Hungry, Humble Los Angeles Lakers Looking to Validate Mike D’Antoni’s Vision

LOS ANGELES – It was supposed to be just another day on the calendar when Kobe Bryant sat there, healed and aged.

It was instead an entirely Kobe-free inspiration for Lakers fans, who haven’t had something this pure and real to cheer about since Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

The two Lakers who played the most in Tuesday night's season-opening victory over the Clippers were Jordan Farmar, who was out of the NBA last season, and Xavier Henry, who was left out of alphabetical order in the Lakers’ media guide this season because he’s at the end among the middling “Lakers training-camp invitees.”

Farmar and Henry drove their underdog spirit right through an overconfident Clippers team, for sure. Time after time, the duo shrugged off the sort of bad plays that had gotten players benched by other coaches to follow up with great plays.

Even the clearly fragile psyche of career underachiever Wesley Johnson added to the story of perseverance for the Lakers. Johnson shook off all the missed shots and botched plays to hang in there on defense against Blake Griffin, whose only statistical record from his eight minutes in the fourth quarter were two turnovers.

But the guy who best represented the Lakers' unlikely success wasn’t a player. For the very first time, Mike D’Antoni looked like the better coaching choice than Phil Jackson to lead these Lakers.

Jackson saw it himself, offering on Twitter: “Fun to watch a team play with great emotion and purpose. Laker game was played for the faithful…now it’s on.”

While the world has been writing off the Lakers this preseason and speculating on Bryant's recovery, D’Antoni has been Mr. Happy. Why? Because he hasn’t had to navigate superstar egos and fret about Dwight Howard not listening to anything he says.

More of the frustrations...

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