Los Angeles Lakers on Brink of Crisis Only Phil Jackson Could Fix

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIINovember 24, 2012

EL SEGUNDO, CA - MAY 11:  Former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson during a news conference at the Lakers training facility on May 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers were swept out of their best of seven series with the Dallas Mavericks four games to none. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Thus far in Los Angeles, the Mike D'Antoni era has been just as underwhelming as that of Mike Brown. The Lakers are 1-2 and their vaunted up-tempo offense has produced a mere 96.7 points per game.

In turn, the Los Angeles Lakers are on the brink of a crisis that only Phil Jackson could fix.

Coach D'Antoni entered this situation with nothing short of extraordinary expectations. With the Los Angeles Lakers, anything short of winning an NBA championship will be considered failure.

So far, not so good.

The latest chapter in this D'Antoni book has seen the Lakers lose 106-98 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Although the final score suggests that this was an even game, the Lakers were dominated on both sides of the ball.

The final score simply suggests that the Lakers closed the gap. Unfortunately, they did so when it was too late and now fall to 0-4 on the road.

Frustrations are now beginning to boil over.

Lakers lose 106-98 to Memphis. Kobe Bryant walks off the court before the game was over

— Mark Medina (@MedinaLakersNBA) November 24, 2012

So what will it take to get Phil Jackson on the sideline?

Many supporters of the Los Angeles Lakers will believe in their front office, regardless of what decision may be made. While that is an admirable feature of a diehard fan, it can blind them from seeing an undeniable truth.

Every organization makes mistakes. Even the the Lakers.

L.A.'s mistake was to confuse Phil Jackson's complex system with one that the team cannot comprehend. Especially when Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace are all so familiar with it.

But I digress.

Same Issue as a Year Ago

The NBA has long been a league of short-term memory. This new level of amnesia, however, is absolutely outrageous.

And it rests directly on the shoulders of the Lakers front office.

When the 2011-12 NBA season concluded, the No. 1 complaint surrounding the Lakers was that Pau Gasol was not getting shots that were close to the basket. Instead, he was being handed the ball from mid-range.

Apparently Mike D'Antoni hasn't learned a thing from past failures.

Pau Gasol tells @ramonashelburne "all of my looks are jump shots, I would like to see something closer to the basket."

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 24, 2012

Kobe on Pau's asking for more touches in the post: "If he feels like he needs to get more touches down there, then we'll get him some more.

— ramonashelburne (@ramonashelburne) November 24, 2012

Sounds familiar, does it not?

Gasol is one of the most skilled players in the history of the power forward position. He can pass out of the post, score with both hands and is solid from mid-range.

So why neutralize that versatility and focus in on just one aspect of his game? As has been outlined time and time again, that is exactly what coach D'Antoni's system does.

D'Antoni positions the power forward in the pocket and keeps them far from the basket. Exactly where Gasol was supposed to be moved from and flashed into the post.

If coach D'Antoni is unable to achieve said feat, do the right thing and find a head coach who will.

Progress Nowhere to Be Found—Again

I rarely condone questioning the progress of an NBA franchise through three games. Even the bottom-feeders develop at some point, which is exactly why they've made it to the NBA to begin with.

When a team has had their spirits crushed, however, progress becomes a wildcard. Which is exactly what we saw with the Lakers under coach Mike Brown.

According to Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak cited a lack of desired results as the reason Brown was fired. That and a lack of improvement over time.

"Today we relieved Mike Brown of his head coaching duties," Kupchak said. "Mike's a good man, very hard working, maybe one of the hardest-working coaches that I've ever been around. The bottom line is that the team was not winning at the pace that we expected this team to win and we didn't see improvement."

So where's the improvement here? Two consecutive losses and three games without reaching 100 points show there is none.

If the Lakers continue to struggle, what is the reason behind believing in D'Antoni? Claiming it's worth the wait due to Nash's eventual return suggests that this team can afford to suffer from any period of time with lackluster results.

Keep in mind, Nash cannot yet jog on his road to recovery from a fractured fibula (via ESPN Los Angeles).

Solid System, Wrong Personnel Part I

If the Los Angeles Lakers want Mike D'Antoni to be their head coach, there are three routes that they can take. Accept that there is a ceiling on what their present personnel is capable of achieving or make the move to trade their players for those who fit this system.

Oh, did I say three? That's because the last option is to fire D'Antoni in favor of Phil Jackson.

Many will claim that D'Antoni and Steve Nash will lead this team to the promise land. What those supporters appear to forget, however, is that D'Antoni and Nash have always had athletically gifted players surrounding them.

The likes of Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Shannon Brown and other young players who can run the floor with ease.

The Lakers, meanwhile, are made up of 34-year-old Kobe Bryant, 33-year-old Metta World Peace, 32-year-old Pau Gasol and 36-year-old Antawn Jamison. In case you aren't getting the picture, these aren't the type of players meant to flourish in a D'Antoni system.

They may be more talented than the Suns of old, but they are far less athletic. In other words, they cannot function in the D'Antoni system.

Even if Gasol's conditioning is in question, do you truly believe that abandoning the best paper frontcourt in the NBA is worth placating coach D'Antoni (via Los Angeles Daily News)?

Solid System, Wrong Personnel Part II

Beyond the deciding issue of athleticism, there are limitless reasons as to why coach D'Antoni's system does not fit the Los Angeles Lakers' current crop of players.

No matter how well Steve Nash and Dwight Howard could potentially flourish in this system, a team is about much more than two players. It's about finding balance between four elite weapons and a fifth defensive standout.

By design, D'Antoni's system will pocket Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant and place Steve Nash and Metta World Peace on the wings. Although a reserve such as Jodie Meeks would thrive in Bryant's position, you simply cannot condone bottling up a player of Kobe's caliber.

You must allow him to move in predetermined motion every time down, as a system such as the Triangle Offense would. Not just on occasion as D'Antoni's system does.

Furthermore, D'Antoni is creating an ill fate by forcing this Lakers team to live and die by the three-point shot.

While some will cite their recent efficiency with the three-ball, it goes beyond a matter of statistical production. Instead, it is about developing a flow in your offense that does not create the opportunity for dry spells.

They must run their offense from the inside-out, dumping it down low and allowing Gasol and Howard to collapse an opposing defense.

In turn, the Lakers' perimeter players will be able to work their way into crevices and either slash or shoot. If they continue to go in a different direction, all that will occur is a replication of the same underwhelming results we are presently witnessing.

Which is exactly why Jackson is the only man who can save the Lakers from coach D'Antoni.


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