Lakers not putting D'Antoni in a position to succeed; more mailbag
Did Phil Jackson ask for an ownership share of the Lakers? Did he seek to limit his participation in road trips? Was he demanding to have final say on roster moves, Laker Girl tryouts and celebrity seating? Is it true that he wanted Jimmy Buss to personally wash and fold his laundry each Tuesday? Did he really believe the players would be better served by moving their practices to an outdoor facility in Montana? Were the Lakers refusing to honor him with a moment of silence before home games while he was still alive and able to enjoy it? Was it not enough that they were willing to melt down all of their other statues in order to erect atop the Staples Center an enormous high-throned Buddha with horn-rimmed glasses, a sardonic grin and a soul patch?
So many questions, and I am afraid we shall never know all of the answers.
Which leads to the first of many responses to your questions:
It's easy to forget, amid all of the Lakers' self-inflicted damage of the past week, that Nash has been sidelined by a small fracture in his left leg, Dwight Howard is still limited by back surgery he underwent in April and Kobe Bryant has been dealing with an injured foot.
It is going to be a long time before the Lakers are healthy. D'Antoni remains in pain after undergoing recent knee replacement surgery. Whenever he is able to report to work, Lakers fans are unlikely to show sympathy for him because he neither looks like, nor sounds like, nor possesses 11 championship rings like Jackson.
The Lakers should not be trying to create the impression that they decided D'Antoni was a better coach for them than Jackson. No one is going to believe it because it can't possibly be true. Their priority was to recruit Jackson, who was understandably perturbed by the purge last year of everyone (including Brian Shaw) who had anything to do with him or the triangle offense. If Jackson happened to make exorbitant demands, who could blame him? If the Lakers didn't want to meet those demands, that is understandable, too.
When the Lakers make it sound as if D'Antoni was their first choice, they are inviting the fans to take out their frustrations on D'Antoni in order to hold the Lakers accountable for lousy judgment. I think the Lakers should be making it clear that they wanted Jackson, that they were unable to reach an agreement with Jackson and that D'Antoni -- as first runner-up -- is now going to try to do everything he can to bring a championship to Los Angeles, and, along the way, he's going to need all of the support the fans can give him.
If the Lakers want D'Antoni to succeed, they need to man up, admit the truth and take pressure off him -- pressure that has nothing to do with him because he didn't prevent the Lakers from hiring Jackson. All D'Antoni did was pick up the phone when it rang.
Maybe the truth won't make any difference. But it can't be any worse than the stink in which the Lakers find themselves right now.
To answer the specifics of your question, Andy: In 2004, the Mavericks let go of Nash because they believed he didn't have many years left. Since then he has played in 605 of 647 games. Over the last 11 years, he has never missed more than eight games in any season.
Will he be able to hold up? Jason Kidd was also 38 when he helped lead the Mavericks to the 2010-11 championship. Kidd played in all but two games and averaged 33.2 minutes that year while leading the team in assists and steals. It can be done, but depending on older players also means that you have to be prepared for the worst. The Lakers can't survive a long-term absence by Nash any more than the Heat could win without Dwyane Wade or the Thunder could return to the NBA Finals without Russell Westbrook. The difference is that Nash is eight years older than Wade and 14 years older than Westbrook.
This has been an important question for the Knicks since their trade for Anthony in February 2011. By separating Anthony and Stoudemire at the start, the Knicks could give Stoudemire close to a dozen minutes on the court without Anthony -- the idea being that he would be far more productive during those minutes.
Ultimately, I think it's a bad idea because it would enable the Knicks to avoid dealing with the fundamental problem within their team. If they hope to go far in the playoffs, they need to develop a style of play that enables Stoudemire and Anthony to be stars at the same time. Instead of diminishing each other, they -- or coach Mike Woodson and Kidd, to be specific -- need to help them find a way to elevate each other's games.
During their first season together in Miami, LeBron James and Wade each appeared to be more comfortable and productive when the other was on the bench. They weren't able to win a championship until they learned to play together and help each other last season, and that's exactly what the Knicks' two stars need to do. They'll never be able to challenge for a title otherwise, because without Anthony and Stoudemire working on behalf of each other, the Knicks will never be good enough. They'll lose in the playoffs to blended stars who exhibit teamwork.
If they ever reach the point where Anthony and Stoudemire are playing seamlessly together and helping to elevate each other's play, the Knicks can begin to think about bringing Stoudemire off the bench. Because in that case they'll be making the move from a position of strength rather than from weakness.
Probably not, Jim. Who is going to help him learn to get it? He needs desperately to be paired with a leader like Indiana's David West. But there are very few like West in the NBA, and not one of them plays for the Sacramento Kings. Cousins could be a great player, but he needs to respect those who are trying to show him the way.
Dumars has done more than most general managers will ever accomplish. Since the Pistons' inevitable fall after seven straight years of 50 wins or more (they averaged nearly 55 through 2007-08), they've never picked higher than No. 7 in the draft. Maybe they -- like most rebuilding teams -- need a high draft choice to change course and provide a future All-Star as an anchor to recent picks Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond.
But the Pistons have a new owner, and patience is understandably short given the large amounts of money that fans are charged to attend games. Detroit should ask one question before it considers firing Dumars: Will the franchise be able to replace him with a GM who is capable of reaching six straight conference finals? The answer, John, is no: A new GM would be unlikely to have such upside because very few executives are capable of executing such a run of extended excellence. Dumars' achievements have been no fluke, and the Pistons should be extremely cautious before throwing away such a talent.
Jeff may have the better chance, if only because there are owners and executives who believe that Stan betrayed the confidence of management and ownership in Orlando last season by revealing that Howard had demanded a trade.
The truth is that many teams should be interested in hiring either one of them. It may not be easy to deal with them because they are extremely demanding, but the Van Gundys have a record of turning those demands into winning seasons. The team that hires either one of them will be telling its fans that winning is the priority. I think we'll see both of them coaching in the NBA again.
The Grizzlies surely have a chance to reach the Finals, thanks in part to the upheaval of the Western Conference. The Thunder have traded James Harden, the Lakers are a mess and the Spurs have disappointed in recent postseasons. Of course, it's too early to draw any firm conclusions, because all three teams are talented enough to rise up and dominate the conference over the course of the season. None of them will look forward to playing the Grizzlies with their talented front line and strong defense.
As the season progresses, however, there is also the chance that the Grizzlies' new ownership will decide that the team isn't good enough to merit its $74 million payroll, in which case Zach Randolph (making $16.5 million this season) could be put on the market. The change in management puts pressure on the Grizzlies to continue to make good on the investment made in them.