Since being announced as the Lakers head coach, Mike D’Antoni has acquired a 6-4 record overall and a 2-3 record while being physically present on the sideline. The Lakers have experienced brief moments of what could foreshadow lengthy winning streaks down the line – 3 in a row is currently the lengthiest- only to be counterbalanced with an early two-game losing streak. While neither streak is worth any praise nor stress – at least not at this point of the season – what is noteworthy is a subconscious detail that may cause some concern for Laker Nation as the season continues.
Throughout an 82-game season, a team’s record affects its fan base psyche in a variety of ways, regardless of whether it is a winning record or losing record. A losing season, while tough to accept or support, is insightful for fans because it illustrates the necessity for management to rebuild and restructure the franchise for future success thus providing an exciting outlook on what changes can be made. An abundance of wins tells fans that throughout recent years, a compilation and accumulation of strategic decisions and moves were conducted to set up a successful season. However, a lack of record regularity or pattern can cause many faithful fans to incorporate finger nails into their sports diet. Overall, there is an unspoken and understood sense of comfort when a sports fan can see and acknowledge what type of season their franchise is or will have.
When the Lakers experienced a winning record pattern – the preferable pattern – fans found comfort in understanding that “W’s” lead to championship opportunities. Phil Jackson provided fans with years of comfort during his time at the helm placing the Lakers organization in constant contention for NBA rings. Subsequently this sense of comfort was translated by fan support at Staples Center or displaying the ever popular Lakers flags that decorated traffic lanes up and down the 101 and 110 freeways.
Yet, when the Lakers experienced a losing pattern – as was the recent case under Mike Brown – fans found comfort in understanding that change was on the horizon. Losing can provoke management into acquiring new players or coaches in order to “right the ship.” This is the expectational process Dr. Jerry Buss has uniquely created and comforted Laker fans with since taking over in 1979. Therefore, Laker fans understood early on in this 2012-2013 season that a coaching change would be made due to a pattern of Mike Brown losses. Thus, comfort was found in trusting managerial procedures that eventually led to the hiring of Mike D’Antoni.
Now D’Antoni is here and he is winning…and losing.
D’Antoni has yet to set the tone for the season leaving room for uncomfortable thoughts and questions. The Lakers won their first two games under D’Antoni scoring over 100 points, demonstrating they were accepting of a new offensive game plan. The next game resulted in a loss with the team falling short of scoring 90 points. A three-game winning streak followed and included a season-high 119 point team effort against a youthful Houston Rockets squad. A small losing streak of two games ensued, on both occasions the team once again could not surpass the century mark.
The last two games epitomized the D’Antoni playbook spectrum. In a win over the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers had 6 players in double figures including productive minutes from the bench; offense firing on all cylinders. However, in the most recent loss to the Indiana Pacers, a season-low 77 point effort demonstrated the inconsistency of a team whose offense revolves around consistent point production.
Is it too early to ask for a tone to be set? Perhaps, but than again D’Antoni was hired on the presumption that he would bring an established winning blueprint; making him an overtly comfortable hire.
As of now, D’Antoni has won enough games for Laker fans to forget Mike Brown but has suffered enough losses to keep in mind the questionable non-hire of Phil Jackson; it does not get any more uncomfortable than that.