LOS ANGELES -- Alvin Gentry is just passing through. And he's cool anyway. But even he is having a hard time digesting the scene here in Lakerland this week.
Mike Brown was fired a week ago today. Phil Jackson was on his way back, until he wasn't. Gentry's old friend, Mike D'Antoni was hired late Sunday night, then introduced as the Los Angeles Lakers coach on Thursday and there was a chance he would make his coaching debut Friday against his old team, the Phoenix Suns.
D'Antoni, who is still worn out and heavily medicated after knee replacement surgery at the beginning of the month, thought better of coaching Friday. Another ex-Sun, Steve Nash, is still working his way back from a fracture in his left leg. So at least some of the weirdness was gone from Friday's game against Phoenix.
"It's still pretty weird," Gentry said before the game. "I just talked to Steve for a while and obviously I saw Mike and talked to him. This is kind of something that's a little different than we ever anticipated."
Gentry shared his thoughts on this awkward reunion, as well as how he thinks D'Antoni's uptempo offense will work with the Lakers roster:
Q: What was your reaction to the news the Lakers had chosen Mike D'Antoni over Phil Jackson?
A: I think everybody was (stunned). It looked like Phil was going to be returning. It didn't work out that way, but I think that was the general consensus of everyone is that he was coming back.
Q: Will the seven-seconds-or-less offense work with the Lakers?
A: First of all, it was never seven seconds or less. Most of our shots came with less than 12 seconds on the shot clock. We played at a fast pace, but it wasn't like we came down and fired away. We weren't Loyola Marymount. It's more of a rhythm offense than this breakneck pace that everybody thinks that it is. It's a rhythm offense that I think for sure everyone's going to be able to play. Dwight Howard, why would he not be great at it, rolling to the basket? And you've got the best open court player in the game, in my opinion, in Kobe Bryant. And Steve Nash is a great pick-and-roll player. And Pau Gasol, I think he'll thrive in this system, contrary to what anybody is saying. I think he'll be a great fit. He's a 7-foot jump shooting big guy that can post and run and is a great passer. I don't know why it wouldn't work.
Q: Yeah, but don't you need 3-point shooters to make this offense work?
A: That's another thing that's been distorted: You don't have to have great 3-point shooters, you just have to have guys who are capable of making an open jump shot. I see all the guys out there and I don't know who's not capable of making an open jump shot. I know Pau is. I just watched the San Antonio game from the other night and he sure as heck made one from the top of the key. A big one that put 'em up.
Q: How long does it typically take for players to learn this offense?
A: Obviously it's not something that's going to happen overnight, but it's going to be something that's going to work. I have no doubt.
I don't think it's that complicated at all. It's the way most guys play anyway, that's why I think so many guys enjoy it. There are so many rules and idiosyncracies about it that you have to learn, but for the most part, it's an enjoyable way to play. It's a way that you utilize what guys do best. You can play to their strengths.
That first year in Phoenix, there was a stage there where I think we lost six straight games, but then we won 16 in a row and then we won 17 in a row. So I think once guys get a handle on it and a feel for it, they really enjoy feel that way.
Q: How important will Dwight's defensive presence be for this team?
A: It's going to be great. Everybody talks about (his) defense, but really, you have a good defensive team when you have good defensive players. Obviously they've got Dwight Howard, who's been the defensive player of the year, and Metta World Peace, who's been the defensive player of the year. And Kobe has made every first-team defensive team there is. So I think they'll be very good defensively. I think it's something that's going to work.
I think people are really going to enjoy watching this team play. If they give it a chance, I think it'll be something they'll truly enjoy.
Q: Have people in Phoenix gotten over Steve Nash leaving yet?
A: I think so. Obviously there's an appreciation for what he did for our franchise. For eight years he was the face of the franchise and we had a lot of success.
Q: Why didn't you guys win a title in Phoenix?
A: I compare it to like what the Bulls went through, trying to get through Detroit. We could never get through San Antonio. I thought we were a really good team that had the potential to win a championship, we just couldn't get past San Antonio. We had great years there and I truly enjoyed it. And I think everybody playing there truly enjoyed it.
I think there's good days to come here if everybody is patient with the guy. He's a great coach.