It’s a scene known all too well among Los Angeles Lakers fans: The Lakers are down by double digits with seconds left in the game, and another addition to the team’s loss column has become all but certain.
Within the stands, among the Lakers' faithful, a small chant begins to erupt before the game’s end: “We want Phil! We want Phil!”
Fans call for—better yet, demand—the return of 11-time NBA champion head coach Phil Jackson as a replacement for current head coach Mike D’Antoni, hired by Los Angeles on Nov. 12.
More than two months have passed since D’Antoni’s hiring, and his promise of “scoring 110-115 points per game” has proven to be as realistic as breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s record for most points scored in a game.
With the Lakers' 18-25 regular-season record, ranking 12th in the west, one must ask: Will D’Antoni make it to game 82, or will he suffer the same fate as his predecessor, Mike Brown?
Sorry to disappoint, Laker Nation, but D’Antoni is here to stay, at least until the end of the season.
Will he stay around because of a hope that his all-star starting lineup will eventually get it together, especially with a familiar face in Steve Nash? Or will he keep his job due to the Lakers front office’s faith in his prowess?
The answer is neither of the above. If there’s one reason the former NBA Coach of the Year will stay in la-la land, it is the same reason marquee names in any sport make any move: money.
Los Angeles signed D’Antoni to a three-year, $12 million contract, and he’s barely 35 games into it. That being said, the Lakers brass is not about to cut ties with him just yet.
Let’s face it: In the world of professional sports, especially in this day and age, money talks. Coaches and athletes get signed to lucrative multimillion-dollar deals and fail to produce. However, they stick around with their respective team simply because it is not financially feasible for the parties to go their separate ways.
As far as the production of the team is concerned, this is still a squad finding its identity.
Kobe Bryant is slowly figuring out that he no longer has to be the highest-scoring player to ensure a win. Nash is trying to apply the pick-and-roll offense with three starters who had the triangle and Princeton offense embedded in their brains for the past five years. And Dwight Howard is simply trying to find his place on a team known for a history of dominant big men.
D’Antoni is doing nothing more than contributing to all this confusion, with a complete sense of obliviousness with every play he calls. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to take a good look at him because that oblivious face is one we’ll have to live with for at least another season.
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