While much of Lakers nation rejoices at the sudden resignation of head coach, Mike D’Antoni, some have to wonder if the heavy burden of blame was justified. Sure, his overall record in his two seasons as the coach of the purple and gold was a pathetically low 67-87 for the historic franchise, yet it is worth contemplating if all of the blame game that was hurled in his direction was justified or heavily misguided.
It is no mystery that the entire city of Los Angeles and anyone who considers themselves a Lakers fan have been calling for the head of D’Antoni for a very long time. Only half way through his first season as head coach, the team found themselves deep in a hole with an overall record of 17-24, and eventually finished the lackluster season at 45-37, good enough to get them into the first round of the playoffs, but nowhere near good enough for the Lakers franchise.
It was time to cue the meltdown in the City of Angels, as the hopes of reviving a high-flying version of “Showtime” with guard Steve Nash running the point failed. In an attempt to recreate the style of play that D’Antoni and Nash brought to the Phoenix Suns years earlier, the experiment fell flat, and D’Antoni felt the wrath. “Showtime” existed more with the team that shares the Staples Center, and nothing even close to resembling “Showtime” ever came to fruition. The Lakers never found any solid footing, injuries plagued the team and players like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard were never able to find a role in D’Antoni’s offense.
A tough season was behind them, but it was time to move on. Bad news for Lakers fans—optimism came to a screeching halt and things just got worse. Dwight Howard was gone, Gasol and Nash struggled with injuries, and Kobe Bryant missed most of the season with another injury. The result, was coach Mike D’Antoni attempting to run the Kentucky Derby with a group of poodles. He did not have the talent to compete in the NBA and yet Lakers fans and media expected him to turn water into wine, and when that failed, the misguided blame landed on the head coach like a pile of bricks. Everyone wanted to believe that if they just would have hired Phil Jackson, things would be amazing, the team would excel and they would be hanging new banners at Staples. It is wishful thinking and a way for Lakers fans to convince themselves that they still had an elite basketball team. They fail to remember that their core nucleus of star players are well over the hill, and the talent around them is not enough to compete with teams like the Heat, Thunder, Spurs and other playoff teams.
Following the announcement that Mike D’Antoni had resigned, Lakers great, Magic Johnson tweeted that “Happy days are here again,” stating that he could not have been happier. He received an immediate scolding from Charles Barkley who fired back saying that, “Magic Johnson is bigger than that.” Barkley also brings up valid points about the state of the Lakers team and the difficulties that D’Antoni faced during his two years on the job. He stated numerous times that the Lakers simply do not have enough good players and even if they had legendary coach, Phil Jackson, it still would have been difficult to win. He even went as far as to say simply that the Lakers team “stinks,” and while it is not Sir Charles at his most eloquent best, he pretty much summed it up with one simple word.
It is easy for fans and the public to place blame on certain individuals, players and executives, but often times, including this instance with the Los Angeles Lakers the blame game that has run so rampant in the last two seasons is somewhat misguided. How can a coach succeed when he is handed a bunch of over-the-hill players whose bodies are breaking down and be forced to run a team with mostly mediocre players? It is no wonder Mike D’Antoni reached the end of the line and threw in the towel. Not a bad decision considering he will still receive more than half of his $4 million that he would have received for the 2014-15 season. No more blame, ridicule and people calling for his job, plus a cool $2 million to go into your bank account? Sounds like everyone is a winner in this situation. Now, all that is left is for the Los Angeles Lakers to go out there and win games on the basketball court.
Commentary by Johnny Caito