Now that the Los Angeles Lakers have entered the Mike D'Antoni era, expect some interesting changes to an offense that's been particularly stagnant and without structure the past couple of seasons.
Unlike former Mike Brown, whose era abruptly ended five games into his first full season as the Lakers' head coach, D'Antoni will stress offense and an up-tempo game that the Buss family hopes will make fans forget about its decision to not bring Phil Jackson back into the fold.
Whether the older Lakers can maintain such a blistering pace in D'Antoni's system remains to be seen, but the team most likely will try utilizing its bench more in order to have fresher legs.
The Lakers may even consider the bold move of starting Antawn Jamison at a forward position and have Pau Gasol come off the bench. The 6'9", 235-pound Jamison, who won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award while a member of the Dallas Mavericks, has averaged over 19 points per game for his career and is used to a quicker pace.
Jamison has started slow as a backup for the Lakers and looks a bit lost in the team's half-court offense. An opportunity to be a wing and a cutter for Steve Nash and the D'Antoni seven-second offense could provide some excellent early game dividends for the Lakers. He's a good shooter who has a "quick release off the catch," according to ESPN.com's John Hollinger.
Gasol would still be worked into the regular rotation, perhaps coming onto the floor around the four- or five-minute mark of the first period. Jamison isn't much of a defender, so the real purpose of him starting in D'Antoni's offense is to get the team off to a fast start.
Gasol would still be a 35-minute-per-game player for the Lakers (his career average is 36 minutes) but a move like this would get scorers like Jamison into the flow much earlier, giving the team balance and providing rest for other players.
At $19 million per year, Pau Gasol could be the league's highest paid bench player should D'Antoni make such a move. But having that extra speed could make all the difference in getting off to a fast start.
I think the faster tempo will be good for us...We've got a lot of older guys. We've got to all get in shape. I think once we all get in better shape and get into the pace of the game...that's keeping all our hopes very high, because we know we're not where we need to be right now. The young guys are really pushing the older guys in practice. Once we get some chemistry going, it's going to be hard to stop us.
Gasol may be the slowest of the Laker starters and could be ripe for a trade, especially when you consider that D'Antoni's philosophy is built around quickness. Still the 7-foot Spaniard, who has been a part of two championship teams in Los Angeles, is looking forward to the challenge of playing in such a system.
Gasol told Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times that he and Howard are quick enough to make it work: "We'll have to adjust. We both are versatile bigs and pretty mobile. We can run the floor...and get early post positions."
Unless or until Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak makes a trade for faster, athletic wing players—can you say Josh Smith—then his new coach will have to work with the current roster and find a way to make it work.
Rotating more players into the system over the course of a game gives the Lakers an opportunity to exploit teams with Steve Nash controlling the flow. Players like Jamison, Jordan Hill and Devan Ebanks should see more playing time under D'Antoni.
Any of those three could start a game in place of Gasol and should give the Lakers a lot of fast-break opportunities early.
Whether Gasol remains with the team long term is a whole other story, one that will play out over the coming weeks and months.
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