Politicians do this all the time — for their first interview after a big bit of news or awkward revelation, their first interview is with a friendly media outlet that is not going to pepper them with hard questions.
Mike D’Antoni’s first interview in Los Angeles came Tuesday morning — with Ryan Seacrest. Yes, American Idol Ryan Seacrest. He has a highly rated morning radio show in Los Angels on KIIS 102.7, a station where you can get your fill of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.
So what did he say to calm down a Lakers nation that considers him the consolation prize after the Lakers cleverly were able to make it feel like D’Antoni is replacing Phil Jackson and not Mike Brown?
“I have some close friends who are Lakers fans and they were disappointed I got the job,” D’Antoni quipped.
What did he say? We go to the bullet points.
• He will be in town Wednesday and will coach the team Friday night against the Suns. (Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the Lakers Tuesday night against the Spurs.)
• D’Antoni was “shocked” he got the job because like everyone else, “I was thinking that Phil would take the job but it’s a funny business.”
• He talked about being reunited with Steve Nash: “I’ve already left him once and that didn’t go so good. I’m not going to do that again.”
• He said what Lakers fans want to hear — this is a championship or bust team.
• D’Antoni said he has not spoken to Kobe Bryant yet but sang the praises of the Lakers star: “I’ve known Kobe forever, since he was 12 years old. He’s the greatest talent we have in the game.” (Remember that was Kobe was 12 and living in Italy with his father, D’Antoni was the best player in the Italian league and a big star.)
“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.
“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”
Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the
Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8
The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.
I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.
If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.
At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.
This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.
Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs
Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.
Byron Scott doesn’t see reason D’Angelo Russell should play more in fourth
The Lakers’ clear top priority for this season should be simple: develop their young stars.
Julius Randle is a beast with the ball in his hands, but a one-handed beast who needs to work on his right hand. D'Angelo Russell has shown flashes but is trying to adapt to the speed and style of the NBA game. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. can be pieces on a good team, eventually. The Lakers need to build that foundation.
“Nah. There’s really no reason to. At that particular time we’re down 30 [points],” Scott said. “I wanted to get Ryan [Kelly] some time and Marcelo [Huertas] as well and some other guys that haven’t played a lot.”
That would be 32-year-old Marcelo Huertas, who played the fourth quarter Tuesday while Russell sat.
This is not Gregg Popovich resting his stars to keep them fresh for the playoffs here. We are talking about a 19-year-old rookie point guard whose game is based on court vision, anticipation, and angles, a guy who has to learn how to apply those in a league where everybody is long and fast. He needs time on the court to adapt. Is he going to make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. That’s what rookies do. If you coach them up, they learn from those mistakes and make fewer each time out. It’s a sometimes painful process, but it’s how rookies learn.