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Although the timing was pretty terrible, D'Antoni couldn't pass up a chance to lead the talented Lakers, who went 4-1 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff after a 1-4 start. Los Angeles has noticeably improved on both ends of the court even during D'Antoni's brief tenure, playing with a freedom and passion they hadn't yet captured during a winless preseason and that slow start for Brown.
D'Antoni isn't surprised to see Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol chewing up opponents. He's only surprised it didn't happen sooner -- and he suspects it still might have worked for Brown if he had more time.
"With this team, there's no reason not to win every game," D'Antoni said. "That's our goal. It's not, `Let's get two out of three.' We can win every game we play. ... I feel like we're the best team in the league. We've got the most talent, so they can do what they want. We've just got to keep perfecting things."
D'Antoni nearly made his debut on the Lakers' sideline two nights earlier against Houston, but was persuaded to delay by trainer Gary Vitti, who was concerned about the 61-year-old's mobility and late-game fatigue. D'Antoni felt much stronger after two more days of rest and room service, and he eagerly got on the court without the aid of the crutches that kept him upright during his first practice last week.
D'Antoni had the crutches after the game, when he got a lift in a motorized cart for the ride from the locker room to the team bus for the short flight to Sacramento. After roaring through a six-game homestand, Los Angeles has five flights in the next five days during a three-game, four-day road trip -- a schedule that might not be ideal for his knee, but nothing the coach can't handle.
"It didn't hurt at all," D'Antoni said. "I was a little peg-legged, but it was good. Adrenaline is a great thing."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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