being written off.
D’Antoni will be the hero, earning Coach of the Year honors.
Runner-up: Mike Woodson, New York Knicks