The Lakers have cornered themselves in a nearly impossible position to escape from. They are down 0-3 in their first round series against the San Antonio Spurs. They face elimination by sweep today on their home court in Staples Center, and they will be fighting for their lives with a starting backcourt that is regularly third-string players.
It has been a tiring, frustrating season for the Lakers and their fans. In August, fans were planning trips to Figueroa to celebrate a championship parade. Now, the fans hold their breath as the real possibility of a first round sweep hangs around downtown Los Angeles.
The Lakers are coming off their worst home playoff loss in franchise history, where the “We Want Phil” chants echoed through the confines of Staples louder than ever in the closing minutes of Game 3.
This is something Mike D’Antoni, who has already become the only Lakers coach to lose his first two playoff games, has repeatedly heard throughout the season. D’Antoni talked about his feelings during the chants in an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke.
“I hear the chant, I’m human, you hate it,” he said Saturday. “But I understand why it’s happening, and it only makes you more determined to get it done.”
Call Lakers fans what you want, but year in and year out, fans expect excellence. That is part of the culture, narrative and tradition that has gone hand in hand with the Lakers since they made the move from the Midwest and grew exponentially under the legendary ownership of Dr. Jerry Buss.
The major issue with fans that aren’t too keen (to put it lightly) with D’Antoni is that he struggled to make the necessary adjustments to his system in order to expose and work with the strengths of the uber-talented Lakers roster. D’Antoni seemed to slowly get this as the season aged. He said:
“Looking back now . . . (long pause) . . . I would have made some different moves if I’d known guys better, if I went through a training camp with them,” he said. “Once we found it didn’t work, we changed it, and that’s fine, I’ll coach another system.”
“It took me awhile to learn the players,” he said. “The last 40 games, we’ve played to these guys’ strengths, and if that’s who we have next year, we’ll figure out what’s best for them; I have no problem with that.”
To be fair, D’Antoni doesn’t get all the blame for the Lakers’ roller coaster season. While some say he has partial blame in some players’ injuries, the fact is injuries happen; they are unpredictable.
Despite support from Mitch Kupchak, there still seems to be a major consensus among the fan base that D’Antoni simply isn’t the guy for this team. While fans wait to see if their Lakers will be swept from the postseason or live to fight another day, one thing is for certain; it is going to be a busy off-season in Los Angeles.