Even as new Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni prepares for his debut with his new employer (which could come as early as Sunday according to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times), he may already be counting the days until he's reunited with rehabbing point guard Steve Nash (leg).
Nash's return will clearly help a Lakers offensive unit that has struggled mightily in his absence (its 96.5 points per game ties for 18th-most in the NBA), but his arrival will affect his new (and old) coach in a different way.
The reuniting of the offensive innovator and his star pupil may help D'Antoni clear out that bitter taste in his mouth that has lingered since the coach abruptly resigned (or, more aptly, quit on his team as Chris Webber saw it) as Knicks coach late in the 2011-12 season.
Now granted, D'Antoni is far from the first major sports coach to leave his team during the regular season.
But there's something about his departure that should worry Laker fans.
The New York Knicks have been a completely different team under new coach Mike Woodson. And so far, all of those changes have been for the better.
D'Antoni's three-plus-year tenure in the Big Apple cannot be characterized as anything but an utter failure.
Although he inherited a flawed, talent-depleted roster after signing a four-year, $24 million contract prior to the 2008-09 season, New York's front office found him talent to work with.
The club spent big (in free agency and on the trade market) and gave D'Antoni a roster ultimately highlighted by Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith.
If his 121-167 regular season record wasn't bad enough, consider that his three full seasons at the helm netted the franchise just four playoff games and zero playoff wins.
Once Woodson grabbed the reins, though, an energized Knicks team closed the season on an 18-6 run and gave New York fans their first playoff victory since the 2000-01 season.
During the 2012-13 season, Woodson's Knicks have held on to the NBA's last unblemished record (5-0). And his team isn't just defeating its opponents, the Knicks have been obliterating them (evidenced by their remarkable plus-15.6 scoring differential).
With little more than a few cagey veterans added to his roster (and Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert yet to make their 2012-13 debuts due to injury), Laker players should be concerned that a coach who was let go by the Atlanta Hawks barely two years ago has found production in areas that D'Antoni never could.
This Lakers roster was built to compete for multiple titles, yet L.A. finds itself 14th in the Western Conference. Its confidence has to be shaken by this 3-5 start.
So any hope that the Lakers' new coach (the one their front office chose instead of Phil Jackson) could change the direction of their season has to be decreasing with every win for the Knicks.
After all, it's not like the Lakers have a Mike Woodson waiting in the wings.
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