Dark Days for Lakers’ D’Antoni, Who Seems to Let the Losing Defeat Him

LOS ANGELES—What a pitiful existence.

Just ask Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who has left that sadness long behind but did beat the Philadelphia 76ers by 45 points in February and beat the Los Angeles Lakers by 48 in March.

The word "beat" has lost its power in sports, but when the numbers are that big, along with a season-long pile of losses so high, they do feel like beatings for the losing coach. Rivers knows, having endured a 24-win season—or more accurately, a 58-loss season, because that's what he remembers—as coach of the 2006-07 Boston Celtics.

"The losing affects you," Rivers said.

Unlike much-maligned Lakers vice president Jim Buss, reviled Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has nothing to do but trudge into that depleted, divided locker room every day and watch lack of talent devolve into selfish play from his spot on the bench.

He has been unable to do much to stop it. There is no greater goal, no meaningful journey.

"Sit there every day. It's hard," Rivers said. "Every night, you have to try to get your troops up. It's no longer about the season. It's about that night."

Rivers said it was far harder for him to lose like that than for Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, who had big-picture ideas to ponder besides hoping the lottery balls would lead him to Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in the following NBA draft. The head coach's entire job is to prepare the team. No one—no player, no assistant, no executive, no fan—has to absorb defeat as completely.

When asked about how hard this losing is, D'Antoni offers brief responses these days.

"Play the cards you're dealt," D'Antoni said. "Hang in there the best you can."

You know it's difficult when men don't want to talk about it.

Twenty-six times this season the Lakers have lost by 10 or more points, meaning lopsided losses have occurred mo...

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