D'Antoni On Lakers: 'It'd Be A Perfect Fit'
D'Antoni tells our Nancy Lieberman that his recent knee surgery would not serve as an obstacle to starting immediately. Those wheels are in motion, we're told, with D'Antoni's agent Warren LeGarie having already contacted the Lakers. Meanwhile, sources close to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak tell us that there will be an in-house push from legend-turned-team-exec Magic Johnson to hire ex-Lakers guard Brian Shaw, who was passed over for the job in favor of Brown and is now a Pacers assistant. The Lakers have gotten off to a slow 1-4 start but intend to move fast here. They've told assistant Bernie Bickerstaff that he will coach the club only for the very short term. LA intends to have a new coach in place during the six-game home stand that began Friday.
D'Antoni is high on the list in part because of his credentials and in part because of his connections. His fast-paced offensive system would be an easy-to-install Showtime crowd-pleaser and would be triggered by Steve Nash, who keyed D'Antoni's explosive Phoenix Suns teams. It would also feature Kobe Bryant, of course – and Bryant and D'Antoni are close due to their shared experiences n with Team USA and with having both lived in Italy.
As D'Antoni tells us, it would in many ways "be a perfect fit.''
Shaw has no head coaching experience but has the backing of Magic and possibly other veterans who played with him in LA. Kupchak, however, says, "I think it's more likely that we would look to coaches that are not presently employed."
That could lead LA back to Phil Jackson, of course. Other names have been thrown into this mix (including Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan and Mike Dunleavy). But none has the overall appeal of former Lakers boss Jackson, in retirement at 67 but nevertheless the most decorated NBA coach on the planet. A source close to Kupchak insists there is little "Phil buzz'' inside Lakers HQ, but Kupchak himself says, "When there's a coach like Phil Jackson, one of the all-time greats, and he's not coaching, I think you'd be negligent not to be aware that he's out there.''
The Los Angeles Lakers are loaded on paper, with Nash and Dwight Howard having joined Bryant and Gasol. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle predicts this roster will produce four Hall-of-Famers. Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who takes great glee in competing with the historically regal Lakers, is giddy about the LA shuffle.
"It's the same thought I have all the time,'' Cuban says. "I hope they have to do it again this season. A couple times. Five times, maybe. … I just hope it was a huge mistake and they continue to make them."
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