Chicago lost out on esteemed philosopher-coach Mike D'Antoni because Jerry Reinsdorf had some not-so-private qualms about the Phoenix defense under the mustachioed wizard. D'Antoni landed on his feet (in a landfill, mind you), but that whisper campaign concerning the Phoenix defense under Mike hasn't ended. And D'Antoni is getting mad as heck (via BSotS):
"I get a little down, because the first thing out of everybody's mouth is, 'They don't play defense,'" D'Antoni told the New York Daily News. "First of all, we won (55) games last year, (61 the year before). Sixty-(one) times, we played better defense than the other team did, that's for sure, because we scored more points."
D'Antoni does not exactly make a salient case here -- no one questions the ability of his Phoenix offenses to score -- but he has been unfairly maligned. Here are Phoenix's finishes in defensive efficiency in each of the four full seasons D'Antoni coached there, in chronological order: 17th, 16th, 13th, 16th. D'Antoni's teams have been just about average on defense. Matched with elite offenses, that makes for some very good teams. Hence the 58-win average during his tenure.
"You know what?" Hill said. "Guys wanted this. Guys, I think, got to a point where they wanted to play defense, we wanted to get better in that area. So the time was right for a coach to come in and try to make change."
Thank you Grant Hill, who played under D'Antoni and with these Suns teammates for exactly seven months. I suppose Shaq and Goran Dragic are the next two guys to declare D'Antoniball to be ineffective, yeah?