We’re not here to touch on Mike D’Antoni’s validity as an NBA coach, or to break down his overall work with the Los Angeles Lakers team he’s charged with leading. That’s best left for when D’Antoni either leads the Lakers to a championship, or when he and the team decide to part ways.
What we are here to relay is the fact that Mike D’Antoni has lost the support of one of the Lakers’ most ardent fans, Red Hot Chili Peppers bass guitarist Flea. The four string-slapper has been a fixture at Laker games dating back to the 1980s, he was even prominently featured as the go-to “look at this weird Lakers fan” guy during the Chicago Bulls’ 1991 championship retrospective, and he’s recently been featured in these pages while complaining about not getting special treatment in certain visiting NBA arenas.
Now, he’s complaining about his Lakers. His poor, 13-15, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash-less Lakers. Here’s his Christmas Eve gift to his nearly one million followers:
I know he's got a depleted roster. But even with a loaded one, his coaching concept is unsustainable and cannot win. Ever. Fire dantoni
— Flea (@flea333) December 24, 2013
We’ve taken issue with D’Antoni before, and we’ve also taken issue with the Lakers’ hiring of D’Antoni over Phil Jackson – both the hire itself, and the actual execution. To his credit, though, D’Antoni has done well to create a 13-15 start out of a team that has played Kobe Bryant only 177 subpar minutes so far this season. The Lakers have been without Nash for most of the season, he’s played terribly when he was on the court, and they’ve dealt with crippling injuries to point guards Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake. Blake and Farmar may not seem like needle-movers, but when you have to rely on score-first swingman Xavier Henry to bring the ball up court as a result of their absence, those guys matter.
Pau Gasol’s struggles this season may be partially due to his issues with D’Antoni’s playbook, but as much as we respect Gasol, he also hasn’t come through with his typical joie de vivre (read: banging) this season. Criticizing D’Antoni on the whole, or for his misapplication with Gasol’s talents, might be the proper thing to do.
Criticizing him for his work this year, even with the Lakers below .500 and set to play the dastardly Miami Heat on Wednesday? That’s a tougher sell. It’s a tough sell even if the Lakers basically punt the month of January with Bryant on the bench, while playing 10 of their 15 games on the road.
And D’Antoni himself, as you’d expect, doesn’t really want to hear it. He excused last year's Lakers' performance in a talk with Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears on Tuesday;
"We could just never get the right footing," D'Antoni said. "Obviously, the thing was the chemistry just wasn't right and guys' injuries just decimated us. Our guys weren't right that were even playing. Dwight wasn't right until about February. With all the expectations, it kind of crumbles you a bit."
And he also told Laker fans to stuff it, which we often encourage. From Dave McMenamin at ESPN Los Angeles:
"Why would I be discouraged?" D'Antoni said. "We're fighting with a bunch of good guys that played well before, and they'll play [well] again. If [the fans] are discouraged, then, you know, find another team to root for. I'm all right. We're not going to give up. Are you kidding me? Discouraged? That's not even fair to these guys."
It’s hard to disagree with that sentiment, from any coach of any beleaguered team missing its best player and still hacking it out with a mediocre record. And in the face of the notoriously bandwagon-y Los Angeles Lakers fans? You go, Mike D.
Flea may have just turned Mike D’Antoni into a sympathetic figure. That’s hard to do, for most at least, but we wouldn’t put it past a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
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