Source: Agencies | 2012-11-22 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (left) grabs a loose ball against Brooklyn Nets' Gerald Wallace (right) while Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni (right) gestures during the game.
Photo by AP
EVER since Mike D'Antoni got a new knee and a new job in rapid succession earlier this month, his life has been a jumble of unfamiliar faces, grueling rehabilitation sessions and anonymous hotel rooms.
For a few hours on Tuesday night, the veteran coach finally got back into his natural environment. And even if he's not quite ready to roam an NBA sideline with his usual vigor, the Los Angeles Lakers are moving smoothly under his command.
D'Antoni made his debut on the Lakers' bench on Tuesday night in a 95-90 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Nine days after he was hired and five days after he flew to Los Angeles to start work, D'Antoni finally coached a game on the sideline with no stumbles - either literal or metaphorical - during Los Angeles' fifth win in six games.
"I've felt different for about two weeks now, so this feels good," D'Antoni said. "Everybody is kidding you, and yes, the pressure is there, but you know what? This feels great. I wouldn't change it for the world. I don't know if (the knee) was any better today than yesterday, but it's going to be the same tomorrow, too, so it's good."
Kobe Bryant scored six of his 25 points in the final two minutes while running the show offensively all night for the Lakers, and D'Antoni was quickly reminded how enjoyable coaching the superstar can be. Bryant has played for D'Antoni on various US national teams, and the two Italian-speaking Americans already have a bond.
"It's the same as it's always been," Bryant said.
"He's always very calm, but he still has an undertone edge to him. He's the same D'Antoni. ... We're just getting more in sync with each other."
D'Antoni clearly isn't at full strength just yet: He hobbled slowly on the sideline on the rare occasions he left his chair during play in the first half. But he moved around with more vigor after halftime, protesting foul calls with a good measure of his usual theatrical vehemence.
When asked if he wanted to jump up more aggressively to protest occasional officiating calls, D'Antoni laughed: "I'm not that stupid. I'm good. Jumping is in the past. It's gone."
Eight months after leaving the New York Knicks late in his fourth disappointing season, D'Antoni is grateful to be back at work in such a prized position. He would have rested his knee for probably another month if the Lakers hadn't hired him solely on the basis of phone interviews to replace the fired Mike Brown, skipping over Phil Jackson in favor of the offensive mastermind of the Phoenix Suns' wildly entertaining teams of recent years.
Although the timing was terrible, D'Antoni couldn't pass up a chance to lead the talented Lakers, who went 4-1 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff after a 1-4 start.
The Knicks extended the undermanned New Orleans Hornets' losing streak to four games as Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points in New York's 102-80 win. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith each added 15 points. Felton scored all of his points on five 3-pointers as New York hit 14 3s as a team.
Tyson Chandler grabbed 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who've won two straight since their first loss of the season and are 8-1 for only the third time in franchise history.
Ryan Anderson, starting in place of Anthony Davis, led the Hornets with 15 points.
Philadelphia's Jason Richardson scored six of his 21 points late in the fourth quarter and Nick Young had 23 off the bench as the 76ers rallied to beat the Toronto Raptors 106-98.
Jrue Holiday had 19 points and 12 assists, and Thad Young scored 18 to help the Sixers win their third straight game.
DeMar DeRozan had 24 and Andrea Bargnani scored 22 for the Raptors, who are off to a 3-8 start.