Is Mike D'Antoni Anything More Than a Band-Aid Solution for Flawed L.A. Lakers?
In a shocking turn of events, the Los Angeles Lakers hired an offense-first coach in Mike D'Antoni rather than two-time Lakers coach and Hall of Famer Phil Jackson. This was all done in the wake of a 1-4 start by Mike Brown, whose Princeton offense clearly was not working based on where the team stood in the standings.
D'Antoni's hiring may seem a little bit hasty, but his run-and-gun offense is bound to slowly get the best out of every player on the roster, from the veteran starters to younger guys like Jodie Meeks and second-year man Darius Morris.
However, to say that D'Antoni is just a band-aid solution for the Lakers is absolutely ridiculous. If that were the case, he wouldn't have been signed to a three-year contract worth $12 million, plus an option for a fourth season. Team management clearly thinks highly of the man or else they wouldn't have invested so much time and money into him.
Also, think of why the Lakers brought in Steve Nash. He was signed to be the leader on the floor and diversify the offense, which had simply turned into the Kobe Bryant Show over the past few years. In him, the Lakers had their first true point guard since Nick Van Exel.
Despite the fact that Nash's reputation as an accurate shooter and crisp passer preceded him, Brown just wouldn't let Nash be Nash. In two games before suffering a non-displaced fracture in his leg, Nash was averaging just 4.5 points and four assists on 33 percent shooting.
That said, it's pretty clear as to why team management chose to go with D'Antoni over the established Jackson. D'Antoni and Nash have a lot of history, having spent four seasons together with the Phoenix Suns. In that time, Nash flourished in his coach's run-and-gun game and was named league MVP in 2005 and 2006.
Was the hiring of D'Antoni a band-aid solution/desperation move?
The fact is that D'Antoni's game is built for a point guard like Nash and also makes the rest of the team better, which is what the Lakers need if they are to win a championship with this current group. More importantly, the front office thinks that the man can build upon the young talent already on the roster, particularly the aforementioned Morris.
Look at it this way. As great as Nash can be in D'Antoni's system, he is still 38 years old and only under contract for three years, assuming he plays the entirety of the contract. That said, it's safe to say that a big part of the new coach's approach will be to start utilizing Morris more efficiently.
Morris may not have done much in the NBA since being drafted by the Lakers in 2011. However, it is because he hasn't gotten significant minutes, just 10.7 per game for his career. He has gotten more playing time this year, 17.6 minutes, and has averaged 6.6 points while shooting 45 percent from three-point land.
More importantly, look at Nash and Morris in terms of build. Nash is 6'3", 178 pounds whereas Morris is 6'4", 190 pounds. They're two very similar players and both great athletes, which D'Antoni loves having in his system.
On top of that, Morris was a great passing point man at the University of Michigan, averaging 15 points and 6.7 assists his sophomore season. If there's anybody that can turn him into a great point guard, it's D'Antoni and his point-guard oriented offense. Should he develop successfully, the transition out of the Nash era will go smoothly.
Thus, the offensive mastermind wasn't brought in just to stop the bleeding per se, but rather to make the most of the team Kupchak had put together.
If Jackson had been hired, however, that would have been the definition of a band-aid solution. It would have been team management saying, "The team isn't responding well to Brown. Quick! Call up the guy who's won a ton of championships for us!"
Instead, the right call was made and D'Antoni is now coach. In terms of how well he'll do with the roster he has, we'll just have to sit back and watch the magic happen.
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