STARTING POINTS: No re-Phil for Lakers; D’Antoni gets the job

Chalk one up for procrastination. I usually do this blog around 11 p.m. so it’s ready when everyone wakes up the next morning. But after watching the James Bond movie and just plain relaxing, I didn’t get to it until about 1 a.m., which worked well for me because I was able to react to the biggest news of the day …

POINT ONE: Lake Show has new director

Under the cover of darkness, the news emerged from the L.A. Times that the Lakers signed a four-year deal with Mike D’Antoni to be their new head coach. What? I was as sure as anything that Phil Jackson would come back once they resolved the money, what offense he’d run and which road games he didn’t have to go to. According to some reports, Phil Jackson was prepared to say “yes” on Monday morning, but the Lakers’ brass chose D’Antoni instead at the final minute. Why D’Antoni over Phil? According to a team spokesman: “Dr. Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak unanimously agreed that Mike was the best coach for this roster at this time.” Wow. Sorry, Phil. The best news about this hiring for Lakers fans is that it appears to have the full support of Kobe Bryant, once the shock wore off. Kobe is excited to be part of the prolific offense that D’Antoni teams always seem to have. An up-and-down style that relies on outscoring opponents more than stopping them. It’s the polar opposite of what the Lakers were doing under Brown. It’s also a system that has never led to an NBA Championship or even a Finals appearance. His offense should play to the strengths of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard more than the Triangle or Princeton offense, and I think Kobe will adapt and find his points. Everyone finds points. If nothing else, the Lakers will be more exciting, and the responsibility will go back to the players. After they got Mike Brown fired by not trying in the first five games, as evidenced by the fact that they are 2-0 since, under D’Antoni the onus is back on the players. The style of play should be the more entertaining, Showtime-style the L.A. fans have become accustomed to. I have some doubts about how this will work out, and it would have been much safer to hire Phil Jackson as far as public relations goes. The front-office, the players and D’Antoni are all in this together now. We just get to sit back and watch.

POINT TWO: Upside down day in the NFC

Once again, what we thought we knew about the NFL, was flipped on its head, partcularly at the top of the NFC. The undefeated Falcons, one-loss Bears and Super Bowl champion Giants all lost as favorites Sunday, and the preseason favorite 49ers tied the Rams at home. The biggest winner in the NFC this week, and perhaps the newly-minted best team in the conference, was the idle Green Bay Packers. The wild-card race, meanwhile stayed interesting as Minnesota, Seattle and Tampa Bay each picked up necessary home victories, and those teams will be checking their rear-view mirrors as the Saints and Cowboys both seem to be getting off the canvas and ready to make a move. I think we can officially close the book on the Eagles and Lions who both lost games they had to have Sunday. Speaking of the 49ers-Rams tie, once again, several players (paging Donovan McNabb) had no idea that the game could end in a tie. I think we as fans would be stunned to know how much more we know about the rules of the NFL than a lot of players. I think a lot of players have the attitude like, “Hey, I’m just out here doing my thing. Those details are for someone else to worry about.” Amazing.

POINT THREE: An exciting NASCAR race?

OK, so the NASCAR race wasn’t as exciting as the sideshow, but I was fascinated by the goings-on at the track in Arizona. Jeff Gordon in essence, settled a grudge with Clint Bowyer by intentionally slowing down to bash into him, right in teh middle in another pack of cars, putting his own life, his enemies life and countless other racers’ lives in danger. Not cool, Jeff. I know there are a lot of things I don’t understand about racing, but I’m sure this isn’t part of the unwritten rules. It seems like this has been a chippier-than-usual NASCAR season. Every week somebody is grumbling about somebody “racing hard” and causing problems. The brawl between the crews of both racers was a funny-to-watch sidelight, but NASCAR has a problem that needs to be addressed. It’s getting too reckless. There’s rubbing and bumping, and then there’s what’s happening now.

POINT FOUR: Crimson Tide tumbles to 4

From the didn’t-see-it-coming department, No. 1 Alabama, about whom people were speculating if they could beat a bad NFL team, couldn’t beat an above average college team. The Tide lost at home to Texas A & M and fell to No. 4 in the BCS behind Kansas State (1), Oregon (2) and Notre Dame (3). Before the loss, I thought the BCS title game would be Oregon and Alabama, but now I think it will be … Oregon and Alabama. History has shown that the top SEC team always gets a mulligan. I could see Notre Dame losing to USC and Kansas State has a handful of tough games, plus the Big 12 title game to escape. Obviously if either the Irish or Wildcats go unbeaten, one of them will play an unbeaten Oregon in the title game. But if there is a glut of one-loss teams, even ones with a much more tolerable loss than a home game to Texas A&M, Alabama will get the nod.


Each Friday, I try to predict what the Monday morning headline is going to be. I didn’t see the D’Antoni thing coming, so I predicted that an impressive Bears win over Houston would make them the talk of the NFL. Well, I was wrong, or I like to say incomplete, as the Texans beat the Bears 13-6. The weather and the concussion to QB Jay Cutler certainly didn’t help the Bears’ cause, but kudos to the Texans for grinding out an impressive win.

Anyway, I want to hear your teck on the D’Anotni hiring Lakers’ fans. Like it? Hate it? Believe that they chose him over Phil Jackson solely for basketball reasons? Please comment.