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Jerry West: Criticism of Mike D'Antoni is 'grossly unfair'

April 24, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Jerry West at the memorial service for Lakers owner Jerry Buss.
Jerry West at the memorial service for Lakers owner Jerry Buss. (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

Hall of Famer and former Laker Jerry West came out in support of Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni, who has received heat from media and fans after the team squeaked into the playoffs with a 45-37 record.

"I think there's been far too much criticism of Mike [D'Antoni]," West said to Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley on ESPN LA 710 radio.

"I think it's grossly unfair to him. He inherited a team that had a bunch of injuries," West said. "He inherited a team without a training camp. I think he's done a nice job, to be honest with you."

Althoguh West said he expected the Lakers to rehire Phil Jackson, he doesn't understand why people are still fixated on what didn't happen.

"I think all of us felt they were going to hire Phil, and it didn't happen," West said. "People have to move on. That's what makes sports so interesting. You have to let decisions that are made be made and see what happens."

Despite the big names on the roster, West said he was skeptical from the start that the Lakers would be a powerhouse in the Western Conference -- especially with the team relying on a number of older players.

"When you put a bunch of people together, you have to look at age. You have to look at lot of different things," he said. "In the course of a season, the most difficult thing to do is to get through an 82-game schedule, particularly when you have older players."

Despite his concerns, West said he believed that the Lakers would be a playoff threat -- and then Kobe Bryant was hurt.

"I felt all year long that the Lakers, if they got into the playoffs, are going to be very dangerous, if they have all their bodies," he said. "They obviously don't have all their bodies. They have to play a completely different way now."

The Lakers lost Bryant to an Achilles' tear with two games left in the regular season. In Game 1 of their first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers lost 91-79.

"I thought the Lakers had a very good chance to win that game.  They just couldn't make shots from the outside and that puts a lot more pressure on both [Dwight] Howard and [Pau] Gasol, who both I thought played very effectively -- but they're getting ganged up on."

Recovering from surgery, Bryant, via Twitter, had urged the Lakers to pound the ball into the post.

"All these social media things about throw the ball inside -- you have to be able make shots from the outside if you're going to be able to make shots from the inside," West said.

After struggling all through that first game to hit from the outside, the Lakers get another shot at the Spurs in Game 2 on Wednesday night in San Antonio.

"This series is not over, not at all," West said. "They need better play from their other players -- their contributing players.  If they get that, they will be very dangerous."

West is currently an executive with the Golden State Warriors, who Tuesday night tied their first-round matchup 1-1 with a 131-117 victory over the Nuggets in Denver.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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