Mike D’Antoni victorious in Lakers debut
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES – Mike D’Antoni, synonymous with racehorse basketball, hobbled slowly along the sideline on the rare occasions he stood at all.
On the court, his collection of thoroughbred All-Stars played pretty slow, too, as if taking a cue from their wounded leader. It was not the beautiful, free-flowing debut D’Antoni was hoping for, but it was a successful one.
The first game of the Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Antoni era came with a limp. And it ended with a win that put the Lakers above .500 for the first time this season at 6-5..
The Lakers, played evenly through 3½ quarters by Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and the Brooklyn Nets, made more plays in the final minutes and won 95-90.
D’Antoni arrived last Thursday and started running practices and installing his uptempo offensive system. But he skipped games Friday and Sunday, saying he wasn’t quite ready and was still recuperating from his recent knee replacement surgery.
Even though he wasn’t on the bench in those two games, which were coached by interim Bernie Bickerstaff, the Lakers’ offense, sluggish to start the season under coach Mike Brown, began to explode. The Lakers scored 114 Friday against Phoenix and 119 Sunday against Houston, both of them victories.
Finally deeming himself and his knee ready to take the bench Tuesday night, D’Antoni said his goals were clear:
Be the best team in the league.
But be patient.
“What do we got, 72 more games?” D’Antoni said before the game. “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. They 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.”
Clearly, D’Antoni was in a facilitating mood in his first game. When Kobe Bryant drew his second foul midway through the first … [For more on Mike D'Antoni victorious in Lakers debut vs. Nets, click here.]