Lakers intrigued by chance to play for D'Antoni


Lakers intrigued by chance to play for D'Antoni

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Pau Gasol got home from the game and read about it on Twitter, while Dwight Howard got a midnight message on his BlackBerry. They shared most Los Angeles Lakers fans' mix of surprise, trepidation and anticipation.

Just when everybody thought the Lakers were getting back together with Phil Jackson, they switched course in the middle of the night and went with Mike D'Antoni.

What a weekend in Hollywood - and the real drama isn't over yet.

The Lakers reacted with ample excitement and a little bewilderment Monday to their front office's surprising decision to hire D'Antoni as coach Mike Brown's replacement over Jackson, the 11-time champion who discussed the job at his home Saturday and apparently wanted to return. D'Antoni didn't even interview for the job in person, speaking to the Lakers over the phone.

``It has been crazy, but all this stuff will just make this team stronger,'' said Howard, who has been in a Lakers uniform for about six weeks. ``Everything that we've been through so far, it's going to make us stronger, and we have to look at this as a positive situation.''

The Lakers' third coach in four days won't take over the team until later in the week. D'Antoni still hadn't been cleared to travel Monday after undergoing knee replacement surgery earlier in the month, although the Lakers are optimistic the former Knicks and Suns coach will arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

So interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff was still in charge Monday when the Lakers gathered for an informal workout ahead of Tuesday's game against San Antonio. Just two weeks into the regular season, the Lakers (3-4) are about to start over with a new offense and another coaching staff - and a renewed certainty they're expected to compete for a title this season.

``It's been a zoo,'' said forward Antawn Jamison, a 15-year NBA veteran who played for D'Antoni on a U.S. national team. ``But as I was telling somebody, it's just a typical day here in L.A. It's interesting. ... It should be a lot easier to adjust to than the system we were trying to get adjusted to early on in the season. We've got Steve (Nash) that can help us out.''

Two Lakers who supported both Brown and his two potential replacements weren't available in El Segundo to weigh in on the hire. Nash missed the workout while getting treatment on his injured leg, while Kobe Bryant left before it ended to share a helicopter ride back home to Orange County with point guard Steve Blake, who needed an exam on his abdominal injury.

And the tall, professorial coach with all the rings wasn't at the Lakers' training complex at all.

Just 24 hours after Jackson seemed headed back to his oversized chair on the Staples Center bench, D'Antoni had the job.

It's too soon to tell how the Buss family's latest counterintuitive move will sit with Lakers fans, who chanted ``We want Phil!'' during the club's weekend games, both victories after a 1-4 start.

``I think everybody had expectations about it, and they were all pretty high,'' Gasol said of Jackson's potential return. ``We all understood what Phil brings to the table ... and what he means to the city and the franchise. It just couldn't work out for whatever reason.''

Jackson issued a statement to a handful of media outlets Monday, implying he was essentially offered the job after meeting with Lakers owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak. Jackson thought he would be able to come back to the Lakers on Monday with his decision, but instead was awakened by a midnight phone call from Kupchak.

``The decision is of course theirs to make,'' Jackson said in his statement. ``I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who endorsed my return, and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.''

The Lakers largely echoed the thoughts of Howard, who was looking forward to playing for Jackson: ``Management had to do what they felt is best for the team, and we as players have got to find a way to win.''

The Lakers publicly offered no reason for passing over the coach with the most championships in NBA history. Although nobody could claim the Buss family is afraid of spending money, Brown is still owed well over $10 million for the remaining three seasons on his four-year, $18 million contract, while D'Antoni will make $4 million a season for the next three years - and their salaries together might be less than what Jackson would command.

The Lakers largely know what they would get with Jackson, but D'Antoni intrigues this older, top-heavy team with an urgency to contend for a title before Howard's free agency next summer and Bryant's possible retirement in a few years.

Howard and Gasol both believe D'Antoni's up-tempo style can work well for the Lakers. Howard would seem to be a natural to partner with Nash in the pick-and-roll attacks loved by D'Antoni and Nash, although Gasol doesn't immediately fit into the definition of a big man who can play on the perimeter and shoot 3-pointers.

``It's a great system, (but) I don't think he ever had a defender such as myself or a defender such as Dwight Howard on those teams,'' Metta World Peace said. ``I don't think he ever coached those type of players, so his defense should be self-explanatory, and his offense is amazing, so it should be fun for Laker fans.''

The rest of the NBA sat back and watched the Lakers' drama with amusement over the past two days, with Dallas owner Mark Cuban weighing in gleefully on the mess: ``I hope they have to do it again and again and again.''

Jackson's flirtation with the job is the strongest indication yet that he's interested in coaching again, which makes him a prime candidate for another franchise. Yet D'Antoni also received praise around the league - even from New York, where he resigned last March after failing to win a playoff game in four years with the Knicks.

``Despite all the hoopla ... that was going on about me and Mike, we actually have a pretty good relationship, especially behind closed doors,'' Carmelo Anthony said. ``We actually talked a lot, talked basketball. Hopefully he brings some positive energy over there. Anytime guys are losing like that, there's always negativity, a lot of negative energy. So sometimes change is better.''

Added Dwyane Wade, who has played for D'Antoni on the U.S. national team: ``He has a tough job ahead of him, but I'm sure he's excited about the opportunity that he gets to be with America's team.''


AP Sports Writers Brian Mahoney and Chris Duncan contributed to this report.

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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable


UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."


Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.


So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."