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Steve Nash thinks Lakers, D'Antoni can rebound from 'disaster' season

July 09, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Coach Mike D'Antoni and the Lakers went 28-12 in their final 40 games this season to qualify for the playoffs despite a rash of injuries.
Coach Mike D'Antoni and the Lakers went 28-12 in their final 40 games… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Steve Nash gave Coach Mike D'Antoni a vote of confidence on Tuesday, despite acknowledging last season was "a disaster."

"I think he's a very bright coach.  He's not without flaws but none of us are," said Nash on the "Mason & Ireland Show" on ESPN L.A. (710) on Tuesday.  "We should all be judged by the fans.  It's their team.  I think we've got a lot to prove -- Mike, myself and all the guys on the team this year because last year was, to me, a disaster in a lot of ways."

Injuries decimated the Lakers.  Nash broke his leg in the second game of the year while playing for Mike Brown, who was fired and replaced a few weeks later by D'Antoni.

The Lakers struggled but eventually finished well, winning 28 of their final 40 games.

"I really don't feel like we ever played at a high level," said Nash.  "I don't feel like we ever felt comfortable or confident out there -- had that knowing feeling of a team that's been built.  We were just winning games and scrapping to turn it around.  We never quite found that commonality.  Injuries were too much to overcome."

By the time the team hit the playoffs, Kobe Bryant had torn his Achilles' tendon.  Nash missed some of the team's four-game sweep by the San Antonio Spurs with hamstring, hip and back problems.  Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake were also injured.

Nash doesn't blame D'Antoni for the team's failures -- especially their struggles on the defensive side of the ball.

"Mike understands defense," said Nash.  "We had Steve Clifford [for the most part] as our defensive coordinator last year.  He's an outstanding defensive coach.  At times you can talk about it's Mike's fault that the defense wasn't good -- Mike had a great defensive coach last year and at times we weren't any good."

Clifford has since taken the job as head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.

"Some of [the blame] needs to falls on the players.  You can't blame Mike for that, when the players need to step up with more heart and emotion and be more consistent," Nash continued.

Throughout the season at Staples Center, the fans could often be heard chanting, "We want Phil," -- pleading for the Lakers to bring back their former coach Phil Jackson.

"I love passionate fans. I love the Lakers' fan base.  I love that they're heated and opinionated," said Nash.

D'Antoni's best years were with the Phoenix Suns with whom Nash won back-to-back league MVPs.  That group never advanced to the NBA Finals; D'Antoni wasn't able to accomplish much in his stint as coach in New York with the Knicks.

His first year with the Lakers led to 45 wins and a first-round sweep.

"I think, depending on how this roster rounds out, I don't mind Mike D'Antoni in an underdog situation where everyone has written him off," said Nash.

Of course the Lakers have a lot of questions looking ahead, starting with the departure of Dwight Howard to Houston and Bryant's recovery from April surgery.

"I think a lot of it depends on health.  Am I going to be 100%?  Which I totally believe I wholeheartedly will be," said Nash.  "Is Kobe going to be at what level?  I wouldn't put anything past him."

"Is Pau [Gasol] going to be fit and ready for a full season and Jordan [Hill] after his [hip] injury?" he continued.  "If we're all healthy ... who knows what we're capable of?"

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

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