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Mike D'Antoni optimistic about Lakers' fortunes despite losing Dwight Howard

Despite losing one of his star players, Mike D'Antoni is happy about his new additions. SB Nation chats with the Los Angeles Lakers coach at Summer League.

Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports Images

LAS VEGAS -- Mike D'Antoni is sitting baseline with Los Angeles Lakers Summer League coach Dan D'Antoni on one side and Kurt Rambis on the other. He's at the Thomas & Mack Center before the first game tips off, doing "a little scouting." Once the crowd fills out, father and son attendees, families wearing Los Angeles Clippers attire and NBA fans who are at the arena soaking in Summer League action crowd him with their sharpies and NBA paraphernalia.

He's the coach of the Lakers, after all.

The Lakers are transitioning, climbing out of a crater left in their roster this summer. Dwight Howard isn't the only departing Laker, as Earl Clark signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Antawn Jamison is not expected to return. That's without mentioning Metta World Peace being dragged out to the amnesty gallows to end his career with the team.

"With the new collective bargaining you have certain things you have to do, and we had to do it," D'Antoni said.

In their place comes a sudden addition of youth and athleticism to the perimeter. The Lakers have signed both Nick Young and Wesley Johnson, giving the Lakers a few fresh bodies on the perimeter as they replace World Peace and await the return of Kobe Bryant.

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"We tried to get more athletic to be able to run up and down a little bit," D'Antoni said when asked about both Young and Johnson.

Johnson has become a statistic of lottery draft picks to never live up to that magical potential scouts seek out each and every year. He is entering his fourth year in the league and his third team since being taken fourth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010. He was traded to the Phoenix Suns and allowed to walk without much of a fight, an alarming thing to consider after acknowledging the Suns are a team without much talent and depth.

"We're anxious to start to work with him. Great kid," D'Antoni said. "He has a lot of potential, so let's see if we can tap some of it."

The Lakers also added big man Chris Kaman, using their mini mid-level exception of $3.1 million to sign him. At the time it was a curious move, but as the Lakers proceeded to sign wing players for the minimum, it's something that now makes more sense.

Kaman has a history of playing with productive bigs. He starred with Elton Brand when he was a productive citizen with the Clippers, he split time with Carl Landry in New Orleans and he's coming away from playing with one of the game's great big men in Dirk Nowitzki.

"He definitely can play high-low with Pau" -Mike D'Antoni on Chris Kaman

"He definitely can play high-low with Pau [Gasol]," D'Antoni said. "He can stretch the floor. Both of them can play. They should be pretty good complements to each other," D'Antoni said.

"We'll run our normal stuff," he added.

The Lakers' "normal stuff" consists of HORNS sets and high pick-and-rolls, two sets that can show off the versatility of the Lakers' frontcourt pair. Kaman, a 47-percent shooter from mid-range last year, gives D'Antoni another tool to use on offense. As far as where that leaves his rotation with Gasol, Kaman, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and second-round draft pick Ryan Kelly?

"We'll see during training camp," D'Antoni said.

L.A. held out on making any roster moves until its future with -- or, as events proved, without -- Dwight Howard was made clear. Mitch Kupchak and the front office have made a handful of under-the-radar moves to retool the roster. Players who can stretch the floor, players who can create their own shot.

Unfortunately for L.A. fans, they're also players who seem like they're joining the Lakers one year too late to make any difference.

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