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T.J. SIMERS

Mike D'Antoni gets to work but looks as if he should call in sick

Mike D'Antoni makes his sideline debut Tuesday as Lakers coach, but he's clearly in pain as he recovers from surgery. Why risk making things worse?

T.J. Simers

1:41 AM EST, November 21, 2012

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We hear about players playing hurt, but as Mike D'Antoni walks down the hallway for his first pregame media briefing as Lakers head coach, I'm telling him he looks like a wreck.

And he's not disagreeing, pulling a coat around himself because, as he says, "I'm just so cold."

The new Lakers coach looks just awful, and not for the reasons we were detailing a week ago.

No one needs a medical degree to see he should be home in bed, D'Antoni letting it slip that's where he's been spending 12 hours at a time.

He's off the crutches but still on the meds, including blood thinners; so why is he pushing himself to coach against Brooklyn?

Why is he placing himself in the draining position of coaching four games in the next five days with stops in four cities?

Someone please tell him Bernie Bickerstaff is not going to take his job, no matter how long he takes to recover.

When D'Antoni meets with the media, he does so with his arms tightly wrapped around his chest as if trying to ward off the chills.

He's masterful in deflecting attention away from his shaky condition with a heavy dosage of humor.

"Have you reached out to anybody for advice since you took this job?"

"No, I'm on meds," he says. "I might've, but I don't remember. They might've told me some stuff, but I don't remember."

And everyone is laughing, but there's obviously a hint of truth there.

"How are you going to prevent yourself from jumping off the chair in the heat of the moment?" he's asked.

"Pain will do that," he says.

"Are you pain-free at this point?"

"No, I'm never pain-free; I'm 61 years old," he says. "I haven't been pain-free since I was 30."

He's 61, and his energy is a concern, "among other things," says Lakers trainer Gary Vitti before the game.

Vitti asks D'Antoni, would he sit behind him to reduce the risk of anyone running into him. D'Antoni declines.

Vitti says years might go by without anyone running out of bounds and into the bench, "but as soon as someone gets a knee replacement, what happens?"

It might've made more sense for D'Antoni to wait until next week, when the Lakers come off the road, to make his debut.

He's already reminded everyone the team has 72 games to play and plenty of time for the Lakers to flex their muscles.

Now if only he listened to himself.

If D'Antoni hadn't been hired by the Lakers, he's asked, how much longer would he have been laid up?

"Another month," D'Antoni says. "I'm not a very strong guy, so I would have been there for two months. I would have milked this; my wife would have been taking care of me for about half a year."

Good stuff, the comedy coming easy for him, and the excitement to get going as Lakers coach understandable.

But is it really worth putting his health at risk?

Here's hoping, as anyone would for someone recovering from surgery and still in distress, that everything goes well.

It's really the only thing that matters — until the playoffs begin — in keeping with D'Antoni's desire to always leave everyone laughing.

SOMEONE WANTED to know if D'Antoni was going to be sitting in Phil Jackson's old high chair on the bench.

"I hope that's not his chair," he says. "I hope it's my chair."

And then the punch line, of course: "I'm just keeping it warm [for him]."

SOMETIMES I just hate the media.

Max Wittek goes on a 710 radio show in L.A., talks about preparations for Saturday's game with Notre Dame and concludes by saying, "we're going to win this ballgame."

The radio show plays the phrase that comes at the end of a long Wittek answer over and over as if the station has struck gold.

A few minutes later USA Today's headline online reads: "USC QB Max Wittek guarantees defeat of ND."

All I heard him say is what every athlete is supposed to think, and what you would hope you would hear from the guy replacing someone as valuable as Matt Barkley.

I didn't hear a guarantee, a kid popping off or any hint of arrogance as the word "guarantee" implies today in sports.

I just heard a confident young man trying to steel himself for a very tough assignment. Sadly, the media abused the kid for its own sensational gain.

SO FAR I have shown more defense in the name of Lane Kiffin than the guy's father, Monte Kiffin, who passed along word Tuesday he didn't have time to talk about his son.

Who doesn't have five minutes to talk about their kid?

Who doesn't embrace the opportunity to chat about a son in trouble when his own failures as overseer of the defense have contributed to the criticism now being heaped on his child?

I would have asked Monte about that, knowing he will be 73 next season and has already achieved so much as a respected coach. I would have asked him if he's planning to give up his defensive duties, and if not, why not?

If you were hurting your child's chances to succeed, what would you do?

It was different for my daughter and me. We worked together on the radio, the argument often heated as to who was worse and leading to our demise, until we agreed it was Fred Roggin.

JEANIE BUSS sent the following tweet: "Dear Michelle: @MichelleObama Have you ever been made to feel that believing in & supporting your man is a bad thing? Need advice. Jeanie."

Once Michelle got over the 57,810,407 people not believing in or supporting her man, she probably went back to her charity work at her White House office.

SOMEONE SAID Beckham is leaving. I didn't know he was still here.

t.j.simers@latimes.com