New Lakers coach, Mike D’Antoni, held his first practice on Thursday a day after arriving in L.A. Still on crutches due to a recent knee replacement surgery, D’Antoni was seen catching up with Steve Nash and sharing a laugh with Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill. Of course the biggest issue was how D’Antoni would interact with Kobe Bryant. After the Lakers loss on Tuesday to the Spurs, Kobe was honest about his feelings about the whole situation in the locker room. Ken Berger, of CBSSportsline.com, reports that Bryant wasn’t even aware that Phil Jackson was even an option.
“I didn’t know Phil was an option, so D’Antoni was my first choice,” Bryant said on his way out of Staples. “When I spoke to Jimmy, to his credit, he was the one that brought up Phil. I didn’t think it was an option. I didn’t know if Phil wanted to come back. I didn’t know if the organization wanted him back. But Jimmy brought up Phil’s name, and I said, ‘Well, [expletive], if he’s on the list, he’d be my No. 1 choice.
If Jimmy would’ve said, ‘No, I don’t want to have Phil here,’ that would’ve stopped right there,” Bryant said. “If I said, ‘No, I don’t want Phil,’ that would’ve stopped right there. We both wanted him. And I told him what I felt about Phil and how much I loved him and all that stuff, and it went down that road. It just didn’t work out.”
This isn’t all that surprising, considering that Jim Buss has been pretty adamant about getting rid of all things Phil Jackson, with the exception of Kobe Bryant. D’Antoni seemed pretty at ease during his official introduction press conference on Thursday, stating “I’m 61 years old and putting on tennis shoes and going to work. What’s not to like?” He also stated that he would manage the minutes of both Nash and Bryant, making sure they both will be as fresh as possible for the close games down the stretch.
With the talent that the Lakers have, they should in the thick of the playoff hunt when they are completely healthy and begin clicking with each other on the court.