Contrary to the expectations of an offensive eruption, the Mike D'Antoni era has started rather quietly for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team has a 2-3 record and is averaging just 96.4 points scored per game since the coaching change was made.
The question is, why didn't Mike Brown get to blame the Lakers strife on Steve Nash's injury?
Nash has been sidelined since Oct. 31 with a small fracture in his left fibula (via ESPN Los Angeles). In turn, he missed three games under Brown and has missed all five games since D'Antoni's been at the helm.
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, Nash has begun drills with strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco. Even still, the duration of his absence has still yet to be defined.
So what's the difference between Brown coaching without Nash and D'Antoni doing the same?
The underreported truth of the matter is, Brown and D'Antoni are none too different. The Lakers started 1-4 under the former, averaged 97.2 points per game and failed to display any signs of progression in the Princeton offense.
Although the Lakers have recorded one more victory under D'Antoni than they did under Brown, the team has not looked any better since the change; instead the Lakers appear weaker, especially on the offensive end, as Kobe Bryant carries an otherwise lost unit.
For proof, try this. The Lakers scored at least 100 points on two separate occasions in five games under Brown. They've reached that plateau just once under D'Antoni.
Even still, D'Antoni is stating that he needs time and the return of Nash for the offense to flourish. The same claims that coach Brown could have made.
D'Antoni on O: "In the short while, our offense is anemic now. It’s not very good. The ball doesn't move." Counting on time & Nash/Blake.—Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 29, 2012
With all of this being established, the fact remains that D'Antoni has a longer leash than coach Brown.
Complexity, Not Inadequacy
When Mike Brown was fired as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, uninformed minds may have believed that he was incapable of leading the team. The truth of the matter is, Brown is one of the brightest minds in the league.
He just so happens to be a proponent of one of the most complex offensive systems in all of basketball.
There is fair reason to believe that current head coach Mike D'Antoni's system will not fit the Lakers' current personnel. After all, his up-tempo scheme takes a toll on aging legs, and forces elite post-up players out of their element.
That has nothing to do with learning the X's and O's, however; it is simply a matter of giving it time to see how the Lakers legs hold up. Although dangerous, there is far less room for failure for D'Antoni's Lakers than Brown's.
Had the Lakers committed to Brown's system and discovered it was not working, they'd have committed a substantial amount of time to a series of complex schematics—schematics that would either lead the Lakers to the promised land or dig them an inescapable hole.
D'Antoni may not be the best coach for this team, but he may be worth the wait due to Nash's familiarity with his system. Which brings us to the next point.
Had Steve Nash returned from injury to play under Mike Brown, who is to say that the 38-year-old would have been able to learn what his veteran teammates had not? Truth be told, even Nash's elite offensive mind wasn't guaranteed to catch on to the Princeton offense in time to save the Lakers season.
Which is why the firing was executed.
Whether or not Nash can handle the taxing physical nature of Mike D'Antoni's system has yet to be seen. After all, Nash is five years removed from the last time he played under coach D'Antoni and is recovering from a small fracture in his left leg.
With that being said, there is a distinct advantage in Nash returning to D'Antoni as opposed to Brown: Familiarity.
Nash and D'Antoni previously combined to lead the Phoenix Suns to two Western Conference Finals appearances. The duo also helped the Suns finish atop the league in terms of points per game from 2005 to 2007.
In other words, there is the potential for offensive brilliance in Los Angeles under D'Antoni. Potential that could be met by reuniting a coach and his former point guard.
Brown, meanwhile, was living on a dream that had not yet been discovered. Even if there was upside for an NBA championship, the risk was far greater with Brown than it is with D'Antoni.
Which is the primary reason D'Antoni is being granted such patience.