Mike D'Antoni reacts during the third quarter of an NBA...

Mike D'Antoni reacts during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Feb. 4, 2012) Credit: AP

The Lakers mishandled Mike D'Antoni's hiring from the beginning. They shouldn't have flirted with Phil Jackson if D'Antoni, the former Knicks coach, was their first choice all along, as the Lakers say.

No matter what, the Lakers, and particularly executive vice president Jim Buss, look bad here. You're talking about Jackson, a coach who has won 11 NBA titles, five of them with the Lakers. Even Magic Johnson called it a mistake to hire D'Antoni when Jackson was available.

We're not saying or suggesting D'Antoni isn't a good coach and won't do well with the Lakers. But with the team they have, anything short of a championship will be considered a failure.

D'Antoni won a lot of games as coach of the Suns with Steve Nash running his offense. They've been reunited, and with different pieces that finally could get D'Antoni and Nash that elusive ring. Kobe Bryant remains a fierce competitor and an All-Star, and Dwight Howard can finish on pick-and-rolls and can protect the paint.

Defense always has been an issue for a D'Antoni-coached team. In Bryant and Howard, D'Antoni has two of the better defenders, so it's just a matter of them clicking. But D'Antoni might have to change some things overall.

Everyone knows he's an offensive visionary and that most players like playing for him because of the freedom he gives them. But D'Antoni has to stay on his players a little more, push them harder in practice and shootarounds -- have more practices and shootarounds -- and hold them accountable.

These are the things that have made Mike Woodson successful since he replaced D'Antoni with the Knicks.

Woodson hasn't been afraid to get on Carmelo Anthony or any Knick. Woodson's no-nonsense approach is working, as evidenced by the Knicks' 6-1 start to this season and their overall record of 24-7 under Woodson.

Granted, he has a far better and deeper roster now than D'Antoni had last season. The Knicks have three quality point guards now. They didn't really have one last season before Jeremy Lin blew up -- in D'Antoni's system.

But Woodson sent his message before the start of camp, basically telling the players that if they didn't buy into what he wanted, they would be out. Again, you can't argue with the results.

Anthony is playing team basketball and defending better than he ever has. J.R. Smith is in control, acting professionally and making winning plays, and the Knicks are defending better than they had in nearly a decade.

D'Antoni may prove he is the right person for the Lakers. But Woodson is proving he's the right coach to lead the Knicks.

In D'Antoni's corner

Not surprisingly, Jeremy Lin sang D'Antoni's praises after he got the Lakers' job.

"I'm very, very happy for coach D'Antoni," Lin told The Houston Chronicle. "He deserves it. He changed my career. He changed my life. I'm always thankful to him for that."

Lin is off to a rocky start in Houston. He is averaging 10.9 points, 6.7 assists and 2.56 turnovers and is shooting 35.5 percent through nine games.

MSG holiday festival

Now you can point to the Christmas Day Knicks-Lakers clash as a big game. But the real drama and intrigue will be found at the Garden from Dec. 13-19.

D'Antoni will return with Steve Nash, who spurned the Knicks for the Lakers, on Dec. 13. Lin will return for the first and only time this season with Houston Dec. 17. Two nights later, it's the Battle of New York as the Brooklyn Nets visit for the first time.

Happy Holidays.

Kidd fan

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was impressed with the Knicks, and he continues to be impressed with his old point guard, Jason Kidd.

"They are one of a handful of teams in the East that has a chance to come out of the East," Carlisle said after the Knicks beat Dallas on Nov. 9.

"Jason Kidd is going to bring everybody's level of focus, concentration, intensity up an awful lot. That's just how things work. He'll have the broadcasters in a defensive stance, trust me on that."

Kidd, 39, helped Dallas win the 2011 title and helped the Knicks beat his old team, igniting a third-quarter run with his defense and passing. He also sparked Thursday's come-from-behind win in San Antonio, hitting three three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

"It's amazing at his age that he can still put a stamp on the game," said Vince Carter, Kidd's former teammate with the Mavericks and Nets.

Green enriches Mayweather

The go-ahead three-pointer by North Babylon's Danny Green against the Lakers on Tuesday gave the Spurs the win and made noted boxer and gambler Floyd "Money" Mayweather $275,000 richer. "Kobe Bryant is a living legend but I bet $275k on Spurs and Danny Green got me that green," Mayweather tweeted after the game. Green was asked jokingly if he will get a cut of Mayweather's payday. "I'm not a betting man," Green said. "But I'm glad he won. It'd be nice to get a cut, but that's his money. He made the right choice. Congrats to him. Hopefully, he continues to bet on us.''

Dunlap a winner

Former St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap, in his first NBA job, is doing something with the Bobcats that hadn't been done in Charlotte in a long time.

He's winning.

The Bobcats took a three-game winning streak into yesterday's game against Memphis. Charlotte hadn't won three straight games since March 2011. Last season the Bobcats finished 7-59 and never won two in a row. They won four of their first seven games under Dunlap.


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