Dwight Howard 'excited' about hiring
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- With the hiring of Mike D'Antoni complete, the Los Angeles Lakers now have had as many head coaches (three) as they have wins through the first seven games of the season.
However, Dwight Howard said after practice Monday that the turbulent times and 3-4 early record will only benefit the Lakers in the long run.
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"It's not disappointing," Howard said when asked if he's been let down by the rocky beginning to the much-hyped start to his career with the Lakers. "Everything happens for a reason. There's a reason why we've been through so much so early in the season. I think it's good for our team. It's good for the chemistry. It's good for us just to show how strong we are as individuals and as a team."
It's also a good sign for Lakers' management that Howard publicly signed off on D'Antoni's hiring Monday, even though the All-Star center said he wasn't consulted about the decision over the weekend.
"We're excited for D'Antoni and an up-paced offense," Howard said. "Everything he's done with the teams he's had as far as how they pushed the ball and how they play in an open court, I think it will be good for Steve (Nash) and for all of us to put some points on the board."
Nash, who won two MVP awards while playing for D'Antoni in Phoenix, has a fractured fibula in his left leg and did not practice Monday.
"It's amazing to get a chance to play for Mike again," Nash told ESPN. "He's a great man and an incredible basketball mind. We had some great years together and I look forward to getting to work and building a winner here in L.A."
"Obviously, when (D'Antoni) was in Phoenix, he gave Nash the ball (and) put the right personnel around him with shooters," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "Nash is one of the best pick-and-roll players of all time, and (D'Antoni) let him be that. It's a different dynamic now, so he'll probably use a little bit more brain power to see how he gets Nash to be Nash, with the other elements he has with Kobe (Bryant) and the rest of those guys. He has a tough job ahead of him, but I'm sure he's excited about the opportunity he has to be with America's team."
Fans didn't hear how Bryant felt about D'Antoni ending up being the team's surprise pick to become the 24th head coach in team history, instead of Phil Jackson being brought back for a third stint with the team, until he posted on his Facebook page late Monday.
"It's been a wild week to say the least," he wrote. "I'm happy to have closure and can't wait to get to work with Coach D'Antoni.. spacing, ball movement. And despite the chatter, I believe we will be phenomenal defensively. I'm looking forward to getting started with him and his staff this week. Mamba out."
Bryant, who expressed his support for Jackson after Mike Brown was fired Friday, declined to speak to reporters earlier Monday.
But he had a good excuse -- he took Steve Blake along with him in his helicopter so Blake could make an appointment in Orange County to receive an ultrasound on his abdominal injury suffered in Sunday's 103-90 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Pau Gasol, who also supported Jackson's return to the sidelines, echoed Howard's enthusiasm for D'Antoni but admitted he seemed like the "second option."
"I think we're all excited to have him here and learn his principles in offense and defense and make it work the best for us," Gasol said.
Howard, who found out about the news through a BBM message on his BlackBerry phone Sunday night said he "wasn't shocked" by the hiring. Gasol, who first learned of it on Twitter, said he had "high expectations" for Jackson to return, but has accepted the decision to bring in D'Antoni.
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"It couldn't happen, it couldn't be for whatever the reasons are and so we move forward," Gasol said. "That's what we do as professionals."
Howard and Metta World Peace, both former winners of the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award, said that their individual talents will help improve D'Antoni's defensive reputation.
"You got guys on this team who love to play defense and he's an offensive coach, so I think we'll find a balance," Howard said.
Added World Peace: "I don't think he ever had a defender such as myself or a defender such as Dwight Howard on his teams. ... So, defense will be self-explanatory and his offense is amazing, so it should be fun for Laker fans."
The question remains of when the fun will start. D'Antoni is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday and his introductory news conference could occur as late as Thursday. There is a chance Bickerstaff would remain interim head coach even after D'Antoni is introduced, according to a source, as the 61-year old continues to recover from a recent knee replacement surgery.
Bickerstaff said D'Antoni can't get to Los Angeles soon enough.
"When I talked to him, I told him to hurry up and come on in and get this seat so I can get some of these microphones out of my face," Bickerstaff said.
Information from ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein and ESPN.com NBA reporter Michael Wallace was used in this report.