L.A. Lakers: Why Running the Princeton Offense May Not Doom the Team
An idea that was met with the thunder of a thousand face-palms and scoffs from sports fan all over the Internet, generally because the Princeton offense—which was perfected by Pete Carril at, you guessed it, Princeton University—may not be the cure-all Bryant believes it to be for the Lakers this season.
Red flags immediately pop up as to what role newly acquired point guard Steve Nash would play in the system; whether LA's big men, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, could adapt well, if at all; and how exactly the Los Angeles Lakers would implement an offensive scheme that requires both discipline and teamwork.
The short answer: It will take patience.
Two-time MVP Nash is not in a Lakers uniform this season to sell tickets. Well, he is, but Nash is also in L.A. because the team needs his hustle and intelligence. Working out of the Princeton offense would certainly be a change of pace for the high-octane Nash, who is entering his 17th professional NBA season, but the transition would not be impossible—it may even prove beneficial.
Nash is the personification of constant motion, so it is hard to think of a point guard better-suited to feed the Princeton offense's appetite for constant movement, screens and cuts. Working out of the half court will keep the aging Nash fresh. The Lakers do not need the All-Star to run defenses out of the building, but rather to wear them down possession after grueling possession.
Speaking of possessions, Gasol is sure to benefit from the Princeton offense considering that the power forward excels at making smart passes and tough shots from the high post. After finishing the 2012 season with a career-low of 17.4 points per game, Gasol must be itching more than most to get the ball rolling on a new offensive scheme that better utilizes the Spanish giant's propensity for scoring.
The young Bynum just may be the biggest variable of all as the Lakers look to potentially implement the Princeton offense.
Bynum came into his own last season, averaging 16.7 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game during the Lakers' playoff run. While he is sure to continue improving, it is uncertain whether Bynum possesses the athletic ability or discipline required to keep pace with Nash, Bryant and Gasol all swirling around the half court.
If head coach Mike Brown has any say in the Lakers offense, he would be wise to consider implementing some of Bo Ryan's Swing offense into the mix to make sure that Gasol and especially Bynum are not lost in a sea of perimeter screens.
The Swing offense, which has powered the Wisconsin Badgers for years, runs similarly to the Princeton except that each possession aims to get the ball down low for a higher-percentage shot and possibly a foul call. The traditional Princeton system is sure to open up perimeter looks for Nash and Bryant, whereas the Swing offense would lean more heavily on L.A.'s towering frontcourt.
It has been a few years since Bryant was a part of Phil Jackson's Triangle offense, so who is to say that the five-time NBA champion is not just looking for a little more offensive stability? Odds are Bryant sees the competition (otherwise known as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat) and is in hot pursuit of something foolproof.
Running the Princeton offense would not only balance the floor against younger, more athletic teams but it also would give a much-needed fluidity to an aging (albeit talented) Lakers offense with very little time left for dumb basketball decisions.
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