It only took 45 minutes for newly minted Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni to separate himself from his predecessor. Even though Lakers fans may still be scratching their heads over the Lakers’ front office choice to pass on the beloved 11-time champion Phil Jackson to step in, it’s obvious that this whole fiasco just needs time to fade away.
What’s the best remedy for a Mike Brown firing and Phil Jackson hangover? A promise of Showtime 2.0, of course.
At his introductory press conference yesterday, D’Antoni made it clear that he fully expects this team, as currently constructed, to score well over 100 points every game. Not only is that a tall order, that’s a lot of tacos for Staples Center attendees.
It may seem far-fetched at this point in the season, D’Antoni’s Run and Gun history tells us that his expectations are, if anything, reasonable. He’s done more with lesser talented teams and the New York Knicks experiment was hampered by a revolving door of free agents and roster tweaks.
D’Antoni’s West Virginia charm was in full effect yesterday, as he seemed sincerely thankful for an opportunity to work with the best on-paper starting five in the NBA. On crutches and medicated, he wasted no time pitching his brand of basketball and giving fans some hope for this season.
Philosophy over System
The big problem with former coach Mike Brown’s Princeton (and even defensive) system was that it was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The system, despite early support, failed to yield any positive results as the Lakers slid to a 1-12 record dating back to the preseason.
In contrast, D’Antoni emphasizes an offensive philosophy focused on the rhythm and flow of the game. D’Antoni says he rarely calls plays, relying on his floor generals to read defenses and make quick decisions to get the ball to an open player.
Reunited with Steve Nash and Chris Duhon, D’Antoni will have an easier time implementing his system, as it relies on point guards to facilitate. It will be interesting to see how much tempo D’Antoni injects into this aging roster, and how quickly the Lakers adapt to it.
Playing to the Strengths of the Roster
There’s a reason why the players have called D’Antoni a “players coach”. D’Antoni spent a great deal of time lauding the talents of the Lakers roster. It’s not surprising that D’Antoni would speak highly of the Lakers starting five, since most of those guys are bound for the Hall of Fame.
But D’Antoni had high praise for the bench, saying that he’s wanted to coach backup point guard Steve Blake for “years” and that Jodie Meeks will be encouraged to shoot every time he touches the ball (hopefully with minimal dribbling).
It’s clear that D’Antoni already has plan for the entire roster, which speaks volumes to his appreciation for each player’s individual talents. It will be intriguing to see how D’Antoni blends each players talents in this new system, and how they can improve from their start with Mike Brown.
Defense Does Matter
We have Dwight Howard”, said D’Antoni. He argued that it’s “not fair” that his prior teams were not considered solid defensively, because they had some really talented individual defensive players. Having Howard, on the other hand, will help make this team a “bear defensively”, said D’Antoni. He also noted that Metta World Peace is a great defensive player and that the Lakers will need to rely on defense to get through the first handful of games as the new offense develops.
Mike D’Antoni did a fantastic job selling us on the idea and philosophy of his new system, but many questions still hover over this Lakers team. Can Pau Gasol really thrive in this offense? Will the age of the Lakers roster be detrimental? Can this bench really spell the starters for a decent amount of minutes?
We don’t know the answers yet, but it should be fun to watch.