Mike D'Antoni's System Can't Hide Los Angeles Lakers' True Colors

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIINovember 28, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers before the game against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on November 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

When the Los Angeles Lakers hired offensive guru Mike D'Antoni as head coach, there was a divide in terms of expected results. Whether it was optimism over his offensive productivity or concern over his defensive ineptitude, D'Antoni built quite the polarizing reputation before he had even stepped on to the floor.

Five games in, we've already learned that D'Antoni's system cannot hide the Lakers' true colors.

The most recent debacle in Los Angeles featured the Lakers losing 79-77 to the Indiana Pacers. Despite battling the flu, Kobe Bryant finished with 40 points, outscoring his teammates' combined total by three.

Seventy-seven points is certainly a long way from the goal of "110-to-115 per game" that D'Antoni outlined (via Los Angeles Times). Disappointingly, this is actually the fourth time in five games that the Lakers have failed to score 100.

Are there changes to be made?

With elite offensive forces in Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, the upside is there for brilliance. Paired with a sharpshooter in Jodie Meeks, an all-around offensive threat in Antawn Jamison and an occasional weapon in Metta World Peace, that potential grows larger.

The issue is, the system and personnel are both preventing the Lakers from rising above .500. Who thought we'd say that?

According to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Lakers assistant Dan D'Antoni believes that it is simply a matter of time before the Lakers see their desired results. The older D'Antoni claims that the team simply needs a "buildup." 

If they give us a buildup and have a chance to get it in and it doesn't work, well, that's the nature of the business.

We're not going to go out and read Shakespeare when we can't read yet. It's going to take a while. But we think running provides a good way toward winning a championship and an entertaining way to get there.

Can the Lakers truly afford to wait "a while?"

D'Antoni may have said all of the right things but there is no way around how poorly this team is performing. Worst of all, the Lakers are not progressing.

Just as they failed to do with Mike Brown at the helm.

According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak cited that lack of improvement as the reason Brown was fired. For that reason, we must ask the following:

If D'Antoni's system is failing just as poorly, why the newfound patience?


Shooting the Three

Many fans will refer to the rare occasion in which the Los Angeles Lakers will shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. Some will refer to the 6-of-28 performance from distance against Indiana as a sign of things to come.

The clear truth of the matter, however, cannot be found in recent performances. You must do a historical breakdown of the personnel the Lakers possess.

This team is made up of average three-point shooters. Bryant has three-point percentage of 33.8, and Metta World Peace sits at 34.3.

Jodie Meeks has shot a solid 37.0 percent on 3.7 attempts per game for his , while Steve Nash sits at a spectacular 42.8 percent. The question is, do the Lakers want to trust a reserve and their point guard as the No. 1 source of your top form of offense?

Chances are, the results won't be as desired. So what makes D'Antoni believe that it's rational to flirt with 20 to 30 three-point field goals per game?

This isn't Joe Johnson and the Phoenix Suns, Coach.

The Lakers have virtually the same personnel as a year ago in terms of shooting the basketball. Only their point guard and shooting guard have changed their current scenery.

And for those who don't know their 2011-12 numbers, they shot 32.6 percent from beyond the arc.


Pau Gasol: More Than the System

Pau Gasol is not meant to flourish in coach Mike D'Antoni's system. I've outlined this time and time again and feel a part of my basketball soul withering every time I have to repeat the phrase, "Gasol is not meant to play as a pocket shooter."

Seems rather self-explanatory, does it not?

With that being said, this isn't just about the system. Gasol is playing absolutely horrendous basketball.

In five games under D'Antoni, Gasol is averaging 10.8 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting from the floor. Prior to D'Antoni's arrival, Gasol had only been averaging 14.3 points on 43.6 percent shooting.

Time for a change? 

I'm not one to speculate one's future with an NBA franchise, as trading a player is often an improper measure midseason. With that being said, this is the third consecutive season in which the Lakers have had an issue with Gasol's level of aggression and production.

Even Bryant recently accused Gasol of "coasting and laboring" (via the Los Angeles Daily News):

Pau is used to laboring up the floor and coasting a little bit. In this offense, we have to put the motor on the first few steps we move up the court.

Gasol lacks the lateral quickness necessary to defend the power forward position at this stage of his career. He is a natural center and is being exposed defensively time and time again.

Unless the Lakers plan on moving Howard, the only option is to deal Gasol or restructure their rotation.

Gasol remains an elite post-up player whose scoring, rebounding and facilitating abilities from the low-block make him a lethal weapon. Gasol simply does not fit within the Lakers' current system under D'Antoni.

Keep in mind, Gasol has averaged 12.8 points per game over his past two NBA postseason appearances. He appears to be the wrong player for L.A. at power forward, in general.

A great player in the wrong situation.


Working on Free Throws?

Is anyone else wondering when the Lakers are going to commit to improving their free-throw shooting?

It's one thing to struggle from the line and miss a few here and there. The issue with the Lakers is beyond makes and misses, however, as it has become an expectation that they will fail to convert from the line.

Against the Indiana Pacers on November 27, the Lakers shot 23-of-43 from the free-throw line. They shot 23-of-34 one game prior and entered the game against Indiana shooting 68.1 percent from the charity stripe.

That's a number that has them at second-worst in the NBA.

Quite shocking considering Bryant is shooting 87.1 percent on his own.

The Lakers must put a greater emphasis on free-throw shooting from here on out.


The Issue of Age

The No. 1 issue surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers' personnel being able to mesh with D'Antoni's system is age. This comes by virtue of the Lakers having four starters and their sixth man over the age of 32.

That includes the 38-year-old Nash.

With that being said, L.A. assistant coach Dan D'Antoni is well aware of the concerns surrounding the age of his team and does not believe for an instant that the Lakers' age will play a role in their pursuit of a title:

If you're too old to play in this league, you probably ought to get out of the league. If they take care of themselves and coach watches their minutes a little bit, they should be in condition to run.

If you have fast players, they'll be faster. If you have slower players, it will be a little slower. But it will still be effective.

Working off of the Lakers' age, we reach the overwhelming concern over the team's conditioning. Due to their age and a history of minor-to-major injuries with their players, it's not hard to see why.

The Lakers coaching staff, however, is once again unconcerned. Dan D'Antoni said:

They just have to play hard. If they play hard, they'll get conditioned. It is a difference. They were conditioned, but the game they played involved a lot of pounding. They have a lot of physical conditioning. But this system flips it where it's more of a cardio thing.

A lot of it is mental. Usually in basketball, it's not who's the fastest. It's who starts first.

Just to be clear, it isn't who starts first. It's who has enough left in the tank to close out games.

If you've watched a single game under Coach D'Antoni, you know that the Lakers haven't had enough left in them on either end of the floor. George Hill's buzzer-beating layup on November 27 is the latest example of such.

Until the Lakers find a way to have their legs under them come the fourth quarter, these issues will continue to hinder them against every caliber opponent.


Helpless without Kobe

Speaking of Kobe Bryant, it can't be stressed enough how helpless the Lakers are without him. Forget about the elite individual play and refer to the numbers which the team is posting with and without him.

Here's a breakdown.

Entering the game against Indiana, the Lakers had been averaging 106.5 points per 48 minutes with Bryant on the floor. With Bryant on the bench, however, the Lakers are averaging 82.3.

When Bryant is on the floor, the Lakers are shooting 49.6 percent from the field. When he is not, they are shooting 35.8.

With Kobe their true shooting percentage is 58.2. Without him it is 36.5.

Want some more? There are enough numbers to go around..

With Kobe, the Lakers are shooting 66.3 percent in the restricted area, 34.5 percent in the paint, 43.2 percent from mid-range and 39.3 percent from beyond the arc.

With him on the bench, however, they're shooting 47.1 percent in the restricted area, 21.9 percent in the paint, 29.2 percent from mid-range and 34.1 percent from distance.

As for the complaints about Kobe's disturbingly high turnover numbers, the Lakers are averaging 16.1 turnovers per 48 minutes with him on the floor. That number rises to 19.7 when he is not. 

If those numbers don't blow you away, you'll need to get your head checked. You'll also need to wonder if there is anyone else on the roster worth speaking about, which shouldn't be a rational thought considering the talent available.

This is, arguably, the most frustrating display of basketball in the history of the Lakers franchise. L.A. has one of the most immensely talented teams in the recent history of the league, yet plays as if it's a bottom-feeder.

Plain and simple, a massive overhaul is needed in Los Angeles. The sooner Mitch Kupchak and company realizes this, the sooner the Lakers will reach the level expected of them.


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