LOS ANGELES — Mike D’Antoni postponed his debut on the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench for at least another game Sunday night, giving the coach a few more days to recover from recent knee replacement surgery. D’Antoni tentatively planned to take over when the Lakers hosted Houston, exactly a week after the Lakers hired him to replace Mike Brown. Instead, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and D’Antoni’s wife persuaded him to wait until he can move around a bit better on his new knee.
“I’m anxious to get out there and ready to go, but I don’t want to be a sideshow,” D’Antoni said. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff led the Lakers against the Rockets. The Lakers went 3-1 in their first week under Bickerstaff, and D’Antoni announced he’ll keep the veteran coach on his staff.
D’Antoni has been getting around without crutches for short distances since he arrived in Los Angeles last week, but the 61-year-old former Knicks and Suns coach isn’t his usual spry self yet. He has attended two workouts with the Lakers, circling the court on crutches and sitting down whenever possible, but finally had to acknowledge he would have trouble on an NBA bench.
“My wife said, ‘Why are you doing this?’” D’Antoni said. “And I kept being headstrong. (Vitti) kind of sat me down and said, ‘Mike, this is crazy. Somebody comes over, you’re going to be bowled over. You’re a sitting duck.’
“And I know my coaches aren’t real nimble, so there’s no way they’re protecting me. They’re hitting the streets. It was the smart thing to do.”
The Lakers formally announced they had hired Dan D’Antoni, the head coach’s older brother, as an assistant coach before Sunday’s game. Mike D’Antoni also said he plans to keep Bickerstaff, the longtime NBA coach and executive who joined Brown’s staff in September.
“Bernie is a great coach and good guy,” D’Antoni said. “I’ve known him forever. It just means the world. He does a super job. ... He’s (on the staff permanently), yeah. Unless he loses tonight.”
D’Antoni then smiled broadly.
Bickerstaff hadn’t formally been told he was sticking around when he spoke to reporters moments after D’Antoni. Bickerstaff joked that the Lakers should be told that they were playing for his job.
“I think he and Steve Nash are waiting to make their debuts together,” said Bickerstaff, who learned at the morning shootaround that his interim career would extend at least one more game.
Nash missed his eighth consecutive game Sunday with a small fracture in his leg that will keep him out until at least next weekend.
Although D’Antoni will speak to the Lakers before the game and again at halftime, he planned to watch his second straight game from the Lakers’ locker room while getting therapy on his knee. He’ll be joined by “the Steves,” — injured point guards Nash and Steve Blake.
“The hardest thing is to watch the game,” D’Antoni said. “I’m trying to do my therapy and she’s killing me, and then you’re watching the game and you’re suffering there. It’s not easy, but we’ll get through this.”
The Lakers already have shown signs of D’Antoni’s influence, playing two straight games at a speedy tempo they rarely used under Brown. Los Angeles scored more than 60 points in the first half Sunday night for the second straight game since D’Antoni’s arrival, leading Houston 68-60 at halftime after making 67.4 percent of its shots.
Los Angeles hosts Brooklyn on Tuesday before heading out on a three-game trip beginning Wednesday night in Sacramento.