LOS ANGELES -- Mike D'Antoni hobbled to his first news conference as the Lakers' coach. He used a crutch on his left side, still recovering from knee-replacement surgery.

He finished a distant second to Phil Jackson in the popular vote among Lakers fans, but he wasn't the one receiving an awkward midnight rejection call from General Manager Mitch Kupchak on Sunday.

"We're built to win this year. This is not a project," D'Antoni said Thursday about his new team. "We have a window."

It's a tiny one, with an aging roster and thinning patience among fans who expected a roaring start, not a 3-5 record and sagging offense.

"We would love to be able to play 'Showtime' basketball," D'Antoni said. "We would like to get someplace close to it."

He coached his first practice Thursday and, in a savvy PR move, planned to consult with Magic Johnson on how to re-create the buzz in the team's foundering offense.

After the Lakers finished practice, they huddled and said simultaneously, "Championship."

"There's no hiding it," D'Antoni said. "That's our goal."

He showed plenty of humor in his 45-minute news conference and had an idea of how to revive almost every player.

Pau Gasol is shooting 40% this season, a huge drop-off for a former All-Star. D'Antoni called Gasol "the best big man that's played the game in a lot of years. Skilled for sure.

"We'll try to open it up a little bit more for him. We'll try to move him around and get him comfortable."

D'Antoni also predicted a Dwight Howard surge in the near future, saying the "dominant center in the league" was able to show only 75% to 80% of what he could do. "Every month he'll get better with his back and his timing," he said.

D'Antoni has a tremendous comfort level with Steve Nash, whom he coached for four seasons in Phoenix. Nash, 38, has missed the last six games because of a small fracture in his left leg and there is no timetable for his return.

"I can't wait to get him back. I think he's got another two or three years in him," D'Antoni said. "He didn't have a whole lot of speed when he was in Phoenix, so he hasn't lost anything. I think the people of Los Angeles will come to appreciate an unbelievable player."

Of the Lakers' struggling reserves, D'Antoni said there would be everything but open tryouts among them. "We'll look at who adapts," he said.

Not surprisingly, D'Antoni suggested there was nothing to change in Kobe Bryant's game: "He's playing as good as he's ever played."

D'Antoni probably won't coach Friday's game against Phoenix but will make his Lakers debut Sunday against Houston.

He laughed when asked about the playoff run-ins the Lakers had with his Phoenix teams in 2006 and 2007. "I hated you guys forever and you all hated me," he said. "As soon as Mitch gave me the word [Sunday]…Hey, I love you guys."

Kupchak was the one who told D'Antoni he got the coaching job.