Before this most recent season, what many viewed as the most disappointing in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers was the 2012-13 season. That of course was the infamous year in which the team brought in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to pair with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and Mike D’Antoni took over as head coach in the middle of the season.
That season did not end well as Kobe would tear his Achilles near the end of the year, and the Lakers would limp into the playoffs as a seventh seed, being swept by the San Antonio Spurs. D’Antoni would coach just one more season with the Lakers before the two sides went their separate ways.
One of the ongoing stories of that season was the issues between Kobe and Dwight as the two did not like each other at that time. D’Antoni recently appeared on The Old Man and the Three podcast with JJ Redick and opened up about his struggles getting them on the same page, and the reason he believed it could work going in:
“Friction? I thought I was gonna get killed [laughs]. Yea I would say there was some friction […] I just couldn’t get them on the same page. They didn’t like each other, it was contentious. We didn’t really have the talent. You know you wanna play Steve [Nash] but he wasn’t up to it, then he wasn’t even there. Kobe was older, he was towards the end. Still good, still great, unbelievable, but very tough personality. He and Dwight didn’t mesh. Tough atmosphere, a lot of things just didn’t work.
The only reason I took the job JJ, besides I’d just had my knee replaced and I was under the influence of drugs [laughs]. But for anybody to make it work I thought Steve could. And that was Steve from Phoenix days. And because he got hurt and never could quite come back, never got a chance to make it work. We made the playoffs, but we were never really a threat.”
The Nash part of that is what really hurt the Lakers and it is very possible that his presence could have helped matters immensely. Unfortunately, his back issues caught up with him and the Lakers never came close to what many foresaw.
That team, much like the current one, came under a lot of scrutiny for their failures to live up to expectations and D’Antoni also spoke to that, noting that it comes with the territory for the Lakers and opposing teams are quick to jump on them when they are down:
“I mean it’s either you win a championship or you’re not very good, and not all teams can win a championship obviously. Just the media, just their past, and rightly so. Everything plays in and it’s Hollywood and has a lot of drama out there. It’s a hard place, great place. You know playing in the, whatever it’s called now, not Staples, but playing in that arena is great. Like Madison Square Garden one of the two places that, you get up for those games, those games are fun. Sadly when I was with the Knicks, every team got up for it, that’s not good. Same with the Lakers right now everybody’s coming in and they see little pieces of the armor, a little fray and they’re coming at you. You gotta do that.”
The pressure that comes with playing for the Lakers is unlike anything else and it is why everyone isn’t meant to thrive in this environment. It is extremely difficult and comes with a lot of criticism, but it also makes for the most satisfying experience when you do succeed.
Rob Pelinka owns up to Lakers failures this season
As far as the struggles the Lakers experienced this season, there is blame to go around at every level. The Lakers franchise understands that and Rob Pelinka owned up to his failures and vowed to put in the work to correct those issues and get the franchise back on top.
“So I think when you have disappointment, you take ownership of that and you need to vow to make the adjustments to be better. That’s where the work starts today, we have exit interviews with every player so we’ll get a chance to get their thoughts and really reflect on ways that we can be better across the board because that’s what Lakers fans expect here.
“They expect championship-level basketball every season, we know that and we want to deliver that to our fans. And the work to do that for next season starts now. We’ve been in this place before, we know what it takes to put in the work to fix it and that’s where our energy and time will be spent over the coming days.”
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