Will LA Lakers Put Mike D'Antoni on the Hot Seat After Inaugural Season?
I'm not sure if Los Angeles Lakers' coach Mike D'Antoni is officially on the NBA's hot seat at this moment, but unless the league's most glamorous team has taken a secret oath of mediocrity, the sweat should be trickling down coach No-D'Antoni's neck by now.
It's one thing to fail on the big stage in New York with a team which is only really popular, and relevant because of its home city's size, reach and allure but how can you explain being embroiled in the postseason fight of your life with a starting line-up that includes four future Hall of Famers in the land of champions?
Well, injuries, chemistry and age have been offered as valid excuses for the Lakers' historic under-achieving season. All of those reasons contain merit but even after serious consideration something still doesn't add up.
Maybe it's the fact that the Lakers are one of the NBA's worst defensive teams, despite being anchored by one of the best defensive players in the league, or maybe it's because that player's coach has no real understanding of the importance of good defense at all.
The Lakers have always been one of the NBA's standard-carriers when it comes to offense, but one of the most underrated aspects of their success during the franchise's history is their solid defense.
Magic Johnson's Showtime Lakers may have dazzled fans with the beauty and precision of their fast break, but would the Lakers have won five titles during that era without an athletic, ball-hawking defense?
Tex Winter's scheme and Phil Jackson's philosophy were great innovations, but how many titles would have Shaq and Kobe won without a foundation built on solid defensive principles?
Pau Gasol is not nearly the physically dominating defensive presence that Shaq was, but the Lakers still managed to win two more titles with Gasol's talent and the defensive principles installed by Jackson.
Right now can you even mention Lakers and defensive principles in the same sentence?
Of course the Lakers have experienced sublime individual defensive efforts from Kobe, Howard and reserve Earl Clark, but you could argue those efforts were a result of talent and skill.
It's difficult to win in the NBA Playoffs if your coach doesn't embrace the virtues of solid team defense, and it's impossible if he doesn't even understand the concept.
Even if the Lakers win their final three games and limp into the playoffs does anyone believe that D'Antoni has a viable plan to prevent a first round sweep based on the strength of his defense?
After the Lakers are swept by Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the first round D'Antoni should sleek gracefully into the night, but will Lakers' president Jim Buss allow that to happen?
Admitting that D'Antoni does not fit the Lakers' established model of success may be too much for the younger Buss to swallow, but what's the alternative?
Is Mike D'Antoni on the hot seat?
Jackson also said he hasn't looked in that mirror and he's not, which means he's pretty convinced.
Can you picture Jackson making that same statement if the real coach Jackson was across the aisle?
Unless these Lakers somehow defy all odds and qualify for the 2013 NBA Finals this season will be considered a failure, but feelings of hopelessness for the future are kindled if the franchise continues on this path.
Some people will ask for statistics and advanced metrics to support the theory that D'Antoni may be one of the worst hi-level defensive coaches in NBA history, but does anyone really need obscure numbers to prove what his career arc indicates?
If Jim Buss has any of his departed father's savvy intelligence then D'Antoni's days as the Lakers' head honcho are numbered, but then again if baby Buss truly understood what has made his father's franchise great he would have never hired D'Antoni.
The Lakers rarely play strong, consistent defense, but when they do it's more a result of talent and skill than strategy.
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