The Los Angeles Lakers may seem themselves as a contender, but Mike D’Antoni isn’t so sure.
The coach ripped into his team after a 103-100 loss to the woeful Washington Wizards on Friday, saying that his team can’t seem to turn it up when needed.
Since a poor start and a failure for its offseason acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to gel, the Lakers had been on a torrid run to get back into the playoff picture.
After Friday’s loss, where the Lakers blew an 18-point first-half lead to the Wizards, D’Antoni isn’t so sure where they stand.
“This is a good team that just for whatever reason can’t collectively mentally get stimulated to [play hard] every time,” D’Antoni said. “I told them today, we put our hands in [the huddle], and you guys have probably seen it, we say, ‘Championship,’ and go out [on the floor]. That’s laughable. Championship? You got to be kidding me.”
D’Antoni added that the problem is a lack of focus.
“There’s no explanation for it,” D’Antoni said. “I can’t explain it, but every time we get up 16 [points], it’s like, ‘Well, we’re really good and we don’t have to play hard,’ and we start messing with the game. You start messing with not moving the ball. You start messing with, ‘I’m just going to go one-on-one every time.’ You start messing with the basketball gods, and they get you.”
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash seemed to agree. Bryant said that the team can fall into the trap of thinking they can score whenever they want, and Nash the Lakers “played with the game, instead of played the game.”
The Lakers and Mike D’Antoni still have time to turn it around. The Lakers sit in the eighth and final playoff spot and could reach as high as the No. 6 spot with a strong finish to the season.