Kobe voted D'Antoni before Jackson in mix
Before Kobe Bryant told reporters last week he wanted Phil Jackson back as his coach, there was a different name he told to Los Angeles Lakers management: Mike D'Antoni.
"I spoke with Jimmy (Buss) before everything went down and we talked about some of the coaching candidates and stuff and to be honest, I said D'Antoni was my first choice because I didn't even know Phil was going to be an option," Bryant told reporters after Tuesday's shootaround, recalling his conversation with the Lakers' executive vice president of player personnel.
"Then Jimmy was the one that brought up Phil's name," Bryant continued. "I said, 'I didn't even know that was a consideration.' They said, 'Well, it is and we want to know how you feel about it.' I said, 'I love it,' and that was it. So they knew my two guys that I liked and if one didn't work out, obviously with Phil, they knew that they had my approval to pull the trigger on the other one."
Bryant admitted he experienced "a little bit" of disappointment that Jackson did not get the job, but he hasn't spent much effort trying to investigate what happened behind closed doors.
"It's kind of a waste of time for me at this point," Bryant said. "What good is that going to do for me? It does nothing for me."
Bryant said after the Lakers' 84-82 loss to the Spurs on Tuesday night that he hadn't spoken to Jackson since the Lakers chose to hire D'Antoni instead of the 11-time championship-winning coach. However, he said Jackson and his assistant coaches have been underappreciated for their success.
"It seems like all our assistant coaches when they left here, to even mention the word 'Triangle' was like taboo," Bryant said. "I don't understand it. I really don't know the answer to that question. It's very strange, very bizarre. You would think that organizations and other coaches should try to learn from Phil. That's what you should try to do, right? If you have a coach that's won more than anybody in our profession, you would think you'd want to study them and analyze them, but they haven't done it."
When asked what aspects of Jackson's coaching he has carried with him since Jackson retired in 2011, Bryant said: "Everything. I'm basically the 'Baby Zen Master.'"
Bryant hopes D'Antoni's addition can do something for him -- get the Lakers back on track to win a championship. Bryant credited D'Antoni with installing the offense as an assistant coach with USA Basketball that led Bryant and the U.S. to gold medals in 2008 and 2012.
"He's an offensive genius," said Bryant, who had a short chat with D'Antoni over the phone on Tuesday morning. "If you talk to anybody, anybody that played on that Olympic team, that response would be unanimous. He's an offensive genius. So, does that mean that he's going to take the one system that he had in Phoenix and implement it here? No. It means that you give an offensive genius so many more options to play with. Now he has a great two-guard, he had a great point guard, he had a great power forward, he has a great center and he has an incredible small forward. He has a lot to play with."
Bryant said he has a "great relationship" with the 61-year-old D'Antoni, who was both an inspiration to him when he was a child growing up in Italy and D'Antoni was a professional basketball player in Milan, and also an adversary when Bryant was an adult and D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns teams bounced the Lakers out of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007.
"I've been around him for quite a bit," Bryant said. "I've obviously played against his teams for a number of years. I know his philosophies, I know what he stands for and I know how competitive he is. He's a feisty, feisty dude, man. Temperamental, even. And I like that."
Steve Nash, who said he was "thrilled" to be back with D'Antoni, said the Lakers wouldn't be running the same "Seven Seconds or Less" system they ran together in Phoenix, but rather a tailored variation of it.
"I think he'll adapt," Nash said. "I think that's one of Mike's strengths that he's a thinker and he's willing to adapt. He's great in-game and I think he's also great going back, looking over a game, looking over a month and saying, 'I think this will help our team in shifting toward something that suits the parts.' "
Even though things should speed up on offense, Nash measured any run-and-gun expectations.
"I don't know if we're going to be a fast-break team, but I think we will break," Nash said. "We will take opportunities in the open court, for sure. But what that is? I'd hate to sit here and say, 'Hey, we're Showtime again.' We'll find it. We'll find something that makes everybody collectively better than our parts."
One thing D'Antoni's offense will do, according to Nash, is take a load off Bryant's shoulders.
"I think the game can be easier and less stressful for him," Nash said.
While D'Antoni's track record on offense is unparalleled, his defensive reputation is shaky at best. Both Bryant and Nash felt defense would not be a problem.
"I think he's such a bright guy," Nash said. "It's not like he doesn't know defense or understand defense and with the length we have here, there's no reason we can't be a terrific defensive team."
Added Bryant: "I think in this situation, with all the chatter that's going on, particularly about how he's not a good defensive coach, I think we'll rally around that and come out with a point to prove."
After putting up subpar stats to start the season and missing the past five games with a fractured fibula in his left leg, Nash certainly had reason to be happy about the D'Antoni move.
"I think he's going to do a lot of great things with this group and put us in a great position to succeed," Nash said. "He also makes it fun. I think the fans are going to really appreciate it. He likes the game to be played in a style that's easy on the eyes, so to speak, and exciting. We'll build something great here."
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