...Head coach Mike D'Antoni. Some will point to chemistry, age, injuries, personnel, and/or Kobe Bryant clashing with Dwight Howard and vice versa. I don't buy any of that as the real problem. The Lakers problems lie solely on the shoulders of D'Antoni. Yes, you can lump Jim Buss in there for hiring D'Antoni, but I imagine not even Buss saw things going this badly.
So with everything going on in La La land, how can I pin it all on D'Antoni? I will tell you how. Let's start with the offense. The Lakers may have a highly ranked offense, but don't be fooled by the numbers alone. D'Antoni has botched the offense up every step of the way. He is trying to run with an old team that simply cannot keep up. They are trying and scoring decently but are giving up a ton of points due partly to the quick pace and partly due to being tired. At this point, I am not even sure the Lakers are still running D’Antoni’s system. They have ditched the system and are 7-3 in their last ten games. Go figure.
The Lakers simply do not have the personnel to run D'Antoni's offense. It happens. Unlike great coaches, the so called offensive genius has either been unable to or refused to alter the offense to fit the personnel. He is trying to jam a round peg into a square hole and wondering why it is not working. The players appear to have finally had enough and reduced the number of D’Antoni sets they are running.
Speaking of personnel, how many coaches in the league would love to have both Howard and Pau Gasol on the same team? I would guess probably all but D'Antoni. He cannot or will not figure out how to use both effectively on the court at the same time. What should be a huge advantage for the Lakers is instead a sideshow and problem affecting not only on court production, but also team chemistry.
Speaking of team chemistry, this team does not have much. Bryant and Howard do not seem to be getting along. This team talks more to the media than is good for any team. Nothing stays in house. That is a reflection on the lack of control D'Antoni has over this squad. Add in the fact that he himself is an active member in this mess, be it taking shots at Gasol or questioning Howard's desire, and you wonder why he is adding fuel to the fire.
You may be wondering how age and injuries can be blamed on D'Antoni. Well they cannot be directly, but his adjustments or lack thereof has spoken volumes about his ability as coach. It does not take a rocket scientist to know an old team will have trouble running a fast paced offense. This should have been clear to D'Antoni even after waiting a few weeks for his players to adjust. As for injuries, they hurt and can be devastating. However, I did not see any adjustments from D'Antoni as players were hurt. The most he did was try different lineup combinations in sets that were never going to work given the personnel.
What is most painful about the D'Antonu tenure is that it did not need to happen. Phil Jackson was sitting right there, waiting to return. I am not saying the Lakers win the championship if Jackson was the coach, but things would have been different. You can bet your bottom dollar that Jackson would have figured out how to play Howard and Gasol at the same time. Jackson would have catered the offense to the personnel. Team chemistry would have been higher as well. Jackson may be the greatest manager of egos of all-time. He had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman in harmony on the Chicago Bulls second three peat. He brought Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal to a point of coexistence that yielded three consecutive championships. Jackson would have had this crew getting along. Also, the constant chatter would have been nipped in the bud. The players would have been much more cautious of what they were saying.
Who knows how good the Lakers would have been with Jackson running the ship, but I do know one thing - they would not be in the sad state of affairs they are currently in.