So I have this friend that is a “Big” Lakers fan. You know the type, they talk all kinds of smack when they’re great, and they try to explain to you how they knew this was going to happen now that they’re spiraling out of control. He’s the type of fan that probably hopped on the Lakers bandwagon around the turn of the century, you know when Shaq was still there and they started winning consecutive titles again. So rewind to before the preseason even started, and let me recap what this “fan” had to say. “Dude, there is no way the Lakers aren’t going to win the title this year”. “Did you see that picture of our starting five?” Yeah, well that “all-star” caliber starting lineup has only played 132 minutes together so far this season. How’s that working out for you? I’m here to tell you who’s to blame for this train wreck, and that their season, while it has been a disaster so far is not completely lost yet. Any major problem you have in an organization, a business, or even your own family always starts at the top. Let me see how I can say this without having a potty mouth, ummmm, okay got it: “poo doesn’t travel uphill.” The problems in a family don’t start with the kids, they start with the parents. The problems with a business don’t start with the $12/hour employee, they start with the owner(s). So, why would the dysfunction that is the Lakers have started with the players? It obviously started with ownership and upper management and trickled down to the coach and finally has effected the players negatively. So when you watch the Lakers struggle on both ends of the floor, you can’t blame Kobe Bryant, and you can’t even blame Dwight Howard. For the root of the Lakers struggles let’s look up, first at Jerry Buss. Yes, I said Jerry Buss. Who is that is ruining one of the greatest franchises in sports history? That would be Jim Buss. And, who is it that made Jim Buss Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers? Yes! You are correct again, that would Jerry Buss. I’m tired of these ultra wealthy business men whom mostly created their multi-million dollar businesses on nothing but hard work and a brilliant idea, just handing over their fortunes to their self-entitled kids. Our kids don’t always turn out to be carbon copies of the best form of ourselves(as much as we want them to). Just because daddy was a great entrepreneur and knew how to run one of the most successful sports franchises of all time, doesn’t mean little Jimmy Buss can follow suit. With that being said, and now that Jim Buss is making decisions in Los Angeles, we can all point our fingers at him. Jim Buss decided this past November to hire Mike D’Antoni, not Phil Jackson. I know that all of you reading this already knew that but let me write that again. HE HIRED MIKE D’ANTONI OVER PHIL JACKSON! So as hard as it was to get past that, let’s get past that. Now am I saying that the Lakers would be 25-17 instead of 17-25? Most of you might say no, but I’d say uh, yeah maybe they would be. We are talking about PHIL JACKSON HERE! He’s one of if not THE greatest coach of all time. Again, we can’t change the past so let’s analyze the present. Let’s keep playing the blame game(I don’t know about you, but I’m having fun with this)and all point our fingers at Mike D’Antoni. Mike D’Antoni is not the answer for the Lakers. With that being said, I don’t know if Mike D’Antoni is the answer for anyone in the NBA. His style of coaching, if you can call it that, just doesn’t win championships. See, this is isn’t the Minnesota Timberwolves who were content just getting to the Conference Finals. The Lakers are like the Yankees, it’s championship or bust. Everyone is asking if the players should be adjusting to their coach or if the coach should adapt to the players on his roster? This is a very dumb rhetorical question if you ask me. Obviously, the answer is the coach must tweak his coaching “system” to fit the players on his roster. Players in the NBA are who they are. That mind sound vague or confusing, but it’s true. You can’t ask Kobe Bryant to lock down the other teams best player and then score 30 points on 65% shooting every night. As great as he still is, he’s not 24 anymore. You also can’t expect Steve Nash and the rest of these three toed sloths to sprint down the floor and play at a pace that’s better fit for an Olympic track. No disrespect to Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and that guy who changed his name to the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard, but they are just too old and too slow to play at this frenetic pace. That’s like taking a 1988 Pontiac station wagon out to the race track and expecting to blow by people on your way to the checkered flag. It just doesn’t work like that. Now, like I said earlier, I don’t believe D’Antoni is the answer in L.A., but I don’t see the Lakers firing another coach mid-season and carrying anymore extra payroll. So it looks like they’re stuck with D’Antoni, for now. I read an exchange between Grantland’s Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons last night. It was actually pretty interesting. They were pretty much saying how D’Antoni is so stubborn, he’d rather go down with the ship then try to adjust his own style. Here is an excerpt from Bill Simmons:”He’s basically saying, I’m here only because of my system. I can’t actually coach. If you give me the wrong players for my system, it doesn’t matter – I will keep using the system anyway, because Plan B would be coming up with a more inventive way to coach these guys. And I can’t do that. I’m not good enough. So if it’s OK with you, I’d like to go down in flames with my system.” Personally I think he is spot on with what should be going through D’Antoni’s head. I’m sure he’s already gone through this kind of inner conflict, when he was the coach of the Knicks. If only someone in the Lakers organization had sat down Jim Buss, taped his eyes open so he couldn’t look away, and forced him to watch the first half the Knicks 2011-2012 season, they might not be in this predicament. This is like a horrible remake of an already horrible movie. We all know how it’s going to end. So now that we’ve established the chain of command that put this in motion, let’s talk about the players on the floor. Everyone is also trying to blame Kobe Bryant for the Lakers troubles. To those critics I say, are you out of your mind? Kobe Bryant is 34 and is having another phenomenal season. Also, to the critics who try to call Kobe a selfish player, he is in a system that asks him to shoot as many times as possible. People are also trying to blame Dwight Howard for their struggles. Yes, he’s having a down season compared to his own standards, but he’s still averaging 16.7 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Man, what horrible numbers, especially on a team that has Kobe Bryant shooting as many shots as humanly possible. What also boggles my mind is why Dwight Howard has been playing through an injury that is obviously affecting his play. They should have rested him until he was 100% or as close to 100% as he can get before playing him. Dwight Howard can become a free agent at the end of this season, so the Lakers should be doing everything in their power to keep him healthy, happy, and in purple and gold next season and many more seasons to come. Now on to Pau Gasol. He is a special talent, and can be a key component to a championship caliber team. Don’t believe me? Just check Gasol’s numbers and minutes from their last two championships. This, just like every other players struggles can be attributed to one person, Mike D’Antoni. Which leads me to another great point that Bill Simmons made yesterday, he said: “I’m glad we finally got to Pau. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re a professional basketball coach and your system is telling you, “I should play Early Clark more than Pau Gasol,” you need a new system.” I couldn’t really come up with a better way to say that, so I let him say it for me. Thanks Bill. In closing, if you ask me what the solution is, you have to do what no one in the world would do, fire D’Antoni, and hire a 3rd coach in a single season. From a purely wins and losses perspective, this is the only move Jim Buss should be thinking about. Unfortunately we all know that owning a sports team is strictly a business venture for 99.9% of owners, and he’s not going to come out of pocket to hire a 3rd(even if it would be the right one, cough, The Zen Master, cough)coach. Little Jimmy is probably upset that Phil’s setting up shop with his little sis. Resentment is an ugly character trait, Jim. Especially when it aids in your own self-sabotage. The other fix I would make is to play to Kobe, Pau, and Nash’s strengths. And that is to let Nash orchestrate the offense like he knows how, while favoring the Kobe side of the floor slightly in each possession. Let Dwight Howard get healthy, and I’m sure you’ll see the production we’ve all been expecting. Now as for Pau, get him the damn ball inside the post! He’s a great passer for a big man so even he can find Dwight Howard from there. And most importantly he is a great low-post player, stop forcing him to shoot 18 footers. If you take time to look at his numbers, you’ll see that they are far better when he is inside the paint opposed to outside roaming the earth, like Quentin Richardson in that old D’Antoni Pheonix system. How dumb are the Knicks by the way(says the Knicks fan)? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, and fool me 3 times, well I don’t know what you call that. The D’Antoni “system” got us with Quentin Richardson, Amare Stoudamire, and then Mike D’Antoni!! Really?!?!? Come on Man(said in a Keyshawn Johnson voice)! Finally, let Ron/Metta I’m not calling him that scare the other teams best player into submission. Or play physical, whichever way you want to go with it. The Metta guy isn’t what he used to be either, but if he stops expending energy on the offensive end and focuses all his efforts to the defensive end, they might have a recipe for success. Back to reality we go, the Lakers need to win between 25 and 29 games to have a shot at the playoffs. Is it likely? No. But, I’m telling you there is a chance.
Published by Dave Ettinger
I think, I say it. You may not like it, but I'll always be honest. I'm a walking oxymoron; an objective fan. Yankees, Knicks, Jets, and Islanders. You can find me on the DaveTalksSports Podcast every morning during my commute home from CBS Sports Radio Headquarters. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel; DaveTalksSports. You can also like my Facebook Page at www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports or follow me on Twitter @DaveEttinger2. View all posts by Dave Ettinger