D'Antoni clarifies: 'No bitterness' toward Knicks
Mike D'Antoni says coming to New York in 2008 to coach the New York Knicks wasn't a bad thing -- but leaving Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns was.
Late last month, in an ESPN Los Angeles profile about D'Antoni and his new team, the Lakers, the coach said he "shouldn't have gone to New York."
D'Antoni clarified those comments Thursday morning after his team's shootaround at New York Athletic Club, ahead of the Lakers-Knicks matchup -- his first game at Madison Square Garden since resigning as Knicks coach on March 14.
"It was reported that I said I wouldn't, shouldn't have gone to New York," D'Antoni said. "No. I said I shouldn't have left Steve Nash. It's a little bit different on the meaning. It was a story about Nash. Now, if I could have brought him to New York, maybe that would've been ideal.
"I shouldn't have left Nash in the sense that he's special as a player. You've got to nurture that. But New York was great for me."
Reflecting on his time in New York, D'Antoni said he has "no bitterness." He spent Wednesday night catching up with his wife, Laurel, and son, Michael Jr., who he hadn't seen in a month.
"I know there's been things written and stuff, but New York was great," D'Antoni said. "My family loves it and my kid benefited from the school system. There are a thousand things. I met some great people, had some good times. It didn't end up exactly the way I would have story-booked it, but I definitely don't regret it. There's no bitterness at all."
D'Antoni said his time with the Lakers thus far has been "frustrating." The team is 4-8 under D'Antoni and 9-13 overall.
And he's still missing Nash, who joined the Lakers in the offseason and suffered a small fracture in his left leg in the second game. Nash hasn't played since.
"We didn't have a point guard to start the season off," he said, "and then things got sideways and just got to where it got."
This season, Mike Woodson has coached the Knicks to an Eastern Conference-best 16-5 record. D'Antoni credited the play of Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, who he believes will help Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire coexist better together on the court.
"Without a doubt," D'Antoni said. "They've got two point guards that know how to get the ball distributed, so they're doing a good job."
D'Antoni gave high praise to Woodson, who's 34-11 since taking over the Knicks last March, and said he was "lucky" to get him in the summer of 2011 as an assistant.
"It's Mike. It's Mike doing it, but they're playing the way I would like for us to play," D'Antoni said. "They're spreading the floor, and one of the best things they do is not turn it over, and they shoot 3s. Those are two big stats that win and they do it the best in the league."
After the Knicks' shootaround, Woodson reciprocated a compliment to D'Antoni, thanking him for giving him a chance to return to the sideline after being away for one season in 2010-11.
"I've coached against Mike when he was with the Suns," he said. "He was coaching the Knicks before I left Atlanta. I think Mike's a great coach. He gave me an opportunity to continue to work. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Mike D'Antoni."
Woodson reflected on his success since taking over.
"When I took over the team, maybe I scared them into playing," he said. "I don't know. I had some things that I had to get off my chest being back in the driver's seat as the head coach. I kind of stated what I wanted and what I expected from guys, and who I was going to hold mostly accountable, which was Melo, Amar'e and Tyson (Chandler) at that particular time.
"They kind of knew where I was coming from. They bought in and we've been playing some pretty good basketball since then. So that's all I can attribute it to, I guess. Maybe I scared them into playing, I don't know."
D'Antoni knows how big of an uphill battle Thursday night will be for his struggling Lakers, especially having to face Anthony, who's having an MVP-caliber season.
D'Antoni coached Anthony on this summer's Olympic team and said "he's playing terrific" with the help of his upgraded veteran, supporting cast.
"He's got some great players around him and Mike Woodson's doing a hell of a job, so things are rolling, and they're good," D'Antoni said. "It will be tough tonight. We're not in the best shape, but we feel like we can turn it around at any point, and hopefully tonight's the night."
ESPNNewYork.com's Jared Zwerling and Ian Begley contributed to this report.
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