Mike D'Antoni has never won an NBA title, but his Suns team did reach… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
The simple question for Lakers fans is this: Can newly hired Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni and his fast-paced offense help L.A. win a 17th NBA championship?
"I don't know if he can," said an NBA scout for a Western Conference team, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "But I do think he can win enough games to keep Laker Nation happy — for now."
D'Antoni has never won an NBA championship during stops as head coach with the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks.
His Suns teams won at least 54 regular-season games in each of D'Antoni's last four seasons with the team and finished first or second in the Western Conference from 2004-07. But he is one of only three coaches since 1996-97 to finish that high in the conference and never reach the NBA Finals over a three-year period.
His Suns team did reach the conference finals twice, but lost.
"D'Antoni has a Super Team," said TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal, who played for the Suns under D'Antoni. "He has a lot of talent and his core guys like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta [World Peace] have championship experience, so they know what it takes. I still like their chances."
O'Neal, who won three of his four NBA championships with the Lakers under Phil Jackson, was surprised the Lakers didn't bring back Jackson.
"I'm sure most of the city, including myself, we wanted Phil Jackson," O'Neal said. "We know his resume. We know Phil is all about championships.
"Mike D'Antoni has taken a lot of criticism for not coaching defense, but if the guys are playing well, playing with a lot of energy, I'm sure they'll be fine. If you look at Phil Jackson, he wasn't really known as a defensive coach, either."
Jackson was about the triangle offense, a system that helped him win 11 NBA championships as a coach, five with the Lakers. He also took them to seven NBA Finals in his 11 seasons with the franchise.
"The one thing I don't understand is that guy [Jackson] has been to 14 out of 20 NBA Finals and won 11 of them," Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said. "I don't know how you can pass on a guy that can pretty much guarantee you a championship every other year."
Even with an aging and slow-footed Lakers team with Bryant (34 years old), Steve Nash (38), World Peace (33 on Tuesday) and Gasol (32), Gentry said D'Antoni's system will work.
It will work with Nash, Gentry said, because the Lakers point guard ran it for four seasons under D'Antoni in Phoenix and he won two MVP awards.
But Nash is older and slower, and it may be hard to see the Lakers running the court full speed and running an offense that at its height was called "Seven Seconds or Less," which was the time it took to get off a shot.
"Other than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Kobe is the best wing player in the league," Gentry said. "And then you've got Steve who can play this way. Pau is perfect for the system. Dwight Howard will flourish in it."
The scout said when D'Antoni was in Phoenix that the Suns ran an average of 70 pick-and rolls per game. He said the typical NBA teams runs about 35 to 40 pick-and roll sets.
"Mike's system doesn't need a bunch of great outside shooters like everybody keeps saying," Gentry said. "It doesn't have to be [quick] three-point shooting. It just has to be spacing."