Alvin Gentry Says Lakers Fans Need to Be Patient With Mike D’Antoni and When the Team Gets Healthy Things Will Turn Around

January 28, 2013 – 9:50 am by Chris Fedor

After the offseason additions the Lakers made, they were looked at as a championship contender in the NBA. Now they will just be lucky to get the playoffs. The coaching change to Mike D’Antoni hasn’t gone as well as L.A. thought it would and the Lakers are still sitting under .500 as the All-Star Game quickly approaches.

D’Antoni has recently come under fire. There are questions about the Lakers’ defense, whether the players fit into D’Antoni’s system and whether big guys like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol can have success with D’Antoni running the show. Former Suns coach Alvin Gentry was with D’Antoni in Phoenix when the Suns were a perennial playoff team and he believes, despite the early-season struggles, the Lakers will turn this season around.

Alvin Gentry joined ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Max and Marcellus to talk about whether he is going to defend Mike D’Antoni and the job he has done in Los Angeles so far, what the Lakers have to do better, why he thinks things will turn around for the Lakers, whether he ever sensed D’Antoni being too stubborn and if there are misconceptions about D’Antoni out there.

Whether he is going to defend Mike D’Antoni and the job he has done in Los Angeles so far:

“That is exactly right. (Host: So proceed coach. What is the defense? How could it possibly work with this group?) First of all, guys, you have to understand they have not had Steve (Nash), Kobe (Bryant), Pau (Gasol) and Dwight Howard healthy for a long stretch of games any time this season and obviously those guys are very talented guys. Kobe is still one of the best players in the whole league, Pau is a great post-up guy and a guy that can step out and make jump shots, so is Dwight Howard as far as an inside player that can get a lot of things done. Steve just got back and playing, so I think when all those guys gather together over an extended period of time, I think you’re going to see they can play well together and I think they can be an effective team.”

On what the Lakers have to do better:

“I think they have to get better defensively and I think everyone knows that. It’s not anything they don’t know and it’s not anything they’re not working on, I can tell you that. That’s where I think sometimes people don’t understand Mike. It’s something I know they’re working on, I know they want to get better at it and I think they will get better at it. I just think it’s really tough when you put together a team like that and guys are not healthy, especially the four main guys on your team, they’re not healthy and the chemistry is not developing with them on the court because they’re not on the court at the same time. That’s where you’re going to struggle some no matter who you are. I think people forget, Miami struggled a little bit also when they added those three guys.”

But Miami went to Game 6 of the Finals in its first year together:

“I understand that, but they also started 8-9 and those guys were together all season long. They played together all season long. What I’m saying, guys, is you have to understand that the guys have to be on the court together and they have to develop chemistry together and right now that hasn’t been the case with the Lakers because they haven’t been on the court together.”

Why he believes things will turn around for the Lakers:

“I think Mike D’Antoni is a great coach and I think when everyone is healthy and playing together there will be situations where they adapt and use guys to the best of their ability. He has already proven that, so I’m not really sure where you guys are going with this, I’m just telling you that he’s a great coach. I have been around him long enough. (Host: Does he need his style of team to win or can he win with the kind of players that don’t fit into his system?) I think it’s a little bit of both. I think you do both and I think any coach would do both. You take your personnel and you try to adapt them into your system and then you try to utilize what people do best in certain situations, so I don’t think you can judge a whole lot by what is going on now with the Lakers because like I said, anybody that takes a look at Dwight Howard knows that he is not completely healthy, and I know he is saying that he is, but that guy from a standpoint of dominating, blocking shots, running and what he has done athletically, I still think he will get better in that situation. I don’t know, just as an outsider’s opinion looking at him, I wouldn’t say he is completely healthy.”

Whether D’Antoni was too stubborn:

“We had a great team and a great season every year he was here, so you would have to go back and ask the players that. I don’t remember that ever being an issue here. Like I said, I wasn’t with him in New York and I’m not with him in L.A.”

Whether there are misconceptions out there about D’Antoni:

“I know he’s a great basketball coach, I know that he genuinely cares about the players, I know that he can adapt to situations – all of this I do know. Amar’e (Stoudemire) went out the whole season and we had to adapt and we got to the Western Conference Finals. Is it going well in L.A. right now? No, but I do know if you give him all those guys healthy and you put him out there, he will be able to coach them and they will be able to have a big year. That I do know.”

Listen to Alvin Gentry on ESPN Radio Los Angeles here

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