D'Antoni's Success Pivots Around Howard

D'Antoni's Success Pivots Around Howard

The Lakers made the coaching choice that they knew would lose the press conference, lose in the court of public opinion, but work out for the best on the only court that matters.

Then, something strange and wonderful happened. From the sights and sounds of this first day of the Mike D'Antoni era in Los Angeles, it turned out that the Lakers chose the coach who managed to win the press conference, too.

Nobody expected that. The crowd of media at the team's practice facility, like nothing D'Antoni had seen in four years in New York, was something you'd expect for the triumphant return of Phil Jackson. Seriously, this crowd was for D'Antoni? A man who's never been to the Finals (much less won an NBA title) and whose acumen, style, philosophy, defects, playoff failures and demise in New York have been dissected for five days since the stunning decision of his hiring was announced?

Then D'Antoni, whose arrival on the West Coast was delayed while he recovered from knee replacement surgery that had him walking with a crutch at his first practice with the Lakers, started talking. And the more he talked, the better this hiring sounded. The more he explained what he believes in and how the talent-rich Lakers can thrive under his free-wheeling, player-driven style like no other team he's coached, the more his critics presumably slumped in their chairs.

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