Let me start off with the disclaimer that I wanted Phil Jackson to be our new (old?) coach. In fact it wasn't even a matter of "want," I was already licking my chops waiting for a classic Phil vs Pop showdown on Tuesday night. Alas, it wasn't meant to be and what's done is done, and this won't be another post to berate the hiring of D'Antoni or Jim or Jerry or the enigma that is the Lakers FO. I know better. This is just to take a look at their offensive and defensive philosophies.
We've all heard before that Mike Brown hung his hat on his defense. Equally well-known was his horrendous offensive playbook, which was covered up by having a pretty good player named Lebron James. How many times did we have to go through watching the Lakers desperate for a basket last year only to witness meaningless dribbling followed by meaningless passing followed by a Kobe contested fallaway jumper that went in way more than it should have, and was thus taken way more than it should have (though that fault certainly does not lie solely on Kobe's shoulders). This sequence of LOSS (leave only seven seconds) basketball was played out way too many times for anyone's taste, leaving some no other choice but to go to bed after the game and suffer dreams of spiteful Cleveland fans mocking them "I told you so." One can argue that such a coach, finishing last year with a defensive rating of 14th out of 30 (per basketball-reference.com), has no place on the Laker bench.
Going from Brown to D'Antoni is like night and day - the latter an offensive specialist off the court, coupled with the offensive maestro on the court in Steve Nash, was a sight to behold in PHX and will surely be one here with the new toys Steve Nash has to play with. Our new coach says he wants to run the "Showtime" offensive and foresees the Lakers averaging around 115 points per game. The nice but often forgotten thing about the Showtime Lakers was that it succeeded because everyone could pass, not just Magic. And boy can the Lakers pass. Kobe? 8 assists last night, mmkay. Pau? loves passing so much to a fault. Dwight? he's had to pass out of so many double teams it's like clockwork. Nash? haha. We see glimpses here and there of their individual passing prowess, but I look forward to D'Antoni utilizing all their abilities to break down opposing defenses mercilessly. Now while that sounds fine and dandy, the obvious question is still, will the Lakers be able to keep up the defensive intensity in transition that such an offense needs to prevent the game from becoming a highlight reel for both teams. I'm sure D'Antoni has no delusions about the spryness of our roster, and thus the bench seems like it would become of even more importance in such an offensive scheme that requires high-energy, constant movement, and fresh legs. What makes me slightly worried is that the Lakers are currently already shooting at an pretty darn efficient clip (8th in the league in offensive efficiency), so while I have no doubt the offense will take care of itself under the new coach, what are really the marginal gains?
I sincerely hope like the rest of us that the experiment works out, that D'Antoni adjusts his system appropriately to the sheer disparity in talent compared to his previous teams, and that flashy offense will not be at the expense of bone crushing defense. Will the SSOL coach spell win for the Lakers? Or is he just another empty Mike? Here's to hoping it's the former.