Mike D'Antoni's Run & Gun Style an Awful Fit for Aging Los Angeles Lakers
Brown wasn't exactly beloved when he first arrived in La La Land, wasn't embraced after his team bowed out of the playoffs in the second round last season and certainly can't expect to garner much love after a 1-3 start.
Especially when blessed with four All-Stars—one of whom (Steve Nash) is already out of action—slated for the starting lineup.
But Mike D'Antoni as his replacement? Really?
The former head coach of the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks is one of two names, along with Jerry Sloan, mentioned by Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy in a recent report regarding Brown's future in the City of Angels.
And why? Because D'Antoni's done sooo much better during his coaching career? Because he's such a superb manager of superstar egos?
That aside, the links between D'Antoni and the Lakers are easy to draw. He was at the helm of the Phoenix Suns when Nash collected back-to-back MVPs orchestrating D'Antoni's Seven-Seconds-or-Less offense.
Kobe grew up admiring D'Antoni during the former's days as a youngster in Italy watching D'Antoni star for Olympia Milano.
He was also an assistant coach for Team USA in 2008, when Bryant and Dwight Howard won gold in Beijing, and in 2012, when Kobe returned to London for another medal.
D'Antoni's calling card—a point guard-centric, pick-and-roll-heavy offense—also makes eminent sense for the Lakers given their personnel. Nash is among the best pick-and-roll ball-handlers to ever play the game and is already a master of D'Antoni's system. Up front, Howard is arguably the finest pick-and-roll screener and finisher in the game today, while Gasol has the requisite skill to operate in a two-man game.
Never mind that Nash is hurt and that offense isn't the Lakers' problem. After four games, L.A. ranks sixth in offensive efficiency, third in shooting percentage, fourth in effective field goal percentage, fifth in true shooting percentage and tops in offensive rebounding percentage (via teamrankings.com).
Clearly, the Lakers can score, contrary to popular, anti-Princeton belief. Turnovers have been an issue and likely will remain so until members of L.A.'s roster can find their way onto the same page.
In the meantime, the answer to the Lakers' supposed woes wouldn't seem to be to slot the team's personnel into a run-and-gun system.
Yes, the Lakers would be wise to look to score early in the shot clock. But asking a squad that's old (Gasol, Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace), less-than-100-percent (Howard) or both (Kobe and Nash) wouldn't seem to be the best solution. Inherent in the job description of any Lakers head coach, Mike Brown or otherwise, is a mandate to keep the team's stars fit and energized for a deep playoff push.
Not exactly something to which sprinting up the hardwood is conducive.
Keep in mind, too, that pushing the pace under D'Antoni requires depth. Without a reliable bench on which the coach can lean, those in the rotation are likely to be depended on so heavily as to leave them all depleted, if not ground to a pulp, by season's end.
And last I checked, the Lakers bench is still one of the worst in the NBA (via hoopsstats.com). Opting, as the Lakers have done, for the top-heaviness of a Fab Four can only afford a team so much leeway to build depth.
As a result, the Purple and Gold must count on the likes of Jamison, Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks (who's already lost his spot in the rotation) to fill in the gaps when Kobe, Nash, Gasol and Howard aren't on the floor.
Not exactly a recipe for success if your team needs to shuffle guys in and out of the game.
Would the Lakers be wise to replace Mike Brown with Mike D'Antoni?
More importantly, giving D'Antoni prime seating at Staples Center would do anything but address the Lakers' most pressing concern—defense. The Suns regularly ranked in the bottom half (if not the bottom third) of the league in defensive efficiency during D'Antoni's run between 2003 and 2008, as did his Knicks until Tyson Chandler, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, came aboard in 2011-12.
Meanwhile, the Lakers currently sit 24th in defensive efficiency and toward the bottom of the list in most other defensive categories. They've struggled stopping pick-and-rolls, fast breaks and nearly everything in between.
Which is astonishing, since the team boasts both Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and Brown, a former NBA Coach of the Year touted for his defensive acumen. Then again, with six new faces this year, the chemistry on both ends of the court was bound to take time to congeal.
As big as the "D" in D'Antoni may be, it's not an indicator of expertise in that regard. He's an offensive guru who couldn't cut it in the Big Apple, where, realistically, title contention is more a plus than a promise.
Or even a birthright, as it seems to be in Lakerland.
The chants for Mike Brown's head will go on long and loud until the Lakers start to show progress on the court...and probably even after that.
But if Brown's detractors get their way and the oft-maligned successor to Phil Jackson is shown the door, they'd better hope that another, more Italian Mike isn't the one to take his place.
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