Meanwhile, D'Antoni gets a star-studded lineup and the man who made his name. He also gets Kobe Bryant, in the midst of a rebirth season, who he has known for nearly three decades. If you have Kobe's approval, you'll be OK.
D'Antoni has been unfairly slagged for the defensive performance of his teams in the past and for never winning it all. However, Phoenix would have likely won a ring if not for the NBA's idiocy in suspending its key players in a series against San Antonio for dubious reasons after the Spurs' fading Robert Horry started the whole thing.
If you look closely at the defensive numbers, they weren't nearly as poor as they seemed at first glance. Phoenix played extremely fast and got up a ton of shots. Of course opponents were going to get buckets as well.
Plus, he's got perennial defensive player of the year Dwight Howard and former winner Metta World Peace, along with Bryant, to shut down opponents.
So, this should work well. Maybe D'Antoni isn't the master of getting elite talent with tricky personalities to all come together like Jackson, but he has many things going for him and, nearly as importantly, doesn't come with the drama and distractions that Jackson would have brought.
There is going to be pressure on the Lakers and on D'Antoni to live up to the crazy expectations. But it says here this marriage will result in at least a trip to the conference finals.
NO DEAL FALLOUT
Many of the class of 2009 ended up getting contract extensions before the Halloween deadline, but a couple of the higher profile players did not.
We're keeping a close eye on Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings and Sacramento's Tyreke Evans.
Jennings has had some huge games for the surprising, division-leading Bucks, along with his typical stinkers, while Evans started strong but has been way off of late for the woeful Kings.
Jennings dropped 33 points and eight assists in a win at Philadelphia on Monday and is averaging 17 points and 8.5 assists for the season. Jennings also leads the NBA in steals per game by a considerable margin.
Evans is shooting just 36.9% from the field including 11% from deep. He scored 21 points in the season opener and hasn't approached 20 points since.
The Kings have too many me-first players, yet, oddly brought in Aaaron Brooks and James Johnson, who love getting theirs, in the off-season.
AROUND THE RIM
In the not-quite-a-blockbuster department, Charlotte traded guard Matt Carroll for forward Hakim Warrick, formerly of New Orleans "¦ The Lakers have reserve guards Steve Blake and Chris Duhon on the block, but aren't expected to find a taker "¦ Minnesota has lost Chase Budinger for three months due to left knee surgery "¦ Denver has assigned rookie Quincy Miller to the D-League. The Nuggets have a stockade of swingman "¦ Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, the team's top perimeter defender, is targeting a January return from surgery.
(And the Raptors, with records before Tuesday's games)
1. San Antonio (6-1)
Never, ever write these guys off. Tim Duncan looks like he's 27, not approaching 40. He's been stunningly good and Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are both studs.
2. Miami (6-2)
LeBron's been the best player in the league by a mile and Ray Allen has been a magnificent addition. Still the team everybody is chasing.
3. Oklahoma City (6-2)
Have had to make some adjustments in wake of James Harden trade and Kevin Durant hasn't been in peak form, but have still been mostly rolling. Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin have been superb.
4. N.Y. Knicks (4-0)
New York's best start since 1993. We doubt it will continue, but Carmelo Anthony sure enjoys life as a power forward. Unconventional Raymond Felton/Jason Kidd backcourt is working.
5. Memphis (5-1)
Stacked with talent. Beat the Heat and five wins have been routs. Might have to trade somebody due to luxury tax concerns though.
6. L.A. Clippers (5-2)
Chris Paul remains the league's premier point guard. DeAndre Jordan seems to have taken a sizable step forward.
7. Philadelphia (4-3)
Even without Andrew Bynum, who is out until at least December, Sixers have looked quite good at times. Jrue Holiday is balling, Dorrell Wright as well.
27. Toronto (1-6)
The defensive identity has vanished. The Kyle Lowry injury hurt, but at least DeMar DeRozan is justifying that contract extension.
OLDIES STILL GOODIES
Whoever said Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett were finished was wrong.
Garnett's rebirth started last season and has carried over. He just passed Allen Iverson for 22nd on the career scoring list, and should pass the likes of Patrick Ewing, Artis Gilmore, Jerry West, Rick Barry, Reggie Miller, Alex English and others before the season is done. He's also still a force defensively.
But Duncan might be the bigger surprise. He's anchoring the best team in the league and turning back the clock. Duncan's not just playing well for an old guy, he's playing well for an all-star. Duncan is playing considerably better than he did last season and his efficiency is among the league's best.
Meanwhile, LeBron James, the best player in the league, is about to enter the top 50 in career scoring. He's not even 30 yet. If he doesn't get injured, James could be in the top five before it's all said and done.
KNICKS LOSS ALSO A GAIN?
It is rare for a team to take off after suffering an injury to one of its best players, but the Amare Stoudemire injury actually helped the Knicks.
Not on the budget, he's making $20 million U.S. a year on an uninsured contract.
But, his absence prevents the team from force-feeding him into the starting lineup, which means Carmelo Anthony can stay at power forward, where he's been far more effective.
As the league goes smaller, prototypical small forwards like Anthony have morphed into devastating power forwards.
Other bigs can't handle Anthony's quickness, his jab step, or his deadly mid-range game. He already rebounded well for a three, so doesn't give up much in that regard to other power forwards.
He averaged 27.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks over New York's first four games, all wins.
New York gave up a lot to get Anthony, but it is looking more like a fair deal at the moment.
If Stoudemire can get back, the Knicks will have to stick to their guns and keep him on the bench as a deadly scorer.
Brooklyn was supposed to steal the Knicks' buzz, but Anthony is making sure that doesn't happen.
At least in the early going.
BETTER WITH AGE
Speaking of legends who don't realize how old they are "¦
Kobe Bryant still thinks he's a top 2 or 3 player, apparently.
Statistically speaking, he's got a pretty good case.
The Black Mamba shot 43% from the field last season. This year, he's at 53.8%, including 43.3% from three (his career average is 33.7%).
His minutes are down a little bit, but the result has been better play.
Those numbers aren't going to stay where they are, but Bryant's start has been astounding. He's also guarding well. It's certainly not his fault that the Lakers stumbled out of the gate.
Bryant wasn't happy with Mike Brown's Princeton Offence, even if he publicly said otherwise.
Now with friend Mike D'Antoni taking over and Dwight Howard getting closer to 100% every day though, they probably won't drop off as much as one would think.
Bryant is surrounded by a lot of complementary talent, the perfect tonic for an aging superstar.
Even if he doesn't look very old at the moment.
BIG DEBUT FOR BENNETT
We'll turn away from the NBA for a moment to give some Canadian NCAA stars their due.
Brampton's Anthony Bennett made his debut for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels on Monday and scored 22 points in a win over Northern Arizona.
Bennett oozes potential. He is a tremendous athlete with a good offensive game.
Montreal's Khem Birch will join him at mid-season, due to transfer rules.
Elsewhere, sharpshooters Kevin Pangos (Holland Landing) and Nik Stauskas (Mississauga) got off to good starts as well. Pangos had 13 points and three assists for Gonzaga, while Stauskas nailed 3-of-4 threes for Michigan in 25 minutes.
Brampton's Dwight Powell (Stanford, 14 points, 12 rebounds after a 27 point opener) and Toronto's Melvin Ejim of Iowa State had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
This is going to be another big year for Canadian talent down South.
Toronto's Myck Kabongo might be the best of the bunch, but is still serving a suspension.
The Texas point guard has missed two games and the chatter is he'll miss one more before being reinstated, though nothing is yet official.
Last year, three Canadians left the NCAA and were taken in the NBA draft.
Denver went 4-0 last week, holding opponents to 92.3 points per game. That includes just 101 points surrendered to Golden State in a double overtime game. Utah and Toronto had a 140-133 triple OT game, for comparison's sakes. Guess Andre Iguodala is having an impact on the Nuggets' defence.