It was easy to get over Steve Nash deserting Phoenix for Hollywood.
He is an aging point guard whose game is declining (even if only a little), so if the two-time MVP wanted to hitch his wagon to the horse that is Kobe Bryant in search of a championship, that’s his business.
But seeing Mike D’Antoni follow Nash to L.A. is different. It’s brutal. It’s unacceptable.
D’Antoni, who you may recall, presided over one of the most successful runs in Suns history. The team went 232-96 in the regular season under his stewardship, which averages out to a record of 58-24. Phoenix won 26 playoff games with D’Antoni at the helm, and many of us felt this was the coach who would bring the Valley its first NBA title.
But alas, he couldn’t.
Some will point to Joe Johnson’s broken face in 2005, an injury-riddled team in 2006 or the suspensions in 2007 as reasons for why the Suns fell short. Others believe D’Antoni’s stubbornness with regards to defense and playing his bench led to the team’s demise.
All those people are right — to an extent.
There is one more anti-D’Antoni argument, and it’s the one that scares me the most right now with regards to the coach leading the Lakers:
His system cannot win a championship in the NBA.
We should hope those people are wrong, and that’s what makes this whole situation so damn difficult to stomach.
There is little doubt D’Antoni will be a better coach in Los Angeles than he ever was in Phoenix or New York, where he failed due to a variety of different factors, many of which were out of his control. Though he’s stubborn, it’s tough to believe he hasn’t learned from the past with regards to using his bench. Besides, it’s not likely people will be clamoring for the coach to give the likes of Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks significant minutes.
And D’Antoni’s teams, while not playing anything that could be considered “good” defense, were not really as bad as you remember.
His Suns teams did give up a ton of points from 2004-2008. However, their point differential over the four years was +7.1, +5.6, +7.3 and +5.1.
Phoenix won, won a lot, and won comfortably. Sure, the other team may have lit up the scoreboard, but is there any difference between a 110-103 win and a 90-83 victory?
Opponents scored a lot of points not because the Suns were a sieve on that side of the court, but rather because of the sheer number of possessions they had. Phoenix’s defensive rating was no lower than 17th in the NBA under D’Antoni, and was as high as 13th one season.
And this was with Steve Nash, who couldn’t guard a chair, at point guard, and Amare Stoudemire, who refused to guard anyone, guarding the bucket.
Now he’ll have Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest (I refuse to call him the other name) and Dwight Howard. And Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.
Now they have a better coach who has experienced real success with a roster far less talented than the one he just inherited.
The Lakers were going to win games regardless of whether they made a coaching change or not, though now you have to believe their chances of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season have improved.
D’Antoni’s brand of basketball is both effective and entertaining, and there is little doubt other teams would be quick to emulate it if they felt it could bring them a championship.
As basketball fans, we should all be rooting for the coach to succeed and bring home the hardware.
As Suns fans, though, nothing would be more painful than seeing him bring it to Los Angeles.