http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8872264/lakersSimmons: I'm glad we finally got to Pau. Here's a good rule of thumb: If you're a professional basketball coach and your system is telling you, "I should play Earl Clark more than Pau Gasol," you need a new system.
Lowe: Here's something interesting: L.A.'s theoretical best five-man lineup — Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard — has played just 132 minutes together all season. The same lineup with Earl Clark in Pau's spot has already played 71 minutes! The Pau five is about plus-2 overall, but they've been horrid defensively — like league-worst horrid, giving up about 109 points per 100 possessions. Has D'Antoni sort of short-circuited this lineup too quickly, given all the roster and injury turmoil the Lakers have faced? I mean, we're talking about Earl Clark!
Simmons: I like how you went Iverson right there. Totally warranted.
Lowe: Earl Clark is a nice athlete, helpful on defense and on the boards, but he's not going to space the floor for Howard pick-and-rolls — which haven't been all that effective on their own, anyway.
Simmons: You left out "And someone who shouldn't be playing as much as Pau Gasol." There are two types of coaches …
1. A coach who looks at his players and says, "How can I put these guys in the best position for them to succeed?"
2. A coach who looks at his players and says, "How can I use these guys to make my system succeed?"
Now, think about the mind-set driving Coach No. 2: He's basically saying, I'm here only because of my system. I can't actually coach. If you give me the wrong players for my system, it doesn't matter — I will keep using the system anyway, because Plan B would be coming up with a more inventive way to coach these guys. And I can't do that. I'm not good enough. So if it's OK with you, I'd like to go down in flames with my system.
That's what D'Antoni did in New York (cut to Knicks fans nodding vigorously), that's what he's doing with the Lakers right now, and that's what he'll be doing when he's coaching the Minnesota Lynx in three years.
Lowe: I'm generally a fan of D'Antoni. I defended the hiring, and I consider him a very smart basketball person whose teams in Phoenix played much better defense — about league-average defense — than commentators who don't factor in pace would understand.
Simmons: I defended the hiring as well, mainly because I thought for sure he'd learn from his mistakes in New York. Nope. Instead, it's almost like he blew those mistakes out into a much fancier sequel — a little like how Mike Myers blew out Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, added new characters and beefed up Dr. Evil's backstory. I always thought D'Antoni grabbed the money in New York. He knew that wasn't the right roster for him, he knew Chicago was a better fit … but he couldn't walk away from that fat paycheck. Now it's happened twice. He's obviously a coach who can succeed only with a certain type of roster and certain types of players. Stick him on Miami or even Houston and he'd look like a genius again. He just picked the wrong team. Twice.
Lowe: It's fitting that we're discussing this stuff right after the Lakers lost to a Chicago team giving heavy minutes to Nate Robinson. Do you think Tom Thibodeau, defensive perfectionist and no-nonsense soul, actually likes Nate Robinson's game? Heck no. But he needs Robinson's offense, so he's using him. D'Antoni didn't like Robinson in New York, so he buried him at the end of the bench, unleashing him now and then out of desperation for the inevitable Nate-Rob explosion. Which is to say: If D'Antoni has flaws as a coach, one of them might be a certain kind of stubbornness that affects his rotation choices and strategy. Connected to that: It just feels like he's overthinking it with this team, which is why I brought up the fact that his "best five" lineup has barely played.
Simmons: You just came up with the perfect title for Jack McCallum's next D'Antoni book: A Certain Type of Stubbornness. Isn't it Mike D's job to figure out how to play his best players as much as possible? The Lakers have some pretty obvious strengths: They're bigger than everyone else, they're blessed with three high-IQ hoop guys (Gasol, Kobe and Nash), and it's pretty easy for them to score. Their weaknesses are also pretty obvious: They're a painfully slow team, it can be clumsy having two low-post guys, their transition defense is horrific, and they can't guard anyone on the perimeter.
Guess what? If those are your weaknesses, you shouldn't be playing at the second-fastest pace in the league (which is what they're doing right now). The Lakers should be playing at such a slow pace, we should be having 'Nam-like flashbacks to Mike Fratello's excruciating Cavaliers teams. Instead, they swung the other way because I'M MIKE D'ANTONI AND THIS IS HOW I COACH BASKETBALL! It's seriously one of the dumbest things I've ever watched. I hate the Lakers and even I'm offended by this — purely as a basketball fan, it's insulting to watch good players being criminally misused like this.
He talks Dwight, Pau, and a lot more too.