Which is a more difficult puzzle to solve: The ongoing MSG–Carmelo Anthony–Jim Dolan backroom power play? Or the Los Angeles Lakers' search for unity among their four superstars? We're about to find out, because the man who ultimately failed at navigating the former is now in charge of the latter: Sort of amazingly, the Lakers have hired Mike D'Antoni to be their next coach.
It's a pretty wild hire, not just because D'Antoni has sort of just been chilling out since leaving the Knicks last March and would seem loathe to be a part of the Lakers' pressure cooker, but also because the Lakers couldn't reach a deal with Phil Jackson, despite fans actually chanting his name at the end of a win last week. The Lakers and Jackson just couldn't come to terms, so the Lakers turned to D'Antoni, who signed a four-year deal. He's gonna be there for a while — longer, probably, than Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash.
Bryant and Nash, though, are surely the keys to the deal. D'Antoni and Nash are, of course, longtime cohorts, leading those thrilling Phoenix Suns teams in the last decade. But Bryant and D'Antoni have been linked even longer; D'Antoni was Bryant's favorite player growing up in Europe, to the point that Bryant wore D'Antoni's number, and D'Antoni has been part of a couple of Bryant's Olympic teams.
The Knicks' job was a stressful one for D'Antoni — and once Donnie Walsh left, it was obvious that D'Antoni's days were numbered — but it's tough to argue it was any harder than the Lakers' one will be; the Knicks talk about winning the championship every year, but in Los Angeles, it is expected, particularly with this roster. You don't get a foursome like Nash-Kobe-Pau-Dwight together often: D'Antoni basically has to install a system, get everyone working together, address any resentment (both internal and external) that Jackson isn't coaching, and, oh yeah, win a championship right now. That's a tall order, but that's the job.
By all accounts, Kobe and the gang should have more buy-in with D'Antoni than Carmelo ever did; his system is a much better fit with that roster than it was with the Carmelo Knicks. (Assuming Dwight Howard can run.) We've always felt that D'Antoni never quite got a fair shake with the Knicks, but you certainly can't feel bad for him now: He just landed one of the premier jobs in sports, coach of the Lakers. We can't wait to see what happens.
And that Christmas Day game at Staples Center, Lakers-Knicks, just got even more fun.