Inconvenient Truth II: Curious why the statheads have not called out Phil Jackson on contending that Dwight Howard is being misused or under-utilized by Mike D'Antoni and his up-tempo offense, particularly when it comes to posting up Howard more. I'm told that Synergy has Howard second in the NBA only to the Utah Jazz's Al Jefferson in paint touches. Howard also is second only to Greg Monroe in field-goal attempts inside five feet. Considering that the Lakers can't go to Howard in the final minutes of most games because of his aversion to, and struggles with, shooting free throws with a game on the line, it's extraordinary that Howard ranks that high in either category. Now, I have immense respect for Phil Jackson, and D'Antoni has made his share of decisions with which I've taken exception, but all the criticisms and complaints about him being ill-suited for the Lakers have proved to be premature, at best, and flat-out wrong, at worst. They had a disastrous start, thanks to injuries (Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Steve Blake) and a poorly-timed coaching change and pressure from unwarranted sky-high expectations. Yet the Lakers have weathered the storm and are officially in the postseason picture. Kobe Bryant has been sensational, but I'm a little tired of the seemingly rote Kobe-wins-games and D'Antoni-loses-them storyline. Have we forgotten that the relationship between Phil and Kobe wasn't always rosy, in part because Phil wouldn't entrust Kobe as D'Antoni has? The truth is, D'Antoni hasn't forced his system on the team; in fact, he's had his star disciple, Steve Nash, adjusting his game to everyone else's. Their defense is essentially the same as the Knicks, D'Antoni's previous stop, yet Mike Woodson is a defensive coach with equal or better defensive personnel and I haven't heard anyone rip Woodson the way D'Antoni has been this season.
The part I really don't get is Jackson undermining a fellow coach and everyone quietly going along with it; perhaps that's the power of 11 rings, but count me out among those who believe that success is license to do whatever you want. The NBA coaching fraternity is a small one and, while they certainly don't all like or even respect each other at the same level, they do realize how hard the job is and there's usually a line drawn when it comes to making the job harder for a fellow coach. Commiserative texts, be they about a back injury or anything else, to a struggling star from the coach espousing how how his system would be better for said star crosses that line. Yet D'Antoni and the Lakers have survived it all. Mea culpa, anyone?