D'Antoni also has ties to Howard, who has been on U.S. national teams with D'Antoni on the coaching staff, and backup forward Jordan Hill, who briefly played for the coach in New York.
How quickly that familiarity translates into wins will decide how quickly D'Antoni is comfortable in his new job. His greatest task might be forming a bond with Howard, the defense-minded center who will be the Lakers' top star for many more years if he re-signs with the club next summer.
Howard was intrigued by his first practice under D'Antoni, but realizes the process takes time.
"We can't just expect for him to come in and we have one day of practice, and then the next day we're scoring 150 points," Howard said. "I don't think it works like that."
D'Antoni ran his first practice without his top two point guards: Nash is still out with a small fracture in his leg, while Steve Blake missed the Lakers' last game with a minor abdominal strain. D'Antoni is excited for his reunion with Nash, but he's also thrilled by his first chance to coach Blake, a player he identified as an ideal fit for his system a decade ago.
"He said we should be scoring 110 points a game, or something like that," said Bryant, who isn't worried about how the veteran Lakers will play defense. "How many defensive players do you need on one team? At some point, you just throw the ball out there and let us figure things out on our own, which is really what we do best, and that's what we're going to do."
Kupchak also shed more light on the Lakers' decision to choose D'Antoni over 11-time champion coach Phil Jackson, who seemed interested in a third stint on Los Angeles' bench. Kupchak and Lakers owner Jim Buss wanted to see more aggression and freedom for the Lakers, identifying D'Antoni as their top choice early in their search, but strongly considered Jackson after the Lakers crowd's chants of "We want Phil!" last weekend.
"We just felt there was so much public support that we felt it might be difficult not to hire him," Kupchak said. "My feeling (before Saturday's meeting with Jackson) was that he didn't want to coach any more, and when he left two years ago, he felt he stayed a year too long. We gradually got to the position where we could do what we think is right for the team. It took us a couple of days to sort through that, and we knew there would be a ridiculous amount of criticism for making this decision, but it was clearly and only a basketball decision."