Why Mike D'Antoni Will Make Lakers Fans Look Foolish for Doubting Him

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2012

BEIJING - AUGUST 12:  Assistant coach Mike D'Antoni of the United States smiles from the sideline while taking on Angola during the men's preliminary round basketball game at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium during Day 4 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 12, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When the Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown, the head coaching spot was seemingly “Phil Jackson’s to lose,” according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard

As it turns out, Mike D’Antoni is now the man in Los Angeles, and if the organization’s dreams of a championship can come to fruition, he will make fans forget about any question marks they may have upon his arrival.


Why Down on D'Antoni?

While not everybody is upset by the hiring, the idea of bringing back the Hall of Fame coach who won the franchise so many championships sparked a sense of pure nostalgia for most fans. An entire fanbase began to reflect on the winning ways of the past, and it was clear that Jackson was the one the people wanted.

Jackson’s resume is clearly more impressive than D'Antoni's. Through 20 seasons of coaching, he has 11 NBA titles, a winning percentage of .704 and three separate three-peat championship runs. He would have been an easy choice in an already-familiar environment.

With the warm, fuzzy feelings of a reunion set aside, D’Antoni has a chance to win, and win big, if he can blend his style of coaching with the talent on the Lakers roster.

Fans may be skeptical at this point in the process, but the new coach should win over even the most cynical enthusiasts that L.A. has to offer.


Hybrid Offense Creates Early Opportunities

D’Antoni has run an up-tempo system throughout his career. “Seven Seconds or Less” is what he is known for, and this year’s Lakers squad will be expected to play at a much faster pace than they’ve run in the past.

Los Angeles has become notorious in recent seasons for getting into its sets slowly. The Lakers walk the ball up the court, set up their offense methodically, and by the time they’re on the attack, half of the shot clock has disappeared.

Finding a combination of the two styles is going to be crucial when it comes to learning a new system, and luckily for D’Antoni and the Lakers, this team has the roster to do just that.

Los Angeles is going to look for early opportunities, but if the team is unable to take advantage in transition, it has the luxury of using a go-to scorer in Kobe Bryant, an inside-outside forward in Pau Gasol and a pick-and-roll combination in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

The Lakers were never able to adjust to Mike Brown’s Princeton offense, but by looking for transition buckets first and half-court opportunities second, they’ll be able to push the tempo while still slowing it down if needed.


Offensive Coach With a Defensive Twist

If defense truly wins championships, it’s no wonder fans are skeptical when it comes to the hiring of the Lakers’ new coach.

It’s true that D’Antoni has never been known as a defensive-minded leader. Playing a run-and-gun style begs for other teams to do the same, and when two teams are trying to outrun one another in a single contest, the defensive side of the floor is often ignored at the expense of putting points on the board.

That being said, Metta World Peace (and Howard) has gone on record to claim that this team can still play with a defensive mindset (according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin). World Peace can still irritate opponents on the perimeter, and Howard is the kind of player who can make stops in transition and take the pressure off the team’s offense.

Even Bryant can be a pesky defender as long as his athleticism and his intensity remain high on that end of the floor.

The Lakers are still going to get out and run, but while transition buckets will be the priority, the defensive-minded players on this team aren’t going to forget where they come from.


Fan-Friendly Style

When it comes down to it, fans like to see a lot of points on the board. We can claim all we want that we crave top-quality defense, but if the ball is going in the basket and the team is winning, who is going to complain?

Luckily for fans in L.A., this team can hit both of those facets of the game under D'Antoni, and it can do it while performing at a thrilling pace.

The new head coach is going to come into Los Angeles and change the brand of basketball that’s been played as of late. Fans haven’t been happy with the results, and while some might be disappointed with the new selection, they’ll be quickly persuaded the other direction when they see how much fun their favorite players are having.

There’s no sense in making the Showtime Lakers comparisons right now—this team isn’t them. But to say that this might be the most exciting group in Los Angeles since that magical era is completely reasonable at this point.

If people can’t get on board with that notion, they don’t truly understand what this team is capable of with D’Antoni leading the way.

Basketball fans are fickle, and while Phil Jackson was the popular choice in the hearts of many, the team’s newest leader will win over the viewers when he starts winning games.