Ironically, the Mike D’Antoni era in Los Angeles begins with his old team coming to visit Staples Center: the Phoenix Suns. Even more awkward is that D’Antoni’s first game since taking over as head coach will not feature the new Lakers head coach on the sidelines.
Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff will continue to run the team from the bench for at least one more game, as D’Antoni works his way off crutches following knee replacement surgery.
The other storyline in the Lakers and Suns rivalry would normally be Steve Nash. Nash, who was originally drafted by Phoenix, spent a cumulative 10 season with the Suns. However, Nash will not be available for the Lakers tonight.
Both D’Antoni and Steve Nash hope to be good to go by Sunday.
No one would be happier to see that happen than Bickerstaff. He's been a true professional since being asked to take over for fired head coach Mike Brown.
Bickerstaff was Brown’s mentor and originally gave Brown his chance as an intern. With a long NBA career, nothing to prove, and no vacant seat available, Bickerstaff is continuing to do his job despite no longer having full control over practice or the overall game plan. He’s serving more as an assistant coach than an interim coach at this point.
Almost every player in the Lakers locker has spoken highly of Bickerstaff and the job he’s done. However, at this point, Bernie is ready to move on. After Friday’s shootaround, Bickerstaff said he wished D’Antoni was coaching against the Suns.
With the consensus being that Sunday is the day for D’Antoni’s return, Friday is one last game for Bernie. The players like Bernie.
On Friday night, look for the Lakers to send Bernie off with a win.