LOS ANGELES — Mike D’Antoni coached Carmelo Anthony for parts of each of the last two seasons while owning the head coaching job with the New York Knicks, so he knows as well as anyone how much Anthony can dominate a game at times.
Part of the reason D’Antoni ended up resigning as Knicks head coach, however, was due to an inability to coexist with one of his star players, and find a way to properly utilize his skill set within the team’s offensive system.
Anthony has made a leap in his abilities this season, and has helped lead the Knicks to a record that now stands at 20-8, just percentage points back of the Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Before the Lakers faced the Knicks on Christmas Day, D’Antoni was asked to give his thoughts on Anthony this year, and the Lakers head coach said he believed his former player was having an MVP season.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said, when asked if Anthony should be in the MVP conversation. “They’re one of the top teams, and he’s definitely a big reason why they’re there so yeah, you’d have to talk about him.”
When asked who else he thought should be considered, D’Antoni went with some other obvious choices.
“Durant’s always there, LeBron’s always there,” he said. “I think you have to be one of the top three or four records. Right now somebody’s probably slipping by, but I would say those are the names.”
The name that was “slipping by,” obviously, was that of his own star player, Kobe Bryant.
Bryant leads the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game, but D’Antoni knows that his team would have to show measurable improvement for Bryant to even be considered this season.
“Well, if we can get up to where we need to get up to,” he said, referring to the Lakers slow 14-14 start after being reminded that Bryant’s name was noticeably absent from his list. “But we’ve got to get up there. I don’t think you can put anybody [as] MVP when you’re below .500. That just doesn’t work.”
L.A. is now exactly at .500, after a 34-point performance from Bryant helped lead the Lakers to a 100-94 win over Anthony’s Knicks on Christmas Day.