Mike D'Antoni's first statement after being introduced Thursday as the Lakers new head coach reflected the high expectations around the team as they entered the season with two new all-stars and a core of veterans led by Kobe Bryant.
"We're built to win this year -- this is not a project," D'Antoni said."I just really feel great about the possibility."
D'Antoni and team general manager Mitch Kupchak conducted the news conference, D'Antoni's first as Lakers coach. When D'Antoni will make his debut on the Lakers' bench remains uncertain. He is recovering from knee surgery, and Bernie Bickerstaff will remain the team's interim head coach until D'Antoni is healthy.
D'Antoni was on crutches at his first pactice session Thursday in El Segundo.
"By this weekend, I should be fine," he said.
The former Phoenix Suns coach was announced at the Lakers' coach Monday after a weekend during which there were signs that 11-time NBA champ Phil Jackson would return to lead the team. Jackson met with team officials after the dismissal of Mike Brown five games and four losses into the season, but D'Antoni was named the team's head coach after the Lakers dismal start to a season with high expectations.
LA is 2-1 since Brown's dismissal in a move Kupchak said was needed for a team designed to win an NBA title. The Lakers are scheduled to play Friday at Staples Center against Phoenix -- the former team of D'Antoni and Lakers point guard Steve Nash, who won two MVP awards as a Sun.
The news conference comes a day after Lakers great Magic Johnson expressed disappointment with D'Antoni's hiring.
"I don’t feel Mike D’Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers now, especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there who wanted to be the Laker coach," Johnson said on ESPN. "And Jim Buss decided he didn’t want Phil Jackson; he wanted Mike D’Antoni, And that’s okay. Why didn’t (Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss) just say that?"
The first question for D'Antoni addressed Johnson's comments. D'Antoni said he did not hear the comments, but plans to reach out to Johnson for advice.
"I can understand all the stuff that went on, that's normal," D'Antoni said. "Phil's a great coach. But the reality is that I've got a great group of guys.
"When you think of the Lakers, you think of (Johnson). We would love to be able to play Showtime-type basketball. They might have done it the best you can do it, we'd like to get some place close to that."