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Old 11-12-2012, 04:27 PM   #1
crisoner
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Default Mike D'Antoni fits with Lakers (ESPN Insider article)

Here it is....enjoy

Quote:
Innovative offensive mind can blend Bryant with Nash, Howard and Gasol
Updated: November 12, 2012, 2:39 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider


As head coach of the Phoenix Suns from 2003 to '08, Mike D'Antoni served as the mastermind of an offensive system that changed the NBA in many ways. Concepts that have become staples of offenses across the league -- such as emphasizing the corner 3-point shot and playing smaller, faster front lines (i.e., small forwards playing power forward and power forwards playing center) -- were first popularized by D'Antoni in Phoenix.

I had the good fortune to witness this firsthand while working in the Suns' front office during D'Antoni's reign.

D'Antoni used to preach to the players phrases like "shoot it or move it," "the ball finds energy," "the first three steps in transition are the difference" and, of course, "wings run to deep corners." These were all tenets of his coaching philosophy. And it's a philosophy that could turn around the Lakers' season.

For D'Antoni, offense and defense are intertwined. How many times have we seen players, as individuals, become more engaged defensively when they get a big dunk or a couple of shots to go? The same theory applies on the macro level to the entire team.

Roland Lazenby's tweet sums it up perfectly -- offensive confidence leads to energy on the defensive end. This is the psychology of the game; should we all strive to be consistent defensively, no matter what happens on offense? Of course, but that's not always the case, particularly with offensively talented personnel.

Taking all that into consideration, a renewed confidence in the offense leads to a corresponding vigor on the defensive end, and D'Antoni's playbook is ideal for the Lakers right now. Here's how:

Simple is beautiful

The beauty of D'Antoni's system, in its most basic manifestation, is in the simplicity of the decision-making for those who don't need to be making decisions. Steve Nash has freedom to read the defense and make the appropriate play call. I suspect Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, both extremely high-IQ basketball players, would be given similar freedoms. Everyone else is literally either filling the corners (shooters) or screening on the ball or away (bigs). That's it. If Metta World Peace gets the ball, he's either going to shoot it (because he's wide open) or move it (because he's not).

This reduces turnovers because you aren't letting the wrong people make decisions on the court, but rather are entrusting your higher-IQ guys to evaluate the risks. Furthermore, your role players now have a much clearer idea of where their shots are coming from, allowing them to become more proficient from those spots.

Of course, the full version of the playbook has a lot more wrinkles, and calls for more reading of situations by those peripheral players. But on a bare-bones level, there isn't a playbook that's more capable of being highly operational on short notice, particularly with the caliber of talent the Lakers bring to the table.

Personnel fit

One objection to D'Antoni's offense with the Lakers is they don't have the right personnel; they lack shooters. Indeed, the Lakers could use more shooters, but it's not a major issue. Shooters provide space for the pick and roll (Nash and Dwight Howard) to operate. If Bryant is in the corner, there is not a team in the NBA that's going to help off of him. His reputation alone creates the desired effect of the spacing. And if a team leaves him alone, Bryant had an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of roughly .650 on unguarded catch-and-shoot situations in the past three seasons, according to Synergy.

World Peace, on the other hand, hasn't been a reliable catch-and-shoot player the past three seasons, even in unguarded situations. I suspect part of this has been due to his tenuous grasp on the triangle offense.

But he is a prime candidate to benefit from a simplification of his offensive duties. The ability to zero in on catch-and-shoot opportunities from specific areas on the floor will help him be a better shooter. If not, expect to see Steve Blake or Jodie Meeks at shooting guard with Bryant bumped up to small forward.

Gasol doesn't need to be able to stretch out to the 3-point line; he has shot .470 on long 2-point shots (farther than 17 feet) over the past three seasons. Again, that's going to create space. Even if the point guard hits Gasol as the open man and the defense closes in time, Gasol is smart and skilled enough to make something happen. For instance, he could put it on the floor and drive to the rim, or throw to Bryant on the weak side and then go into an immediate side pick-and-roll action.

Off the bench, Meeks can be a valuable piece as a pure shooter, and Blake has been a solid 3-point threat for most of his career. Antawn Jamison, to a lesser extent, also can create space; much like Shawn Marion in Phoenix, Jamison isn't a knockdown shooter from range, but he's just successful enough to make you think twice about leaving him open.

But he is a prime candidate to benefit from a simplification of his offensive duties. The ability to zero in on catch-and-shoot opportunities from specific areas on the floor will help him be a better shooter. If not, expect to see Steve Blake or Jodie Meeks at shooting guard with Bryant bumped up to small forward.

Gasol doesn't need to be able to stretch out to the 3-point line; he has shot .470 on long 2-point shots (farther than 17 feet) over the past three seasons. Again, that's going to create space. Even if the point guard hits Gasol as the open man and the defense closes in time, Gasol is smart and skilled enough to make something happen. For instance, he could put it on the floor and drive to the rim, or throw to Bryant on the weak side and then go into an immediate side pick-and-roll action.

Off the bench, Meeks can be a valuable piece as a pure shooter, and Blake has been a solid 3-point threat for most of his career. Antawn Jamison, to a lesser extent, also can create space; much like Shawn Marion in Phoenix, Jamison isn't a knockdown shooter from range, but he's just successful enough to make you think twice about leaving him open.

Trust

D'Antoni's system should work because, unlike former coach Mike Brown's Princeton offense, the players will believe in it. The players will believe in it because there is a familiarity; obviously, Nash was the maestro who ran it to perfection when he and D'Antoni were with the Suns, and Bryant and Howard have both been exposed to it as a part of Team USA (additionally, Bryant was coached by D'Antoni at the 2007 All-Star Game and spent time as a boy watching his dad, Joe Bryant and D'Antoni play together in Italy). Gasol is the type of savant who could work wonders within the context of the offense, much in the same way Boris Diaw did while playing for D'Antoni. Even reserve forward Jordan Hill got to run it in New York. The familiarity for some of the players will help bring the other players along.

Potential drawbacks

D'Antoni isn't without his flaws; with the Suns, we didn't devote enough practice time to drilling defensive concepts, for example. D'Antoni was an advocate of personal accountability; he'd tell you what the team was going to do defensively, but it was on you to know the coverage. However, some players could grasp and execute, but some couldn't, and more should have been done to bring them along. Outsourcing the defensive responsibilities to an assistant (Chuck Person?) and allocating significant practice time would go a long way toward solving those issues.

Another issue was that D'Antoni's rotations were always short; there wasn't a whole lot of trust in players Nos. 9-13 down at the end of the bench. The Lakers have a short bench as is, and Hill has had his share of run-ins with D'Antoni in the past. Also, can D'Antoni trust Blake enough to play through his mistakes, giving Nash ample rest time on the bench?

Ultimately, D'Antoni's biggest drawback is that he's not Phil Jackson, who has the history, the rings and, as evidenced by the chants Friday night at Staples Center, the hearts of the Lakers faithful. However, having coached in another big market like New York, D'Antoni should be used to the spotlight. With the Lakers in Los Angeles, D'Antoni should have ample opportunity to prove he is up to the challenge.

Last edited by crisoner : 11-12-2012 at 04:30 PM.
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