Mike D'Antoni Is Heading Back to the Garden

D'Antoni hasn't found what he was looking for in the City of Angels

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The more things change, the more they remain the same for D'Antoni.

    It's hard to remember that it has been less than a year since Mike D'Antoni was coaching the Knicks. 

    The 16-5 start by this year's team has taken a scalpel to all kinds of bad memories, from Scott Layden to Larry Brown to Isiah Thomas all the way through D'Antoni's three-plus years of defensive indifference and inability to put the pieces together to make a workable whole on the fly. Mike Woodson has only been coach for 45 games and this current group has played just 21 of them, but the change of circumstances makes it feel like much, much longer. 

    Funnily enough, D'Antoni probably isn't looking at his time with the Knicks as quite the bad old days that most fans do. D'Antoni's arrival in Los Angeles to coach the Lakers has been a pretty enormous mess. 

    He's 4-8 since taking the Lakers job and they've lost five of six heading into Thursday night's reunion at the Garden, which might have D'Antoni wondering why he thought this would be such a smashing idea in the first place. The Lakers are probably wondering the same thing, although they have no reason to complain about getting exactly what they signed up for in the first place. 

    They were signing up for a coach whose teams have never been particularly good defensively, so they should have expected to see the amount of points per game they've given up rise. The Lakers have allowed 101.5 points per game under D'Antoni, six more per night than they were allowing before he took over the job and something that doesn't figure to get better when Steve Nash returns. 

    There's obviously a hope in L.A. that Nash's return to D'Antoni's offense will shift things into a higher gear, but the defense is probably going to continue being a problem as long as he's the coach. You might think having Dwight Howard means that the Lakers can swallow mistakes at other spots and that may be the case, but, for now, there's nothing working for them on that end of the court. 

    If the Lakers were paying attention last season, they would have seen D'Antoni repeatedly failing to find a way to make things work with Carmelo Anthony. Both sides were to blame, without a doubt, but the inability to put together a winning formula after Anthony's arrival or at any point last season don't speak well for D'Antoni's adaptability. 

    So no one should be surprised that Pau Gasol looks as lost in the Lakers offense as Amar'e Stoudemire looked in the Knicks offense last season. Gasol's not a perfect fit for what D'Antoni wants to do, but he's got talent coming out of his ears and good coaches aren't so stuck on a system that they can't make it work with such players. 

    All he's got now is Kobe Bryant hoisting up shots every time down the court, something that makes the old Melo Hero Ball days seem like the height of ingenuity. D'Antoni's coming back to New York for the first time on Thursday, but it really seems like he never left even if the Knicks have all but erased him from the memory banks. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.