The Los Angeles Lakers hit everyone with a curve ball when they hired Mike D’Antoni instead of going with former coach Phil Jackson. After hours of negotiating with the eventual Hall of Fame coach, the team announced that they would rather go with D’Antoni who was just as surprised as everyone else. As D’Antoni prepares to take over one of the most talented teams in the league, it will be interesting to see what type of impact he will bring to the court.
Over the years, D’Antoni has become famed for the offensive system that he developed while the head coach of the Phoenix Suns. With the “Seven Seconds of Less” system the Suns were well known for their pick and roll offense that allowed Steve Nash to flourish and facilitate across the floor. When looking at the talent roster that is available through the Lakers, D’Antoni has the potential to create an even more potent offense that can help him reach the NBA Finals that have eluded him throughout his career.
The Lakers should see the addition of D’Antoni effect their offense almost immediately. At 98.6 points per game they are ranked 12th in the league which is well below expectations when you look at the names that are wearing the purple and gold. With a healthy Nash on the floor, he should have more opportunities to not only get the ball to Kobe Bryant, who will create his own shots, but work off the pick and roll that should create more opening for Pau Gasol down low. This doesn’t mean that everything will be a smooth transition, because the new coaching staff will still have to create opportunities for the often offensively challenged Dwight Howard, who has been known to complain about touches in the past; while making sure that Kobe has the ball enough as well. Ball distribution was one of the issues that plagued him while coaching the New York Knicks, however this roster seems more acclimated to distribution when needed.
At the same time, the Lakers roster should help shore up the defensive knock that so many people have hit D’Antoni with over his career. While none of his teams have been known as defensive stoppers, he never has had the players that were truly dedicated to holding teams in check. Bryant, Howard and Metta World Peace have consistently been ranked among the best defensive players in the league and if they can regain that form throughout this season then D’Antoni will be able to focus on more ways to help his new team put up points.
While fans were immediately excited as the rumors of Phil Jackson’s return hit full stride, they shouldn’t be upset that the Lakers choose to go in another direction with Mike D’Antoni. While he doesn’t have the rings that Jackson has earned in service; he does have the ability to lead this team towards the season that many individuals are expecting them to have. Only time and games will truly tell.