Mike D'Antoni excited about coaching Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Mike D'Antoni circled the court two feet at a time, moving smoothly on crutches while his Lakers went through drills orchestrated by his assistant coach and brother, Dan.

Although D'Antoni's surgically replaced knee is slowing him down a bit, he couldn't wait any longer to get the Lakers rolling.

D'Antoni formally took over the Lakers yesterday, four days after the slow-starting club hired him to replace Mike Brown. The former Knicks and Suns coach still is on crutches and pain medication after surgery this month, but he thinks he'll soon be back to normal while he attempts to transform the Lakers into his vision of an up-tempo, high-scoring team.

"I'm really happy to be here -- excited," D'Antoni said. "[We're] starting to put stuff in now. Might take a little bit, but . . . we're built to win this year. This is not a five-year project. We have a window, and we're going to try to get through it."

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak welcomed D'Antoni after practice at a news conference packed with dozens of media members. Given his limited mobility, D'Antoni isn't likely to make his sideline debut until Sunday night against Houston, with interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff probably manning the bench again Friday night against Phoenix.

"This is a great city to have an up-tempo, exciting game that has a legitimate shot to win a championship," D'Antoni said. "I can't ask for anything more."

D'Antoni's affable charm immediately worked on the Lakers, who praised their new coach's demeanor during their first few hours together. The coach acknowledged few qualms about taking over the star-studded roster that got off to a 1-4 start to the season, speaking instead of the limitless possibilities of the Lakers' talent within his creative style of coaching.

D'Antoni said he rooted for Jerry West's Lakers while growing up in 1960s West Virginia and won't have any problem transferring his allegiances after trying to beat L.A. for so many years with the Suns. The coach also realizes his up-tempo style of play will mesh nicely with the Lakers' heritage under Magic Johnson -- who already has criticized D'Antoni's hire.

"We would love to be able to play Showtime-type basketball," D'Antoni said. "Now, they might have done it the best that you can do it. We would like to get someplace close to that. I think that would be awesome."

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