Kobe Bryant Might Win His 2nd MVP Award but D'Antoni's Lakers Are Not Contenders
New Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni spoke of his desire to bring Showtime back to Los Angeles during his introductory news conference, and privately he told players that the team should be scoring 110 points per game.
I'm sure Lakers fans are excited about the offensive potential of the team under D'Antoni. The fact that Steve Nash is one of his true believers and that D'Antoni has apparently already bonded with Kobe Bryant certainly diminshes the pain of failing to sign Phil Jackson for a third time.
Right now Bryant's 26 points per game are tied for the league lead and he is currently the only guard in the NBA who ranks in the top 20 in field goal percentage.
It's reasonable to think that Bryant's scoring numbers will increase under D'Antoni even if his efficiency suffers due to the assumed focus on the Nash and Howard pick-and-roll option.
If Bryant can continue to shoot 50 percent from the field and the Lakers begin to win games under D'Antoni, there is a chance that Bryant can barge his way into the NBA's MVP discussion, but would he be further away from his sixth NBA title?
There was plenty of talk about the Lakers offense under D'Antoni but no one seemed that inclined to discuss defense. And when it was mentioned, Bryant's casual dismissal of the concept echoed D'Antoni's approach for most of his career.
"He said we should be scoring 110 points a game, or something like that," said Bryant, who isn't worried about how the veteran Lakers will play defense. "How many defensive players do you need on one team? At some point, you just throw the ball out there and let us figure things out on our own, which is really what we do best, and that's what we're going to do."
Of course Bryant is correct, and the veteran Lakers are very capable of scoring 110-115 points per game, but eventually they will have to stop someone on defense. So far the Lakers' defensive strategy seems to begin and end with Dwight Howard.
And that's assuming Howard eventually returns to 100 percent of the player he was before being injured.
Unfortunately, wishing Howard a speedy recovery is a poor strategy for defense, but what more can you expect from a coach who has ignored the concept during his career?
D'Antoni's vision for the Lakers is good for Nash, Gasol and Howard on the offensive end, and it could be great for Bryant, but do you really believe it will ultimately be Finals' worthy for the Lakers?
Does it really matter if the Lakers average 115 points per game, and Bryant shoots more than 50 percent from the field, if the opposition averages 120?
Throwing the ball out and hoping for the best is no way to build a strong defense, and after Bryant makes a valiant case for his second NBA MVP Award the Lakers will finally understand the benefits of a good defense once they lose to one in the 2013 postseason.
D'Antoni's style has never worked in the playoffs and there is no reason to believe that it will work now, regardless of who is on the roster.
The Lakers offense will score plenty of points and they will be one of the most exciting teams in the NBA, but flash with no substance will never survive in Los Angeles, unless you are the Clippers.
I would love to see a resurrection of the Showtime Lakers, but in order to make that comparison D'Antoni will have to prove that his team that is ready to win right now can really win right now.
D'Antoni has proven that he can mold league MVPs, and Bryant could possibly affirm that opinion this season.
Lakers fans would certainly applaud a 34-year-old Bryant prevailing in a MVP contest against the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, but it would be much sweeter if that award was of the Finals' variety.
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