The Los Angeles Lakers made headlines over the summer when GM Mitch Kupchak managed to sign Steve Nash and trade for Dwight Howard, but the most surprising move was when head coach Mike Brown made a hire of his own: He brought in former Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to run the famous Princeton offense.
For those unfamiliar, this system calls for constant ball movement and highly disciplined team play and essentially makes every position except center irrelevant.
That said, while the Lakers have been moving the ball around on offense quite a bit, to say that they are running a traditional Princeton offense is simply not true. If they were, there wouldn't appear to be so much confusion on the floor. At this point, it looks as though veteran players like Nash and Antawn Jamison are hesitating in terms of getting involved on offense.
The saddest part of it all is that the Princeton offense has already been proven as a recipe for success on the NBA level.
In his time with the Sacramento Kings, current Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman employed a very similar style that employed the constant movement, but not in the same way that the Lakers are using it this season. Whereas the Lakers are just waiting for a mismatch, Adelman's Kings never hesitated to take a shot if there was an opportunity, mismatch or not.
Look at it this way. Remember the Kings' lineup from the franchise's glory days? The lineup was so balanced with talent that it was kind of ridiculous.
The team had talented scoring point guard Mike Bibby, who was deadly from any spot on the floor. Doug Christie was slotted at shooting guard, and while he could hold his own in the scoring department, his primary role was that of a pest.
One of the most popular players in this system was small forward Peja Stojakovic, who electrified the crowds night after night with his red-hot work from beyond the arc. Vlade Divac manned center and was perfect for the Princeton system; he could dish off passes just as well as he could score and rebound.
The best player of the Kings' Princeton offense, however, was power forward Chris Webber. A phenomenal athlete, he was a lock to average 20 and 10 a game and often found himself recording a triple-double. He was a fine leader for the team and always kept the Kings in the game.
Now, let's compare that squad to today's Los Angeles Lakers. Dwight Howard is at center and appears to be adjusting well to passing the ball more often, but he is much more prone to turnovers than Divac ever was.
Pau Gasol has done a fine job at power forward, and despite having more size than Webber at 7'0", he is nowhere near as strong an athlete. In fact, more often than not, he hesitates to get his hands dirty on both sides of the floor, strongly preferring to use his jumper rather than drive the lane and draw a foul.
Kobe Bryant is a great scorer and shooter, and so is Steve Nash, but here's where one of the greater problems is. One of the most accurate shooters in league history, Nash has been hesitating to create shots for himself and has resorted to the role of delegating the offense to whoever is open.
This is understandable, given how the Princeton offense calls for constant movement and distribution, but Nash is only cheating himself and the team by not utilizing his offensive talents properly.
This leaves Metta World Peace as the odd man out. He is a good pest as Christie was, but his scoring game has essentially vanished, and this naturally puts the Lakers in a funk, on top of all of the team's other struggles thus far.
That all being said, while the Los Angeles Lakers may be running the Princeton offense to a certain degree, to say that they have been taking full advantage of it would be untrue. They have the constant movement aspect down, but they are too married to that concept and just need to let their players play, as Adelman did in Sacramento.
If a shot is there, take it. If you see a man open, get him the ball. If any other opportunities arise, choose carefully, but make sure that the decision helps the team.
Unless the Lakers can learn these inner secrets of the Princeton game, their season will absolutely be lost.
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