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Should the Lakers Pull the Plug on D’Antoni and Beg Phil to Come Back?

The Los Angeles Lakers are a mess. The team that was the preseason favorite to win the NBA Championship has now gotten used to losing. The Lakers are 9-12. If the playoffs started now, the Lakers would miss them. Right now they sit 12th in the Western Conference. They’ve had three different head coaches so far this season. Mike Brown coached the 0-8 preseason, which at the time people thought was not a big deal, but perhaps was a sign all was not right in Laker land, and he coached the first five games of the regular season before being fired. The Lakers were 1-4 at the time.

Bernie Bickerstaff took over as an interim coach while the Lakers supposedly were in negotiations with Phil Jackson to return to the team. But in the middle of the night, while Jackson was supposed to be “sleeping on it” they hire Mike D’Antoni out of the blue. D’Antoni was recovering from knee surgery and could not join the team immediately. Meanwhile, under Bickerstaff and the first couple of games under D’Antoni, the Lakers won five of six games. They were now rolling, and it looked like maybe Mike Brown was the problem after all.

But now, the Lakers have lost seven of their last ten games. The team’s defense has been non-existent (not really that surprising because D’Antoni’s teams have always been known for their offensive prowess), and they have been losing to teams that on paper, they should be blowing out. In the last ten games, the Lakers have lost to the Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz.

It has not helped that Steve Nash has been out for the entire regular season so far except for the first game and a half. Does Nash make that much of a difference though? Well, maybe he does. Without him, the Phoenix Suns are 7-15. But Nash has never been known for his defense anyway. So how will the Lakers tighten up on the defensive end? With the best defensive player in the league in center Dwight Howard, they should not be this bad.

Another of L.A.’s problems is that they need to get better balance. A very telling stat is the Lakers lose whenever Kobe Bryant scores 30 points or more, and hey win when he scores under 30. That would seem to indicate the Lakers have a problem that is easily fixed. Tell Kobe not to shoot so much and pass the ball around more. Yet, Kobe keeps breaking 30 points and the Lakers keep losing games. The Lakers have one win and have lost eight in a row when Bryant breaks 30.  They are 8-3 when he scores under 30. That could be something a healthy Nash could help with. He is a distributor of the ball and could get Howard and the others more involved.

But even if the Lakers get him back soon, here is the uphill battle they are facing in the Western Conference. The Lakers are already 5.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division. That doesn’t sound like a lot with so many games left, but the Clippers are 14-6. So it’s a pretty safe bet that these Clippers are going to win a minimum of about 55 games. For the Lakers to get to 56 wins, they must go 47-14 the rest of the year. Why is catching the Clippers so important? Because right now, they are the fourth seed in the Western Conference and would get the final home court advantage spot in the first round.

47-14 can be done, but not the way the Lakers are playing so far. Right now, the Lakers have to worry about getting into the top eight just so they can be in the playoffs. Right now, the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves are the 5-8 seeds in the West. Golden State is right on the Clippers heels at 14-7. Dallas and Minnesota have yet to play a game this season with all their stars in the lineup. While the Lakers have missed Nash, is he a bigger loss than Dirk Nowitzki is to Dallas or Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love for the T-Wolves? No. Love is now back with the Wolves, but they still don’t have Rubio. So those teams are likely to get better.

So the longer the Lakers go before they get things righted, the deeper the hole they dig for themselves to climb out. So that begs the question, how long do they stick with D’Antoni? Phil Jackson is still out there. He has already said he’d be interested. Do the Lakers call him back and beg forgiveness? Their fans would like for them to. And if we polled the players, they probably would to.


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