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Monday, November 12, 2012
Lakers cannot defend this move!

By Stephen A. Smith
ESPNNewYork.com

The Los Angeles Lakers want us to believe that they've made the right move. That hiring Mike D'Antoni as their new head coach was the right thing to do. For Kobe Bryant. For Dwight Howard. For Steve Nash. For a franchise in desperate pursuit of its 17th NBA title.

Yet the fact that it came at the expense of an 11-time champion, Phil Jackson, means the Lakers did not make the right move. The fact that Jackson, according to league sources, had been led to believe the job was his to turn down makes hiring D'Antoni a bad move.

It reveals that the Lakers might actually deem entertaining basketball more important than winning championships. And that is what's most alarming of all.

Let Bryant try to sell everyone on D'Antoni all he wants. Let the Lakers' executives do the same with their rhetoric, telling the basketball world they were "unanimous that D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."

There's no getting around the Lakers' choice to pass over a tried-and-true champion in favor of a coach who lacks an affinity for defense, and whose definition of success seems to be how many points his teams score.

When the Lakers feel bitten in the proverbial backside, it should come as no surprise.

"I love PJ, but I'm very excited about D'Antoni," Bryant told ESPN early Monday.

We'll see.

Perhaps someone should ask Bryant a couple of poignant questions.

How will he feel the moment he realizes wannabes, bench-warmers and has-beens are allowed to shoot nearly as much as he is?

How interested is Bryant, 34, in racing up and down the court over the next 77 games, plus the playoffs, in D'Antoni's frenetic, up-tempo system -- with little regard for a player's ability to hold up? (See: Amar'e Stoudemire's knees).

Did I mention the fact that D'Antoni's defenses have never ranked higher than 23rd in his coaching career? That D'Antoni's teams ranked 28th on defense his first three years in New York, before Mike Woodson was forced on D'Antoni during his last season with the Knicks?

"There isn't a player who significantly contributed to Coach D'Antoni's system who doesn't love the man," one former D'Antoni player told me Monday. "But anyone who tells you that man mentioned defense, let alone preached it, is a liar."

The truth is the truth.

I'm not saying that D'Antoni won't win basketball games. To the contrary, he'll win more than his share. The Lakers will end up with one of the league's best records. They'll be entertaining and will be relevant … right up to the moment it's championship time.

Around that time, the San Antonio Spurs, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, or even Chris Paul and the L.A. Clippers will laugh hysterically at the thought of the Lakers trying to defend them.