Mike D'Antoni is not Phil Jackson. But he is no slouch, either. From the short-term look of it, anyone not named Mike Brown at the helm is a plus for the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the talent the Los Angeles Lakers have, D'Antoni, who is known for his up-tempo style, will be able to feature plenty of interesting combinations to play numerous styles of basketball.
Not just shoot in seven seconds or less.
Expect him to feature Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant heavily early on, as he is familiar with the three of them having coached them all at one point. Well, there's that reason, and the fact that they are his best players.
Jordan Hill and, dare I say, Chris Duhon may become bigger factors as well based off their prior working experience with D'Antoni.
D'Antoni has a unique roster he can use to mix things up. Here is how he might utilize his new lineups.
When both are fully healthy, Nash and Howard will have a field day with this.
With those two paired with Bryant, Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks, the Lakers will have a surplus of options. With Nash receiving a pick from Howard, the biggest problem he will have is deciding exactly who he wants to set up to score.
He can simply drive to the hoop for himself, hit a cutting Howard or penetrate and dish to an open three-point shooter, such as Kobe Bryant or, preferably, Jodie Meeks, who deserves a fair look with Metta World Peace not exactly lighting it up from outside.
Then there is Gasol. He might have the most trouble getting adjusted to D'Antoni. Brown couldn't figure out how to use him in over a year, so it may take both Gasol and D'Antoni some time to figure things out. However, Gasol is terrific in the high post, where he can use his solid passing skills or to hit the 15-footer all day.
Having Gasol set up on the high post while Howard sets a screen for Nash creates yet another elite option in their pick-and-roll offense.
Get back to the Showtime Lakers!
Nash, Bryant, Meeks, Jordan Hill and Howard will not look like D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns. This group is older and slower. But they can be smarter.
This is where Nash thrives. It was only a few games, but he did not look right under Mike Brown. Well, no one did, but Nash looked especially restricted. Putting Nash with Bryant in the backcourt is a no-brainer. Meeks can be inserted at small forward. He should get a big boost in this offense, as he is terrific shooting in transition.
Howard and Hill can really run and both can finish strong at the hoop. This group will not get up and down the floor at a frantic pace, but they will look to run in efforts for an easy hoop. Or to take advantage of any mismatch created in transition.
Howard is still hobbled from offseason back surgery, but once he gets his legs back, he will return to being one of the most athletic big men in NBA history and will thrive in an up-tempo style.
Bryant can be used if the fast break stalls. There they can just hand the ball to one of the best offensive players of all time and let him create out of a stalled offense.
Just give Bryant the ball and get out of the way.
Insert Howard and Gasol in the post with shooters on the wing and put the ball in Bryant's hands.
Sometimes D'Antoni will just have to let the Black Mamba create the offense. It's early, but Bryant is having the most efficient stat lines of his career. D'Antoni should see where this is headed and let Kobe do his thing.
If he doesn't look to score, he has Gasol and Howard to dump it to down low. Or he can set up Meeks, Nash, World Peace or whomever else for an open three. Bryant looks more willing this year than ever to pass the ball; this is a terrific time to let him do his thing.
Bryant is on pace for a career season, so D'Antoni should see where that leads without any restrictions.
Defense is not D'Antoni's forte, but with Howard in the game, he can feature an elite defensive unit. A lineup consisting of Howard, Gasol, Metta World Peace, Bryant and Darius Morris will give the D'Antoni the best defensive lineup of his NBA career.
With Bryant and Gasol on the floor, there will be plenty of offense on the other end. Morris is the best of bad defensive options at point guard, but with everyone else on the floor, it won't matter much.
Howard alone can make any team strong defensively, and now that he can be paired with Bryant, World Peace and Gasol (who also has the ability to blocks shots), this Lakers lineup can match up defensively with any offense in the Western Conference.
With the age of the Lakers' starters, D'Antoni should be limiting the starters' minutes as best he can.
His seven-seconds-or-less offense utilizing the bench can work for a small period of time.
D'Antoni can use his one-time hand-selected point guard in Duhon to run this unit. It worked before, why not try it in a limited capacity three years later? If he can't cut it, Morris has shown that he is fully capable of handling the second unit.
Meeks can be used at shooting guard, where he excels in transition shooting. Earl Clark could thrive in limited action at small forward. Most of his positives are that he can get up and down the floor and to the rim. Let him try that. He would bring some defense, too.
This is where Antawn Jamison can be best used—at power forward as a fall-back option if things stall. He can figure out ways to score if things happen to slow down. Hill would also thrive in a fast-paced offense. He can get up and down the floor, rebound and finish.
The defense is very much in question here, but if D'Antoni can get enough offense out of this lineup to get away with playing them for eight to 10 minutes a game, it will go a long way in limiting minutes for the starters to be well rested for playoff time.