Mike D’Antoni defends playing Manny Harris in final play of Lakers’ 102-100 loss to Bulls

CHICAGO — Mike D’Antoni wanted to make Manny Harris feel comfortable in his first week in the NBA, cognizant that a man plucked from the Development League could feel a tad bit overwhelmed.

So D’Antoni kept the play book pretty basic. He offered positive reinforcement. And then what some considered a huge leap of faith, D’Antoni played Harris over point guard Kendall Marshall in the final possession that wound up costing the Lakers’ 102-100 overtime loss Monday to the Chicago Bulls at United Center. Harris guarded Taj Gibson from behind, giving him a clear path to dive to the basket and catch an inbounds pass from Mike Dunleavy. Pau Gasol tried to rotate to block the shot, but his reaction was slowed considering he had just guarded the inbounds pass. But D’Antoni said Harris was just following instructions, which entailed defending the inbounds pass so he could rotate to the perimeter wherever needed.

“He played on the backside,” D’Antoni said. “He thought he was going to pop a guy out and he didn’t do that, We didn’t slide over to cover for him.”

D’Antoni then called the 6’5″ Harris a “better defender, longer and a better “defender over other options, such as frontcourt players Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Chris Kaman on the bench. Gasol was also asked to guard the inbounds pass instead of the paint.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Harris, who’s on a 10-day contract. “It was a tough play. Taj slipped. It felt like he was wide open. It seemed like he grabbed the ball and went up in slow motion.”

Once Gibson’s shot went through, a visibly agitated Gasol stormed off the court.

“You don’t lose a game on one play. But to lose a game like that on a layup still hurts,” Gasol said. “I couldn’t see and my back was forced on what was going on behind me. I didn’t see what happened. The guy probably slipped. It was a miscommunication. We wanted to slip on a shooter and he was coming off. That’s more likely what happened on that play. It’s a tough way to lose a game we worked hard for.”

But one D’Antoni refused to blame on how the final play went down.

“It wasn’t his fault,” D’Antoni said. “It’s the team’s fault. He’ll learn from it.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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  • MooMoo McGoo

    It’s D’Antoni’s fault. Not the team or Harris. D’Antoni needs to put his team in the best position to win and he did not do that on the last play. What a let down for these guys who worked so hard and came off two big wins for them.

    • hookedonnews

      Did you watch the game? Gasol turned the ball over twice right at the end of the game and blew 2 opportunities to score. It they had won you wouldn’t have given MDA any credit, but every time we lose it’s his fault. Right.

  • Sam Buss

    Seriously? It’s the team’s fault? No, Mike D’Antoni, it’s your fault. I like how he’s taking the blame off of Harris, but seriously to blame the whole team for your own last second decision? I hope you get fired soon, because Lakers fans like myself are tired of your bs. Consider yourself lucky we haven’t found a better option yet. We’re done throwing away games this season.

    • killer63

      There are better options, Sam. One is sitting on the bench as an assistant coach and one is wasting his coaching and player respect abilities sitting in the lame Time Warner studio giving commentary now and then.

  • Marty Susman

    We have one of the top NBA coach’s here in L.A. Byron Scott. Scott should be the man guy with D. Fish coming aboard as his Asst. Add Larry Brown to work with the kids & Jabar to help the future center & you have a great team of folks on the side lines.

    • Victor Concepcion

      Or James Worthy!

  • killer63

    GOOD GRIEF, JIM BUSS!!!! GET RID OF D’ANTONI!!!!! As a fan for 35 years, I can honestly say: Thanks for taking our storied franchise and flushing it down the toilet.

  • F repubs

    Yeah, because dantoni is out there guarding Taj Gibson.

    • West Coast Ram

      When have you not learned that the best principle of defense is put your body between the man and the basket? D’Antoni isn’t guarding Gibson but he is basically instructing Harris not to guard him as well. It is one thing if the Lakers are up by three and the only thing they are defending is the three point line but MD explanation only throws gas on the fire for those that want him out.

  • Victor Concepcion

    Huh..more DAntoni excuses.

  • Victor Concepcion

    James Worthy would be a great coach for the Lakers!

  • littlebit

    This is from a woman’s perspective but shouldn’t Harris have been positioned between the basket and the offensive player?

    • West Coast Ram

      Not when the coach tells him differently.

    • Kwok Wai Lai

      A good coach would take the burden off the players and let them play on the court and develop them for the team. M’Antoni is a very good coach indeed.

  • sicktiredth

    No, it’s all pure little jimmy b & B’Aphony’s fault, wake up little jimmy b. Admit you’re waaaaaaaaaay over your head, and let the real basketball professional’s both players and mgt. take over before you completely destroy one of the best franchises in NBA history!

    • Kwok Wai Lai

      You wake up. Lakers has not had first round lotteries for so long and the capsize limit is taking the toll on the team. Rebuilding takes time.

      Fair weather fans like you should really go to the Clippers.

  • jezabel

    Get rid of D’Antoni and little dumb Jim Buss before all the fans start going to the Clipper’s games. What a sickening twosome!

    • deadlifter

      I agree

    • Kwok Wai Lai

      You’re crazy. With a roster and so many injuries, the Lakers has overperformed.

  • hookedonnews

    Maybe if Gasol hadn’t turned the ball over twice in the closing minutes the game would have already been in hand. One play is never the whole story. Yeah, it was a hard way to lose. That’s the reason you don’t want it coming down to one play like that.

    • yolonda bell

      Agreed, Pau’s turn overs and fatigued legs with no lift, cost points; however, as you know, there are times when games are going to come down to one play. That’s when you expect the coach to make the best decision for drawing up a play and using the most effective guy(s) for that play — that’s his job.
      If Manny Harris followed instructions in his placement on the court, then it was a boo boo on D’Antoni’s part. We don’t know what the outcome would have been, that Laker team may have lost in the 2nd overtime, but that final play was indeed a crucial mistake.

      • hookedonnews

        I agree it was a mistake, but someone was supposed to rotate over and pick up Gibson and didn’t. In the end it comes down to execution on the court. Failing to make their rotations has been a problem all year. These end of the game plays are where you miss your team leaders like Nash, Kobe, & Blake. I know that’s going to bring a “Nash–you’ve got to be kidding response,” but he would have been directing guys on the court and even changing the play himself (as he did in the Houston game) if he saw it needed to be done. And of course, on one play like this Blake or Kobe would have played better defense on Gibson.

  • hookedonnews

    All the comments blaming D’Antoni for this loss and calling for his firing are totally predictable. Do you understand who is on this roster and how well they played? When you lose a game like this it’s never just about one play, even though that’s what everybody is going to focus on.