Archive for the 'Mike D’Antoni' Category

Mike D’Antoni: 2014 Exit Interview

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- On his thoughts on this season:
“We’ve talked about it almost every day for the last couple months. A lot of the injuries were odd injuries that don’t usually occur on a basketball team. It happened and we dealt with it as best we could. Nobody is happy how the season went. It was tough from the very beginning. Some things had to break right and they didn’t break right. We could never get that full array of guys healthy at the same time.”

- On if it angers him or frustrates him that he’s being criticized:
“No, I think every NBA coach coming off a year that goes sideways, (they) should be under scrutiny. It’s part of the job. I think as coaches, we hold ourselves under scrutiny. We see what we could have done better, should have done this better, should have done that. There will come a day where I sit down with management and see where they want to go, and try to get on the same page.”

- On if it’s fair fans are criticizing him or blaming him despite all the injuries (L.A. missed a league-leading 319 games due to injury/illness):
“I think so. There’s always things we could have done better. I think that’s normal. Our job is to: ‘What could we have done better?’ It’s easier in hindsight to say we should have done this or should have done that. For the most part, our guys were competitive and we developed some guys. There were some silver linings in there, but as a whole, the season was very disappointing for everybody.”

- On if the pace the team plays at contributed to or played a factor in all the injuries this season:
“To me, it’s ludicrous. To me, the pace you play and the way you spread the floor leads to less injuries just because you don’t pound and hit. To me, that leads to less (injuries). I don’t believe in that.”

- On his relationship with Kobe Bryant now:
Professional. He’s a big time competitor and he’s going to do anything to win. I’m competitive and I’m going to try and do anything to win. Sometimes that does butt heads a bit, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

- On if the last two seasons have been diluted at all:
“A little bit. But we didn’t get the best of anything because of injuries. When that happens you don’t get a traction or consistency in the play. That happens. It’s a byproduct of losing or struggling and you can’t get over the hump but quite can’t get there for whatever reason.”

- On how the game has changed over the years from when he first implemented his system in Phoenix until now, where he sees the game going in the future and how it’s played:
“I do think the game is changing and it has changed. Some of the hard part of coaching is to be able to drag people over to the next side. People are comfortable with doing business a certain way. When that business kind of shifts to get people to change, it’s not easy. It’s a process. I do think the league is going to a more open style and a faster style. Analytics not only are gut feelings from people and coaches, but analytics have also proven certain things. Again, the problem comes when they start debating this is that you get into black and whites. It’s not that. There’s always a grey area and you always tweak it. One team is a little faster than the other, one spreads it a little bit more than someone else. I hear all the time: ‘The two-point shot is going away.’ No, it’s never going away. It’s always going to be there. It might – and I’m making numbers up – go from 50 times to 43, but those other seven times are more three’s. That could happen and it will happen and it has happened. But that doesn’t mean there’s no place for a post up player or no place for a mid-range game. There is a place. It’s just not what is dominant today and will be. Unless the NBA changes the rules again, like the three-point line and the no hand checking, then basketball is going a certain way. The problem is most people commenting on it played a different way and now you’re shaping opinion a different way. That’s not where it’s going to go. As soon as they embrace it a little bit more, I think they’re better off. But basketball has changed, and it’s not the same basketball that your father played. It’s just not it. The teams that adapt to it quicker are going to be more successful quicker.”

- On if the Lakers have adopted that philosophy:
“I think it’s been a process and will be a process. That’s probably the most challenging part is changing opinions. You need everything to go the right way and it didn’t. So opinions out there that say that doesn’t work are not convinced of it. That’s the challenging part of the league.”

- On how he wins over the fanbase and changes public opinion whether his style of play is effective:
“Winning. That’s the only way you can do it. They have the right to feel the way they feel because we didn’t have a great year. That comes with being a fan. Opinion is shaped by the record. You have a hard time explaining this works when you lose 10 in a row.”

- On how he managed to keep the guys positive under the circumstances:
“I think it starts with the coaching staff that comes every day with a positive attitude trying to get better. I think the players feed off that. If they know you’re genuinely in it for them, and you’ll take as much criticism or more for them than they are, they’ll buy in unless they’re bad guys. And we didn’t have bad guys. We had great guys. I think that the coaching staff did a great job of never letting down one day. Never had those days. Players didn’t have those days. They were dealt an unbelievably bad hand coming in here. Things had to break right and it didn’t. It broke the worst way possible, but they hung in there and did their job exceedingly well for the hand they were dealt without a lot of support for them. I’m proud of them for their character.”

- On Pau Gasol’s play the last two seasons playing in his system:
“In his mind, he’d like to play a little differently. He had success in different ways. But I think his stats and his play showed he can be effective in any system. It doesn’t matter. Again, I think that at the end of both years, he had really good (games). He started off slow both years and that’s where we kind of got in trouble. His play the first three or four months wasn’t the Pau Gasol, and he turned into it. At the end, we might have a little different philosophy, but at the same time, I feel he played really well.”

- On his optimism Steve Nash will be able to play next season without any nagging injuries:
“I’m optimistic he’ll give everything he’s got to play. He loves to play basketball, he loves to be a great teammate, he loves to win, he’s an unbelievable competitor in his own way. That I am optimistic. Can he do it? I don’t know with his injuries. I’m not a doctor. I know the reservations. He’s 40 years old. Everybody has those. He has them, but he will battle and try to be effective at whatever role he has. I know for sure he’ll give everything he’s got to get there.”

- On how much faith has that L.A. will be able to turn it around to get back on the right track:
“One-hundred percent. There’s no doubt. L.A. is a great destination for anybody. You don’t have all those banners for nothing. Jim (Buss) Mitch (Kupchak) do an unbelievable job at maximizing the possibilities. But it does take time. There are (rules) in place. It takes a little bit of luck and tweaking, but there’s no doubt they’ll get it done.”

Lakers Better With Small Line Ups

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles LakersThe Lakers have struggled through an injury-riddled season during which 212 games have been missed to players, led by Kobe Bryant’s 52 and 46 from Steve Nash, eliminating any real chance of competing in a loaded West in which the current No. 8 seed is nine games over .500.

With a 19-39 record, not many of the statistics look very good for L.A., but a look at the team’s 10 most commonly used line ups reveals a point that coach Mike D’Antoni’s been making all season: the Lakers have been considerably better when they go small.

“Going small” in the NBA essentially means using a “stretch four” instead of a power forward, the former of which for the Lakers has been either Shawne Williams, Ryan Kelly or (with the current line up) Wesley Johnson.

Here’s the plus/minus for those 10 most-used groups, adjusted per 100 possessions, with offensive and defensive ratings included:

Lineup: Marshall/Blake/Johnson/Williams/Kaman (SMALL)
Minutes: 53
OffRtg: 106.4
DefRtg: 100.3
NetRtg: +6.2*
*This group outscored opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions.

Lineup: Farmar/Meeks/Henry/Johnson/Hill (SMALL)
Minutes: 49
OffRtg: 112.8
DefRtg: 110.4
NetRtg: +2.4

Lineup: Marshall/Meeks/Young/Kelly/Gasol (SMALL)
Minutes: 69
OffRtg: 121.7
DefRtg: 120.4
NetRtg: +1.3

Lineup: Marshall/Meeks/Johnson/Kelly/Gasol (SMALL)
Minutes: 119
OffRtg: 102.3
DefRtg: 101.4
NetRtg: +0.9

Lineup: Nash/Blake/Young/Gasol/Kaman (BIG)
Minutes: 44
OffRtg: 92.7
DefRtg: 93.4
NetRtg: -0.6

Lineup: Blake/Meeks/Johnson/Hill/Gasol (BIG)
Minutes: 152
OffRtg: 100.4
DefRtg: 107.6
NetRtg: -7.3

Lineup: Marshall/Meeks/Bazemore/Johnson/Gasol (SMALL)
Minutes: 57
OffRtg: 90.3
DefRtg: 100.7
NetRtg: -10.5

Lineup: Marshall/Meeks/Johnson/Hill/Gasol (BIG)
Minutes: 56
OffRtg: 83.5
DefRtg: 104.9
NetRtg: -21.4

Lineup: Bryant/Meeks/Johnson/Hill/Gasol (BIG)
Minutes: 50
OffRtg: 84.1
DefRtg: 117.0
NetRtg: -32.9

Lineup: Marshall/Meeks/Johnson/Gasol/Sacre (BIG)
Minutes: 51
OffRtg: 91.8
DefRtg: 130.1
NetRtg: -38.2

Before L.A.’s game at Memphis, D’Antoni explained why he thinks the smaller line ups have been more effective:

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles LakersQ: On small vs. big line ups:
D’Antoni: We want a certain type of basketball, and we’re trying to establish that and we’re trying to put everything into it. It’s clear our that the numbers say when you spread the floor and move the ball and get up and down the floor, we have a lot better chance to win. That’s what we’re going to do. We can adjust during the game. For example, if David West was killing Wesley (Johnson) (on Tuesday night), then something’s going to happen. Wesley has to come out or we have to go big orwhatever. But Wesley played well and that did not hurt us last night. It gave us a chance to spread the floor, score at a good rate and stay in the game.When Wesley got in foul trouble and Ryan (Kelly) got in foul trouble and we went big, it all caved in cause they’re a better, bigger team than we are. You have to play a little different. If you’re over manned a little bit and you try to match up, it’s not going to work out.

Q: On what playing big does for the rest of the team if he were to start two bigs vs. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol instead of Pau Gasol with a stretch four (Johnson):
D’Antoni: Well, what will happen is our floor will be closed down and offensively we’re not going to be as good. You’re not going to stop Zach Randolph that much. He’s going to get his numbers. Marc Gasol is going to be good, and they’ll beat you. Plus we want to establish our identity. This is how we’re going to play and we’re going to get better at it and we’re going to push the ball and we’re going to evaluate talent and get better at it. It’s frustrating some players and I understand that obviously if you lose playing one way, let’s play the other way. So you can get killed the other way. We’re going by numbers, we’re going by feel, we want to establish an identity and we don’t want to be all over the board every night changing something up and matching up to other teams and then just grasping the straws.

Q: On how Johnson approaches defending (bigger guys):
D’Antoni: I thought Wesley played really well (at Indiana). He needs to keep doing that and being assertive and being quick and then we’ll see. If we can’t do that, we’ll have to get bigger and try to limit them as much as we can.

Lakers’ Offense Needs to Get on a “Roll”

Atlanta Hawks v Los Angeles LakersPerhaps the most basic and essential element of Mike D’Antoni’s – and really most of the NBA’s – offense is the screen-and-roll action, designed to force the defense into making a decision that leaves the offense with an open shot.

Five games into the season, the Lakers have not run it well. Too often, the big men are setting the screen and popping out for a jump shot instead of rolling to the basket, where they could either receive a pass with a chance finish or draw defensive attention that would produce open shots for teammates.

“(We need) more rolling, that’s what we want to do,” said D’Antoni after Wednesday’s practice in Houston ahead of Thursday’s game against the Rockets. “Mid-range shots aren’t the best thing in the world, so if that’s all you’re trying to get, that’s not a winning formula.”

I asked D’Antoni to what degree he’d prefer his big men roll, as opposed to pop.

“Almost 90 percent of the time we want you to roll hard, because we have another big that plays with (the roller) and he’d be the popper. You always have one shooter outside.”

And what is lacking?

“What we’re missing is a dynamic force going to the basket,” revealed D’Antoni. “Kobe (Bryant) would give you that, but we don’t have that force anywhere. So now we kind of play on the perimeter, and sometimes it works out a little bit, but that’s not what we need to do.”

“Sometimes we get too stagnant and we don’t create advantages,” said Pau Gasol when asked what L.A. needs to do better. “We have to create motion out of the pick and rolls, so that’s what we’re going to try and do more of from now on … (make) the defense move and for guys to be open from those actions. If we’re going to continue to run it, we have to do it more effectively. Hopefully when I roll, it’ll get me closer to the basket, too, and the ball might get there often, so that’s kind of the plan … our guards are not too fast, so we have to create advantages other ways.”

Gasol rolling to the hoop late in games after setting a screen for Bryant was L.A.’s bread and butter during the three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals from 2008-10, so he’s certainly capable and aware. Clearly, the coaches would prefer that he, Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill and even Wesley Johnson try and establish that “dynamic force” heading to the hoop after setting the screen. To what degree the bigs execute the plan remains to be seen.

Of course, there are two sides to the screen-and-roll, but on defense, the way the Lakers need to play the action is more simple.

“We just have to put the effort in mentally and focus on being gritty,” D’Antoni said. “For whatever reason, we have a hard time sustaining our effort mentally and focused in on being gritty … we’re not good enough to fall in like everybody else. Somehow we have to distinguish ourselves and that’s by grit and determination, and we’re not there yet.”

That grit was certainly lacking in Dallas, when Monta Ellis (30 points on 11 of 14 shooting, nine assists) got into the paint at will en route to the 123-104 blowout loss.

It’ll be just as much a focus in Houston on Thursday night, as the Rockets essentially run D’Antoni’s offense, with Omer Asik and Dwight Howard setting screens for James Harden and Patrick Beverley/Jeremy Lin. Howard did relatively little rolling to the hoop for L.A.’s offense last season, and D’Antoni hopes his bigs will begin to reverse that trend on Thursday evening.

Tip off is at 6:30 p.m. PST on TNT.

Gasol, D’Antoni Address Media in Houston

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas MavericksPau Gasol talked to assembled media members at the Toyota Center in advance of L.A.’s game vs. Houston on Thursday night. Gasol discussed Dwight Howard’s free agency decision, summarized L.A.’s 2012-13 season and the state of the Lakers offensively and defensively through five games. Below is a transcript:

Pau Gasol
Q: On if he was surprised or disappointed about Dwight Howard’s decision:
Gasol: I was kind of open to everything and anything, just like any other time. He made his decision and he thought that was the best choice for him. I respect him for it, and that’s it.

Q: On if he expects the atmosphere to be crazier in L.A. when they face Houston:
Gasol: I’m sure, I’m sure. I’m pretty positive it will be a little different on our court than here (in Houston). We have to worry about our situation and what we’re dealing with now and we have to play better on the road. Houston is playing really well, especially here at home. It’s going to be a tough game for us, so we have to be able to challenge them and play a good game for 48 minutes, and not have the breakdowns that we’ve been having, especially on the road, where we haven’t been successful.

Q: On if he feels everything that could go wrong did go wrong last season for the team:
Gasol: A lot of things went wrong last year, for sure. A lot of adversity and nothing really clicked. It was a tough year for everyone, not for one individual. Pretty much for the entire team, it was a tough year to go through. You have to understand in the NBA you have those types of years, and those years are the ones that make you grow and you can use those years to build on and to work even harder to achieve later success.

Q: On if anybody knew to an extent about where Howard’s body was really at last year coming off back surgery:
Gasol: Kind of hard to say, right? I can’t speak for a person’s body, how he’s feeling and what he’s going through. We knew he wasn’t 100 percent, that’s what he talked about and that’s what he shared. Then he had the shoulder issue as well, but we all had issues.

Q: On if it’s hard to reconcile that Howard did not see his future in L.A.:
Gasol: No, like I said, it was his first time being in a free agent position. He had the freedom to pick his future, and he picked it. It wasn’t with the Lakers. It was with the Rockets, so good luck and that’s it.

Q: On what he feels the future of the Lakers is:
Gasol: There’s a lot of question marks. We’re just trying to focus on our season and on our next game. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen next year, who’s going to be here and who’s not. We’re going to try and focus on what we can control, which is working hard every day to get better and have a better season.

Q: On the keys to going after Howard defensively:
Gasol: You have to be able to move him around. You can’t really overpower him, so you have to keep in constant movement and make him uncomfortable, get him out of position, get him to be late to rotate and things like that. That’s what you have to do to be successful against him.

Q: On his view about the dynamic between Kobe Bryant and Howard last year:
Gasol: There was definitely a lack of understanding and connection. I don’t know how much tension there was, but there were days it was fine and everybody was on the same page, and when things get a little rough, usually that’s when the tension came up. Like I said it was a rough year and a lot of things didn’t go our way, and that made it much more difficult.

Q: On if he follows the Rockets and what Howard does:
Gasol: I follow almost every team in the league, so I’m on top of what every player does, especially at my position. I follow the top players and I just follow the NBA. I follow what teams do, what players do and who’s doing well and who’s not.

Q: On if there was any period last year where the Lakers had fun playing:
Gasol: The last stretch was a little fun. That’s when we made that run to get into the playoffs. I think that was fun. The team competed, we were fighting to get in and that was fun. I think we had a couple games in there that we all kind of enjoyed playing together without too many issues, but for the most part, that wasn’t the case.

Q: On what he wants to see individually and from the team in pick-and-roll situations:
Gasol: Sometimes we get too stagnant and we don’t create advantages. We have to create motion out of the pick and rolls, so that’s what we’re going to try and do more of from now on. Keep our guys moving, (make) the defense move and for guys to be open from those actions. If we’re going to continue to run it, we have to do it more effectively. Hopefully when I roll, it’ll get me closer to the basket, too, and the ball might get there often, so that’s kind of the plan.

Q: On when he chooses to pop or roll on offense, or whether it’s based off reads:
Gasol: I’m going to try and read the defense, but most of the time, I’m going to try and get myself closer to the basket. Otherwise we get too stagnant at times and we’re not creating anything. Our guards are not too fast, so we have to create advantages other ways.

Q: On coming to Houston last season in early January and if it was a low point with all three big men (himself, Howard and Hill) injured:
Gasol: It was a tough winter. I think we played San Antonio, Houston and then New Orleans – a similar trip to this one. Injuries just came together that way and we were super short handed. It was not easy for us and not ideal for us. It was the kind of year that it was. Sometimes it goes that way. It’s not going to be sunny all the time.

Q: On what he expected when Steve Nash and Howard came to L.A.:
Gasol: I was definitely hopeful. But I knew there was a lot of work to do. You don’t win games by showing up on the court and wearing a certain number or certain name. You have to work and you have to create chemistry, you have to create certain habits on the floor, understand your strengths and weaknesses and work on them every single day. We had a coaching staff change and a totally different system came in – a system that probably didn’t fit our personnel. It was a lot of stuff. I’m sure you grasp some of it, but as you go through it, you don’t understand how much stuff we had to go through.

Q: On if he felt Howard didn’t give it his all because he knew he wasn’t going to be here:
Gasol: I don’t think so. I think he had certain expectations and certain demands as far as the game that probably weren’t fulfilled. It was also a big job of adjusting. We all had to adjust. He had to adjust and keep up and (we had to) sacrifice ourselves for the betterment of the team. ‘How much are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the betterment of the team? Understand what it takes and what the team needs from you specifically, not what you would like to give in particular.’ Those are some of the questions individually we all should have asked ourselves and worked on from there on out. You live and you learn. It just didn’t work out. We’re trying to work this out right here and this is enough of a challenge right now.

Q: On his thoughts on the team’s defense thus far:
Gasol: Inconsistent and not enough. We just have to be engaged defensively, we have to be more active and we have to communicate. We don’t communicate and we don’t create energy for ourselves and that puts us in big trouble. That’s what we have to do whoever is out there regardless of the lineups, we have to establish a communication and connection amongst the players that are on the floor. Otherwise, we’re going to struggle. Teams are too good offensively and we have to understand that.

Q: On what makes it harder this year with Howard not in the middle:
Gasol: You don’t have a shot blocker back there that will bail you some of the time, that will protect the rim like Dwight can with his athleticism. He also is a guy that gets his hands on ball and he’s aggressive. He gets a couple steals a game. Those are extra possessions. We have to make up for that in different areas. We have smaller guys that are quicker and more athletic and we have to utilize that.

Mike D’Antoni
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni talked to the media about Howard’s free agency decision, what specifically he would like to see from his team out of pick-and-roll situations on offense, Xavier Henry’s play and his thought process behind whether choosing to play big or small lineups. Below is a transcript:

Q: On Howard’s decision to go to Houston:
D’Antoni: It’s too bad. We would have loved for him to have been here in L.A. It didn’t work out. We turned the page and you go on. We knew there were some problems and we didn’t know which way he’d go. He picked Houston and I’m sure he’ll make the best of it, and we’ll make the best of it.

Q: On if Howard was the one that got away from them:
D’Antoni: When you’ve been around long enough, there’s a lot that got away. I was in New York and we tried to go after some high guys, and there’s a lot that gets away. That’s the business you’re in. You just have to retool and do it. Everybody does what’s best for them and Dwight (Howard) did what was best for him. There’s more ways to get where you need to get.

Q: On what he’s expecting from a defensive front line of Omer Asik and Howard:
D’Antoni: They’re good. They do a lot of pick and rolls and run the floor. Obviously their defensive presence is good. You have to try to spread them out and do as well as you can.

Q: On his view on the Howard and Bryant dynamic:
D’Antoni: Everybody wanted to win a championship. Some people weren’t healthy. Sometimes it gets complicated and personalities get complicated. It was a situation where it didn’t’ work out to a certain degree. I thought towards the end, they were good. They were good together. Like I said, everybody chooses what’s best for them personally and family, and everything else. Nobody knows the total decision why and you just have to play off of it.

Q: On if he thought towards the end of the year that it could work out with Howard:
D’Antoni: 50-50. It was one of those things you didn’t know. You never know what people are thinking, and again, you never know someone’s personal life and what they want or looking for. You just don’t know.

Q: On what he would like to see from the team in the screen and roll action:
D’Antoni: We just have to put the effort. For whatever reason, we have a hard time sustaining our effort mentally and focused in on being gritty. We’re not there. We’re kind of playing in the old NBA trot. We’re not good enough to fall in like everybody else. Somehow we have to distinguish ourselves and that’s by grit and determination, and we’re not there yet.

Q: On if he would like to see more rolling action to the basket on offense:
D’Antoni: More rolling. That’s what we want to do. Again, mid-range shots aren’t the best shots in the world. If that’s what you want to get, that’s not a winning formula.

Q: On if he gives his players the option to either pop or roll:
D’Antoni: Almost 90 percent of the time, we want you to roll hard because we have another big (out there) and he’ll be the popper. You always have one shooter outside. What we’re missing is a dynamic force going to the basket. Kobe (Bryant) would give you that but we don’t have that force anywhere. So now we kind of play on the perimeter and sometimes it works out a little bit. But that’s not what we need to do.

Q: On if he knew the extent of Howard’s health last year:
D’Antoni: Yeah, he said he wasn’t healthy all the way until February or so. You could see it. It just complicated a lot of stuff.

Q: On Xavier Henry’s play thus far and where he needs to improve:
D’Antoni: Just getting his consistency. He’s a young player at 22 years old and hasn’t had much playing time. All of a sudden, he’s in the Lakers starting lineup. It’s tough, and tough to handle all that. He’s not a great shooter some nights, but I think still he’s positive when he’s on the floor. He’s running the floor well, playing good defense, so I think he’ll even (it all out), and he’ll keep getting better as a shooter.

Q: On his sense of when he’s looking at whether to play big or small lineups:
D’Antoni: My message was we’re not sustaining our energy to where we can make an intelligent decision. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, and we don’t run back and we don’t have grit, how do we know if something works or not? It’s almost like: ‘Oh that doesn’t work.’ Well, let’s show it. Let’s see it. If we all play hard, then we’ll make a decision. Again, a little bit of the responsibility is players have to separate themselves. They have to show everybody this is the way to go. Right now we’re trying to grasp at straws now and we just can’t do that.

D’Antoni Addresses Impact of Training Camp

blog_130929dantoniAt the conclusion of the Lakers morning practice session, coach Mike D’Antoni addressed several questions centered around the impact of what a full training camp will do for the team. D’Antoni has yet to determine who will start alongside Gasol and Nash (should Kobe Bryant not be ready for the season opener). But with a full training camp to implement the system he never was able to fully use last season, D’Antoni remains optimistic of what the team will be able to accomplish in the days leading to the season opener. Below are his comments:

Q: On the biggest thing he’s trying to accomplish during the preseason:
D’Antoni: The biggest thing is trying to put in everything we do. We try to teach them everything first and then we’ll break it down each day. Yesterday was just devoted to how we want to play offensively and defensively, and today we’ll start breaking down segments of it.

Q: On the two-a-day practices the Lakers will hold during training camp:
D’Antoni: The mornings are used to teach them and a lot of individual shooting. At night, we’ll do a lot of scrimmaging.

Q: On not having Gasol and Nash out on the floor considering what they’re trying to accomplish:
D’Antoni: Pau (Gasol) was out there yesterday. I just won’t let him and Steve Nash do two-a-days. They know what we’re trying to do. They were in the film room. I jus didn’t want them to push it early. They could have gone if they needed to.

Q: On how much of what he is implementing now repetition of last year and how much is new:
D’Antoni: Most of it we didn’t get to because we didn’t have any basics last year. We told them the whole course last year but we couldn’t break it down. These guys have been going 90 percent for the last month and a half of what the little things we’re doing now, so it’s pretty smooth and they’re pretty far along.

Q: On the similarities and differences of what he will be running with this team as opposed to what he did in Phoenix:
D’Antoni: Everything is going to be the same we did in Phoenix. We might do it a different speed. That speed is determined by the players, which is fine, but the basic principles are all the same. We’re moving the ball, getting wide-open shots, and hopefully we make it.

Q: On how difficult it is to implement everything with certain players out:
D’Antoni: We don’t. We don’t have them out. Pau and Steve are going to do everything. They’re only going to miss stuff they don’t need to do. Kobe is the only one out and we don’t know when he’ll be back.

Q: On monitoring Nash’s minutes:
D’Antoni: I don’t know if it’s him missing games every once in awhile instead of (limiting) minutes, so we’ll have to figure that out. But you can’t expect him to play 35 minutes for 82 games. We’ll start from there and we’ll see where we go. We’ll build him up and some games he’ll play more, and some games he’ll play less. Some games he’ll take a break so we’ll see.

Q: On playing Steve Blake alongside Nash at shooting guard:
D’Antoni: We’ll see. That’s what preseason is for, to determine who will start. There’s a lot of guys battling for time and positions. Steve is going to be a big part of it no matter what he does, and we’ll see if that means starting. But there’s no reason why he wouldn’t start, but there’s also some other guys who might have something to say about it.

Q: On who he sees playing alongside Pau Gasol this season:
D’Antoni: Pau can play anywhere. He can play with (Chris) Kaman, he can play with Jordan (Hill), he can play with Shawne Williams, he can play with a stretch four or big four. Whether it’s four or five, in our system, it doesn’t mean anything. Kaman can make 15-foot jump shots or Pau can post up. Pau can make 15-foot jump shots or Kaman can post up. They’re a pretty good complement.

Q: On if it’s harder to build a team concept with guys on one-year deals:
D’Antoni: Actually I think it’s easier because we have good guys that know they won’t have success without the help of the other guys. So they’re very attentive in what we’re doing and they’re trying to buy in. It’s really good. We have a bunch of good guys. Whether they’re on their last year or not, they’re coming to play because they love to play basketball, and you can see it in them. It’s a nice atmosphere.

Q: On the team chemistry/vibe of the guys around now:
D’Antoni: Oh yeah, you’d have to ask the guys. But Steve Nash told me it’s a little bit different. I said: “Yeah, it feels different.”

Q: On what has stood out to him the first two days of training camp:
D’Antoni: Our shooting is a lot better. Our shooting is much better. Steve Blake has been playing unbelievable, Wes Johnson’s length and athleticism and Nick Young’s ability to score. There’s been a lot of good stuff. We just have to put it all together.

D’Antoni Transcript, Media Day 2013

blog_130928dantoniLakers coach Mike D’Antoni addressed assembled media members during the Lakers annual media day. He gave his thoughts on his expectations for the team on offense, monitoring Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash’s minutes during the year, what he expects from Jordan Farmar and what a full training camp and preseason will do for the coaching staff and the players. Below is a transcription of his comments:

Q: On how this team will look on offense:
D’Antoni: Every team has a level of running that we do. We will find that level and stick with it. We have guys we can go big and we can go small, we have a lot of guys that can go down the floor. We can play at a little more up-tempo game. I think the biggest thing is that Pau will be in the center a lot more, which is his more natural position. He can play anywhere, but he’s a devastating center in the league, and always has been. He can get back to his natural position more times. Our bench is strong and we have a lot more depth than last year. We got point guards – not only Steve Nash and Steve Blake, but we’ve added (Jordan) Farmar, so that’s better. There’s a lot of good things that can happen and we’re excited about the possibilities, and (we’ll) try to overachieve.

Q: On what he’s looking for in Jordan Farmar this year:
D’Antoni: We were lucky to get someone of that quality who has been here before, that knows how to play in the city and the bright lights, someone who is extremely talented and who has gotten better over the years, and has won two championships. There’s a lot of reasons why we wanted him, and we added more depth. There’s a lot of guys at that position, there’s a lot of guys that need to play and want to play, but it all seems to work out, and I think he’s excited to be in here, and I’m excited to have him.

Q: On managing Kobe’s minutes whether that be in practices and games:
D’Antoni: Well, practice is not hard. The games are a little bit tougher. Like we do all the time, we’ll sit down and talk and see how he feels. Gary (Vitti) will (take care) of the medical side of it and then make a decision together. He has a big voice in it. He’s earned that right, he knows his body better than anybody. We will try to get him to be prudent about it and make sure that we’re doing the right thing, but again, you’re not commanding anybody to do anything. You sit down and try to work with people, and try to find the best rhythm for him.

Q: On the lowered expectations this year:
D’Antoni: Yeah, the expectations are down. Obviously we have some question marks. That’s why people either put us down at 12th like ESPN. That happens. It doesn’t really affect what we do or our mindset. Our mindset is to overachieve and to build this team as strong as it can (be). In the NBA, everybody has talent. You don’t get to the NBA unless you’re a talented basketball player. We have a lot of talent on this team. Hopefully we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. I’m sure Steve Nash , Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, the question mark is one’s coming back form injury, one’s older, one’s this, one’s that, but you don’t find any better players in there. Let’s just try to get them healthy, keep them healthy and then see what happens.

Q: On how much different it’ll be with Pau at center as opposed to Dwight:
D’Antoni: You know. You just look at it. It’ll be different. Pau is probably the best offensive center in the league and the most talented big guy in the league. All of a sudden, he’s in his natural position where he’ll feel good about it. We’ll have to collectively defend better as a team. There’s a lot of things we’ll change and hopefully for the better.

Q: On the seriousness of Kobe’s injury and how he sees him adjusting his game when he comes back:
D’Antoni: I don’t think anybody knows. He doesn’t even know. He won’t know until he gets back on the court and we see it. It’ll be something we watch day to day. Hopefully there’s no adjustment. Hopefully he’s the same before it happened but I guarantee he will find a way to be effective. What that is, we’ll see.

Q: On limiting Steve Nash’s minutes during the season:
D’Antoni: We’ll talk about it. We’ll see how he feels. Obviously we have to do something there, whether it’s back to backs or whether it’s a little bit more limited per game, something when we get through camp, and see where he is physically, then we’ll make those decisions going forward.

Q: On whether he expects Kobe to be ready for any preseason games:
D’Antoni: I am not expecting it. He’s going to try everything he can to get back as soon as he can. I don’t think there’s a timetable or day. I have no idea. Nobody knows. He’s just going to take it day by day and try to get it better. Doctors will let him know and he’ll let them know.

Q: On whether Kobe is starting to run now:
D’Antoni: He’s running on the AlterG (anti-gravity) treadmill. He might be running at 80 percent of his weight. I don’t know.

Q: On whether it’ll be difficult to have the rest of the team to buy into the system with Kobe’s return uncertain:
D’Antoni: I don’t think it’s a problem for them to buy in. They’re more excited because there’s more room for them to play. They’re excited for it and we know how important Kobe is. As a player, you have a unique opportunity to show or do. They’re excited about attacking the season, and we know Kobe will be back, and we can’t wait till it happens.

Q: On if he’ll be surprised at what level Kobe comes back:
D’Antoni: Maybe the level with anybody. But not when or how. The thing is it doesn’t matter if he does or not. We can’t control that. He’s going to do everything he can to come back as soon as he can, and at the best level he can, so we’ll have to see how that unfolds.

Q: On the health of Steve Nash, and whether he’s 100 percent:
D’Antoni: You have to ask him, but I think so. He said he was 100 percent, so he looked good scrimmaging the last few days, so I would think so.

Q: On if he felt like he was able to implement his system last season:
D’Antoni: You just try to find what the team functions better at and we got to a pretty good level at the end. The last month or two I thought our offense was doing OK. Whether it was the way I liked to play or not is irrelevant. We’re going to have to play to the strengths of the team and get them to be efficient as they can. Every team has a rhythm they run to. Whether I like to run a little faster or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s what the players can do, and we will adjust to find their strengths, and go with that rhythm.

Q: On what it will be like having a full training camp and preseason for the team:
D’Antoni: The difference is we don’t have to hunt and peck and go through people’s personalities and figure out what gets them going and what doesn’t. It’s been a month since we’ve been with the players. You also find out what works and what doesn’t not when they’re putting up W’s and L’s; it’s during preseason and you try different things without getting clobbered because you lost the game. It’s a natural process that’s going to take 30-40 days to figure out how to play the team the best we can at the level we need to play.

D’Antoni Makes Changes to his Staff

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers - Game FourPreferring a small staff to the one he inherited from previous coach Mike Brown, current Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni will not retain assistants Chuck Person and Bernie Bickerstaff for the 2013-14 season.

Fellow 2012-13 assistant Eddie Jordan recently accepted the head coaching job at Rutgers University, leaving three assistants on D’Antoni’s staff: Steve Clifford, Darvin Ham and Mike’s brother Dan D’Antoni.

The 2013-14 coaching roster is not finalized, however, meaning D’Antoni could make further changes or additions over the summer. With that said, D’Antoni does not want a staff to match the size of Brown’s, which featured five full-time assistants and coaching assistant Kyle Triggs, who is joining Jordan at Rutgers.

Player development coach Phil Handy will remain on the staff.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was supportive of D’Antoni in comments made during his exit interview last week, appreciating what he did in a season stained by constant injuries.

“To Mike’s credit, he made adjustments,” said Kupchak. “Once we started getting players back and once he started to see what our real strengths were, he was flexible and made adjustments, and that’s when we started to win games and gather momentum.”

The Lakers finished the season on a five-game winning streak, amassing a 28-12 record after falling to a season-low 17-25 record with a January loss at Memphis.

Several players mentioned that having an offseason to really put in the offense and defense, in addition to establishing a bigger-picture identity with his staff, can really benefit D’Antoni and by nature the team.

Mike D’Antoni: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_DAntoniA summary of Mitch D’Antoni’s 2013 Exit Interview:

- On the season: “It was a bit of a roller coaster, obviously. A lot of disappointment at the end. Due to a lot of circumstances, we started off slow and got us in a hole. The last 40 games, we played well. Disappointed we couldn’t do anything in the playoffs – a lot of it due to injuries. We had ourselves set up to make a run, but we didn’t do it. Guys hung in there and battled back, and played April really well. There were some good things moving forward, and hopefully we can build off that.”

- D’Antoni was brought in to be himself as he’d done in the past, and didn’t have Steve Nash or Steve Blake when he took over the team. He said he wanted to wait and see how things would go once he got his point guards back, but eventually, he figured out how things would work, and the team played well down the stretch. Clearly, he was frustrated by having his top four guards out in the playoffs, but that was a microcosm of how the season went.

- With that said, D’Antoni was pleased with how the players competed through the end: “The thing that came out of it was the players hung in there, they wanted to get it done for Los Angeles, for themselves, for the organization and there was no panic in our room, and because of that, they let you work through the problems. I thought we worked through them and that’s a great thing for the players to take out of this season.”

- On the importance of having a full offseason and training camp to implement his system: “I think it highly impacts it. I’m looking forward to training camp. One of the biggest improvements we can get is in September, when you work individually with players on their strengths, get them tuned into what we do and then try to put the pieces together in October. I’m excited already – that’s what I like to do, and I (can’t wait).”

- D’Antoni mentioned in Memphis back in January that the team was basically an All-Star team, with four guys in particular used to being “Alpha Dogs.” The team was 17-25 at that time, but finally figured things out at that point towards a collective goal, and rallied to turn the season around and get into the playoffs. “There has to be a pecking order, and it took awhile to get used to it. I don’t think they resisted it – it just took awhile. I knew it was going to be hard .. I think it was a process and everything went into it. A lot of the early losing, I thought, was because we weren’t in great shape. That feeds into: ‘What’s my role?’ We had to get through it and you go back to the players. They did not give up. They could have. A lot of teams would have, and they didn’t do it. They fought back.”

- On how he’ll deal with Kobe next season, coming off a major injury, and if he works next to Steve Nash: “I think it was Wilt Chamberlain that said ‘You don’t handle players, you work with them.’ We’ll sit down and talk, but that at the end of the day, we’ll go on the floor and do what we need to win.” Basically, they’ll figure it out together. Said he thinks Kobe and Nash will be more comfortable playing off each other, that they eventually figured things out as the season went on, though it was rare that they were both healthy.

- In Bryant’s exit interview, he alluded to the team being a championship-caliber squad should everybody return and stay healthy. D’Antoni had this to say regarding his comments: “I think championship should be an expectation. Realistically we have enough talent here that there will be enough to where our goal is a championship.”

D’Antoni Postgame Quotes & a Note

In the postgame presser after L.A.’s narrow loss to Houston — in which they led by double digits until early in the fourth quarter — Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni addressed the issues of late defensive breakdowns, explained why he won’t sit Dwight Howard when opponents intentionally foul him late and more.

We’ll get to that in a moment, but first a thought after speaking with several players in the postgame locker room: the collective feeling is that the primary issue, the No. 1 thing that’s made winning games more difficult for a talented roster, is that the players haven’t played together enough to develop full trust. That has reared its ugly head on both ends of the floor, especially late in games.

Think about the crunch time five on the floor to close against Houston: Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace from last season’s roster … then newcomers Dwight Howard and Chris Duhon from Orlando, and Antawn Jamison from Cleveland. The kind of trust needed for defensive rotations and ball movement has yet to be developed. Early this season, Bryant had been running late screen/rolls to positive results with Pau Gasol, but he was out with knee tendinitis, so Kobe ended up primarily trying to do things himself in the final moments, resulting in one missed pull-up J, a made three and a missed three. And he was among the wings/guards missing rotations when Howard came over to help.

Meanwhile, perhaps the best guy in the NBA at fostering such an environment of trust on the floor for his teammates, Steve Nash, has been watching in street clothes.

That’s the reason why the locker room remain optimistic, if frustrated, moving forward. It’s not to excuse a loss that the Lakers feel definitely “should” have been a win without late breakdowns, but it is a palatable explanation. It’s not like the Rockets have been together long – again a reason not to excuse the loss – but teams like OKC, San Antonio and Memphis certainly have. Nonetheless, once that trust has been built and developed, L.A. thinks it will be just fine. D’Antoni offered more thoughts on the topic amidst his postgame Q&A session, so let’s get to that:

Q: On late defensive breakdowns, and why he’s optimistic things will ultimately be different:
D’Antoni: Weird stuff was happening, and we didn’t tighten up our defense to where we had guys that didn’t switch, should have switched, didn’t do this, didn’t do that, and you lose. (We had) way too many turnovers and unforced errors, but we have some stuff to do. We’re close. I really believe we’re closer than most people would say, but we have some tightening up to do and we’ll see if we can get it done in New Orleans.

Q: On whether why he didn’t and won’t sit Howard, who hit 5 of the 10 free throws he was awarded when Houston intentionally fouled him every trip up the floor starting at the 3:18 mark and lasting through 2:09.
D’Antoni: You don’t do that to a guy, and he made his foul shots. He’s not the reason that our defense breaks down, he’s not the reason that stuff happens. He’s gotta work through this. You take him out now, and what are you going to do, take him out all the time? You have a player that’s going to be your franchise player and you don’t do that to him. It’s not him that’s causing the problem. It’s not a good thing, a knee-jerk kind of reaction … he’s fine. That’s not a problem. He made the last 4 out 6, and you have to go up and knock them down, and he will. We shouldn’t even be talking about that, because it shouldn’t come down to that. We shouldn’t have had 19 turnovers, and we shouldn’t lose our guys on a switch or on the perimeter. That’s not him; he’s doing a hell of a job, and he will continue to do that, and we’ll work through this.

Q: On Kobe Bryant’s game (39 points on 14 of 31 FG’s, 9 of 12 FT’s, with two assists and three turnovers):
D’Antoni: Up and down. We’re a team, and defensively we had some breakdowns that were not good, we had forced shots and turnovers – not good.

Q: On if L.A. can become a good road team:
D’Antoni: Oh yeah. First of all we have to be a good home team, and we’re not there either. It doesn’t matter where we’re playing the game right now. We’re doing things that are going to get us there. I’m very confident we’re going to have some breakout games, the ball will move and we’ll do a better job.

Q: On the last four minutes:
D’Antoni: It was a little bit like against Orlando, we had some breakdowns defensively, and we can’t do that. We took some plays off, and it’s a little bit of, ‘Oh our record is what it is and we can’t make a mistake,’ so we have to get over the hump, get some wins under our belt and things will go a lot smoother. I feel that we’re getting closer and are going to be really good. A lot of this stuff is going to go away pretty soon and we’ll get some wins.

Q: On Chris Duhon’s floor game in his first start:
D’Antoni: I thought he was great, I thought he played well. We need that. He’ll even do better as it goes on, get his legs and everything. But like I said, we’re close. We just need to get some wins, get settled, make sure we don’t blame the right things.

D’Antoni to Debut vs. Brooklyn

Mike D’Antoni’s introductory press conference as head coach of the Lakers came last Thursday afternoon, but on Tuesday at Staples Center, he’ll actually be on the sideline.

“I’m too psyched up, I’m too ready to go, I’ll get through this – it’s not a big deal,” he said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “I (feel) better. It’s time to do it … I don’t want to miss too many games.”

L.A. has been scoring the ball at will for two games (116.5 per game) using elements of D’Antoni’s system as he watched from the locker room, still recovering from knee replacement surgery.

D’Antoni joked that he avoided head athletic trainer Gary Vitti, whom he praised for helping him through the recovery process, saying that even if his knee was still sore it was time for him to take the court.