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Thoughts on the season

One terrible decision

Clearly, hiring D'Antoni was a huge mistake. I'm not sure that Phil was ever truly an option for Laker management but he was so obviously the right choice. Unfortunately, I think that Jim Buss insisted on starting his own legacy, and even though Jerry Buss knew that was a mistake, he was in poor health and knew he had to let Jim make his own decisions and mistakes. Maybe this disaster will convince Jim to give up the reigns to Mitch and Phil while he can take his father's position as the head of the franchise who trusts the basketball people to make basketball decisions, who knows. I don't believe that D'Antoni will ever be a championship coach, but also believe that Phil is the only person who makes bringing this team back in (nearly) its entirety is worth the $85 million luxury tax. If Phil isn't coming back, and Dwight/Kobe are OK with D'Antoni staying on, then they might as well blow everything up and try to rebuild for 2014.

D'Antoni just has too many deficiencies. He only plays one style of ball, and hasn't shown an ability to adapt. The veteran/star players don't respect him, as his time in New York also showed. He isn't good at finding the right rotations and doesn't appear to develop his bench. He doesn't coach defense, and doesn't appear to make necessary adjustments. But most importantly, he is consistently out-coached by guys like Popovich and Phil. That's not to say he couldn't win a series against them, but he would need superior talent. I'm sure he could win a championship with the Heat, or maybe the Thunder, but to always have championship aspirations you need a coach who can make the difference when talent is similar.

One too many moves

I wasn't as high on the Steve Nash trade as many were. I felt he was overrated in Phoenix, with his stats inflated by the system and his defensive liabilities overlooked while he won two MVPs. But, I also recognized that the Lakers had a defensive liability at point guard for many years and still won championships, and thought that Nash could be a good spot up shooter, occasional ball handler, and a good leader in the locker room. He wasn't worth the $9 million per season, but figured the Lakers were just throwing money at the situation and not worrying about payroll since they had just signed a huge deal.

Unfortunately, I think having Steve Nash led to the poor decision to hire D'Antoni. He is still serviceable as a shooter and secondary creator, but shouldn't have been the reason for hiring a coach. He needs to play the Steve Kerr, Jon Paxon role, and I'm not sure if he is willing to do that. I think the Payton/Malone and Nash/Howard years have shown us that more is not always better. Three big names is already pushing the limits, and four is too many.

Kobe still has it -- or at least, still had it

I didn't see this season coming from him. He really put the team on his back. Unfortunately the timing of his injury is terrible. I have no doubt that he will be back, but have serious doubts that he will be the same player. The blown Achilles may very well rob him of his explosiveness. He can come back and play below the rim, relying on post moves and veteran savvy to get to the rim, but this season he seemed to have that extra lift that I don't think he'll ever get back. It may be a blessing, though, if it convinces him to take a slightly lesser role and allow Dwight Howard to lead the team. And, given that he may not have the same explosiveness anyway, he might be willing to play a couple more years (at a discount).

Don't overreact to a bad series by Dwight

Dwight Howard proved that he is worth a max contract in the second half of the season. That's about the time he should have come back from injury, anyway. I really believe that his early season struggles were related to losing his lift from nerve injury in his spine. When you lose strength in your legs, you need to bring your arms down to jump. Instead of keeping the ball above his head and just lifting up, he had to bring the ball down to stabilize himself and provide extra lift with his shoulders. This led to the shoulder injury, a lot of turnovers, and worst of all, bad habits. His series against the Spurs is a throw away because no big man could succeed in the situation he was in. The Spurs did not respect any of the wing players, the coaching staff couldn't figure out how to adjust to the defense, and he got frustrated from repeated flagrant fouls, only some of which were called.

Dwight is clearly worth a maximum contract based on his dominance on defense while being at least above average on offense. Unfortunately, he'd be better as a 5th year player getting the max somewhere closer to $15 million a year. I would offer him the max, while adding that if he were willing to take less, that would simply mean more help for him. I'm not sure if the organization has earned enough of his trust to get him to take less, but it should be at least put out there.

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