It's Criminally Wrong to Pin LA Lakers Failure on Mike D'Antoni

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It's Criminally Wrong to Pin LA Lakers Failure on Mike D'Antoni
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The Lakers were bounced from the playoffs in four games, but don't blame Mike D'Antoni.

With the Los Angeles Lakers' season officially over, speculation about Mike D'Antoni's job security is bound to kick into high gear.

A season of moderate highs and crushing lows ended with the Lakers being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four uneventful games. While fingers will be pointed at D'Antoni for his inability to properly manage lineups or institute a system conducive to his multitude of stars, the fact remains that he was put in a lose-lose situation from day one.

Mike Brown was fired five games into the season. Five. If that wasn't a strong enough signal that D'Antoni was walking into a volatile situation, then I don't know what is.

D'Antoni's hiring puzzled fans who clamored for Phil Jackson's return and ultimately enraged them after the Lakers went 12-18 in December and January.

However, a 25-11 finish over the season's final three months gave the Lakers hope. The offense was clicking, the stars had worked themselves into their respective niches and all was right in the land of purple and gold.

Even with Kobe Bryant absent from the postseason journey, D'Antoni and the Lakers were expected to give the Spurs a run for their money thanks to the presence of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and future Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash.

Alas, injuries plagued D'Antoni's trio of stars, and the pitchforks were out again.

So how can anyone blame a guy who found himself coaching a team resembling a D-League product rather than an NBA one?

You can't.

Not even the demigod known as the Zen Master could have salvaged a victory with the lineup D'Antoni was forced to work with. 

Were his defensive tactics a mess? Absolutely. But there's no conceivable way you can point the finger at D'Antoni when he was trotting out a starting backcourt of Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock against Tony Parker, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili.

For the record, Morris and Goudelock recorded offensive efficiencies of 103 and 91, respectively, and allowed an even more discouraging 117 and 112 points per 100 possessions between them in the playoffs. 

Factor in that Pau Gasol was playing with a torn finger ligament (via Kevin Ding on Twitter), and consider that Dwight Howard was the only member of the team's original starting five playing at anything close to 100 percent.

And even when he was the center of attention for the Lakers, Howard was an enigmatic mess. His ejection from Game 4 proved just that.

D'Antoni makes for an easy scapegoat at this juncture, and he may very well prove to be the long-term one if the Lakers can't improve upon his return (via Los Angeles Times) next season.

If anything, the front office should be questioned for hiring D'Antoni in the first place. His preferred up-tempo style was an odd choice for a team whose personnel was aging. However, D'Antoni put forth his best effort and acquitted himself nicely when it came to instituting an offensive system.

Examining the statistics, the Lakers not only finished in the top 10 in both points per game (sixth) and offensive rating (ninth), but they finished fifth in pace (94.4 possessions per 48 minutes).

In fact, over the course of April, the Lakers had lowered their defensive rating to a mark of 102.2 (although still not great), according to NBA.com, while their offensive rating sat at 106.3. With a net rating of just over four, the Lakers were trending in the right direction at the right time under D'Antoni.

Injuries, and lots of them, happened to be the team's ultimate downfall.

Contrasted with those April numbers, the patchwork lineups D'Antoni was forced to roll with scored 90.6 points per 100 possessions in the postseason and allowed 111, according to NBA.com.

To put things in perspective, the Lakers only had one five-man unit play more than 30 minutes in the postseason and just two that played 10 minutes or more, according to NBA.com. In fact, examining the lineups used, no one grouping took the floor in more than two games over the course of the first-round series against the Spurs.

While you don't need to credit D'Antoni for helping the Lakers reach the postseason, please consider the facts before you blame him for falling short with a supposed championship roster.

Note: All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.

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