D’Antoni debuts with Lakers: ‘This is special’
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — New Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni finally deemed himself ready to take to the bench Tuesday night, and his goal was clear:
Be the best team in the league.
And be patient.
“What do we got, 72 more games?” D’Antoni said. “The only thing we can’t do right now is win more than 77. We got plenty of time, plenty of time.”
D’Antoni, 61, made his debut in the Lakers’ 11th game after delaying his start because of a recent knee replacement surgery. The Lakers took a 5-5 record into the home game against the Brooklyn Nets (6-2).
He said he’s still in pain, still on medication, but confident he can get out of the way of a 6-9 power forward if he needs to.
As for jumping and down for joy, well, no. He’ll restrain himself.
“Pain will do that to you,” he said. “I’m not that brave.”
The Lakers were 1-4 when coach Mike Brown was fired. Interim Bernie Bickerstaff, who first removed the shackles from Brown’s Princeton offense, then, with D’Antoni’s help at practice, began to implement the system the new coach ran to great success with the Phoenix Suns, won four of five. D’Antoni was in Los Angeles for the two latest.
Now it’s his team and, finally, his moment.
“This is special,” he said before the game. “It’s a special place. I’m going to try to do my best to take care of it the best I can. Anybody who plays here is privileged, and anybody who coaches here is privileged. We’ll treat it that way.”
The team he takes over still is limited by injuries. Point guard Steve Nash has no timetable for his return from a small fracture in his left leg. His backup, Steve Blake, is out another four games or so with an abdominal strain.
“Nash still feels some nerve endings that are tingling,” D’Antoni said. “When they go away, he’ll start ramping up and he’ll be fine. Whether it’s tomorrow or next week or next month, he’ll eventually be there and as soon as he gets there, give him an hour and a half and he’ll have the … [For more on Mike D'Antoni debuts on Lakers bench: 'This is special', click here.]