Magic Johnson helped transform the NBA turning the Los Angeles Lakers into the “Showtime Lakers” in the early 80’s. The breakneck pace set them apart from other teams as they distinguished themselves as one of the elite teams in the league.
Now the modern-day Lakers are looking to go back in time. Well, sort of.
Late Sunday night the team announced the hiring of former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni who takes over for Mike Brown who was abruptly fired on Friday. The deal is reportedly worth $12 million over three years with the team holding an option to pick up a fourth year.
D’Antoni was chosen over Phil Jackson and his handful of championship rings he won with Chicago and two stints with the Lakers which ended with his announced retirement less than two years ago.
The Lakers, considered by many the favorite to represent the Western Conference in the finals, have a star-studded lineup filled with marquee names, but is the aging group the right collection of players to thrive in D’Antoni’s system?
“I felt the right fit for the personnel was more the triangle [run by Jackson],” NBA on TNT analyst and former Suns General Manager Steve Kerr told Brad Cesmat Monday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “I look at the Lakers right now…very little three-point shooting, no bench, and a very dominant inside game. That’s like the exact opposite of what Mike had in Phoenix. It’s not a team that really suits his style exactly, but he’s going to have to make some adjustments.
Kerr said the most successful head coaches learn to adapt to what they have and evolve to get the best out of their players. He believes D’Antoni did that here in Phoenix successfully meshing an aging Shaquille O’Neal into a lineup featuring Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and others.
D’Antoni is familiar with a couple of Lakers stars. He helped Nash win two MVP awards with the Suns and has grown close to Kobe Bryant dating back to his playing career in Italy when he played with Bryant’s father.
Kerr said only time will tell if D’Antoni and the Lakers are a good fit, but doesn’t doubt his ability to win on a consistent basis like he did when the two were in Phoenix working under Robert Sarver.
“Mike is a really bright guy and a great offensive mind,” he explained to Cesmat. “He’ll figure some things out.”
D’Antoni is expected to arrive in Los Angeles in a couple of days, but it hasn’t been announced when he will coach his first game. The 61-year old is recovering from recent knee replacement surgery. Assistant Bernie Bickerstaff has been coaching the team on an interim basis.
The Lakers host the Suns Friday night at Staples Center.