Make or Break? D’Antoni Tweaks Laker Rotation

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Its only November, that’s what I keep telling myself. 14 games into a chaotic season and the Los Angeles Lakers look more like a reality show than a professional basketball organization at times. From the early season woes running the Princeton offense to Phil Jackson being dangled and then snatched from our grasp, the Laker Nation is impatient and want results… and we want them now!

Enter Mike D’Antoni. Four games into his Laker career and we have seen glimpses of the pure dominance this Laker team can impose, but also how lackadaisical our unit can be. I had mixed emotions when I first heard D’Antoni would be the Lakers coach; looking at the arguments from both sides, one thing was for certain, D’Antoni’s offense is going to flat out score. We have already seen a huge difference defensively with the addition of Dwight Howard holding down the paint. As long as our team plays with intensity, things will work themselves out on the defensive end. The key now is to grasp D’Antoni’s system and play at a consistently high level throughout the season into the NBA Finals.

Thus far, D’antoni has made a number of interesting tweaks to the team, although some have drawn red flags. Despite low numbers thus far, Dantoni’s decision to increase Antwan Jamison’s minutes off the bench has given Jamison a boost of confidence and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity averaging 17.5 ppg.  Jamison seems to have found his place in the Lakers offense, a step closer to helping the Lakers bench find its identity.

Metta World Peace has also seen a revival after a less than stellar 2011-2012 season. World Peace is arguable in the best shape of his career and his ppg is almost twice what it was last year, averaging 14 ppg vs. 7.7 ppg last season. Due to the spacing on the floor from D’Antoni’s offense, World Peace is going to see a ton open looks this season. If he can shoot a high percentage from the field, D’Antoni sees World Peace averaging 17-20 ppg.

Although it has been great to see World Peace and Jamison turn on their scoring, not all changes in D’Antoni’s system have proved beneficial. In the closing minutes of a tough loss to Memphis Friday night, Pau Gasol was benched by D’Antoni in favor of Antwan Jamison. Granted Jamison was playing well, but Pau clearly was not happy about the decision. What kind of message was D’Antoni sending to the Laker players?  Was this a way for D’Antoni to nudge Gasol to get the production he wanted? Or a preview of what we are in store for this season as the trade rumors continue to surround Gasol’ s name. Although a situation to keep out eye on, the Gasol issue is not my biggest blunder.

Over the past two games, playing time for Jordan Hill has taken a serious dive. After getting quality minutes prior to D’Antoni’s arrival, Hill has handled the lack of playing time with nothing but class.

“He’s going to do what he feels is right,” Hill said. “He’s going to do what he feels will win games. I respect him for that.”

Hill and D’Antoni don’t have the greatest past with one another, but this cant be something that disrupts the way Hill is playing. Its not hard to argue that Hill has been the only consistent player off the Laker bench who brings nothing short of 100% every time he is on the floor. His intensity is something that can spark the second unit that has lacked this kind of player in past seasons. When asked about the situation D’Antoni responded, “There will be room for Jordan but his role has changed a little bit,”. It is clear that D’Antoni prefers Jamison’s offensive abilities over what Hill brings to the table. It will be interesting to see if this is just Hills “role” changing in the rotation or a past grudge between the two.

With Mike D’Antoni running the show, I hope the Lakers can finally find their groove. I like the direction that the team is moving and am even more excited to see this Lakers team grow as a unit. With some time, building of team chemistry, and the return of Steve Nash, D’Antoni’s offense is going to be a thing of beauty. Remember the defense is going to take care of itself. Tune in Tuesday night to see what tweaks Coach D’Antoni has up his sleeve as the Lakers host the 6-8 Indiana Pacers at Staples Center. Tip off is at 7:30 PT.

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