Not long ago, the news broke that the Lakers were letting go of Mike Brown after just five games in the new 2012-2013 NBA season. This doesn’t really come as a big surprise to me, considering the constant scrutiny Brown has been under since being given the head coaching job last year. It seemed inevitable that Brown would not last very long in Los Angeles.
However, the Lakers’ bold move came well before things really had a chance to get going and got rid of the coach who had an acceptable 41-25 record last season. Not bad considering he was a new coach in a lockout shortened season.
But things got real ugly with surprising 7 game series in the first round with the Nuggets, and then on to an eventual second round exit to the Thunder which lasted only 5 games.
For Brown, it was all downhill from there. He would then lead the Lakers to a 0-8 preseason record and a 1-4 start to the regular season, which ultimately led to his firing.
However, I would have liked to see the Lakers make a lineup adjustment first, instead of just giving Brown the boot after just 5 games.
My solution before the firing would have been to simply make Steve Nash the full-time sixth man in order to help the offense of the second unit. Blake would have been fine as a starter, because let’s be honest. Players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard don’t really need the best play makers with them to get them looks, especially when it’s a Princeton offense that is big-man oriented. That way, the second unit gets a boost from Nash using his playmaking abilities, and the starters can still run the Princeton without Nash in order for them to take full advantage of their big men.
But, since all of that is useless now, the big question to consider now is whether or not the Lakers made the correct choice of coach. Although it’s not exactly a secret now, it’s hard for anyone to believe, especially myself that the Lakers would indeed reunite Steve Nash with his former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the pairing, it was Steve Nash who orchestrated the “7 seconds or less” offensive philosophy (which Mike D’Antoni created), to perfection.
But here’s the problem. I don’t think that D’Anonti and the Lakers is any better of a fit than Mike Brown was. In fact, it could even be a bigger mistake given that Mike Brown was at least supposed to be a defensive-minded coach.
Now, the Princeton offense Brown tried to incorporate was a terrible decision, given that he had one of the best playmakers in the game. But, going from a Princeton offense to a run-and-gun may just be a worse decision for the team. Now, I’m almost positive that the Lakers won’t run the exact same way they did in Phoenix, but, given the fact that it is Steve Nash (who excels in the open court), and it is Mike D’Antoni (who coaches fast-paced, high scoring teams), you would have to think it will be very similar to that.
That, in my opinion, is already a problem.
Moving on, here are the specific reasons why I don’t like the signing:
Success- Will it work with what they have?
Of course it could, but it’s hard to really tell if it will. The Lakers have one of the best playmakers in the game in Nash, one of the best, if not the best scorers in the game in Bryant, and the most athletic big man in the game in Howard.
But what about the other two Laker starters Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace? To me, it’s hard to see those two adjusting the up-tempo style of play all season long. Not to mention, the Lakers being one of the older teams in the league. They aren’t built the same way as the young Phoenix Suns were, or even the young Knicks were when D ‘Antoni took them over.
The Lakers certainly aren’t built to sprint up and down the court all game, all season long.
Steve Nash- Only 2-3 Years Left
Again, this is another reason why it shocks me to bring in D’Antoni. The team should be focused on its two franchise players in Kobe Bryant and, more importantly Dwight Howard and how to make them successful, not just on how to make Steve Nash successful. Dwight already left the Magic on bad terms because of how things were run in Orlando. It almost looks as if the Lakers are slowly beginning to make that same mistake.
It’s sad, but it’s also true. While it is still Kobe’s team as long as he’s around, this team needs to focus on Dwight Howard and do what it takes to make him happy. The future of the Lakers rides on Dwight Howard, and don’t forget, he still has the opportunity to take his talents elsewhere next season if he is not satisfied with how things are going in LA, because he hasn’t resigned with them just yet.
Who Else was Available?
Brian Shaw, Nate McMillan, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan. That was my list of coaches, in that order, for the Lakers.
The only reason I have Shaw as my first choice is because he should have been the coach of the Lakers all along. If you don’t remember, Brian Shaw was one of the final candidates to originally replace Phil Jackson before Mike Brown was given the position over him. What makes this significant is that Brian Shaw became upset and then ended up leaving the Lakers and became an assistant coach for the Pacers. Shaw, a long-time assistant of Phil Jackson, was also highly regarded by the players, and in particular, Kobe Bryant. He had the respect of his players, and also the championship experience needed to be the coach. This was a terrible mistake made by the Lakers to not hire Shaw in the first place, and may have cost themselves what could have been a very good NBA coach in the process.
Nate McMillan, also a defensive minded coach who saw some success as a coach of the Sonics, but even more so as the coach of the Trailblazers. Also, McMillan has a pretty nice career coaching record of 478-452 in only 12 seasons as a head coach. The only thing that worries me about Nate, is his lack of playoff success. He is a career 14-20 in the playoffs, and has never made it past the second round. However, he has coached and even developed some great players, such as Gary Payton, Rashard Lewis, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Nate was also an assistant coach of the Team USA which featured some of the current Lakers Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. So, he probably knows both pretty well. Coincidentally, he may also even become an assistant under D’Antoni.
Phil Jackson, the guy who everyone thought would become the Lakers coach once again, and even myself to be honest. You can’t deny that Jackson is one of the all time coaching greats with his impressive resume, and 11 championships. But, apparently his demands were too high and would not be 100% committed to the team due to health concerns. Yeah, I feel bad for Phil if his health issues were too much to take on the burden of being a full-time NBA head coach. But, honestly, if you’re going to be an NBA coach, especially for a team like the Lakers, you have to be fully committed to the job. No offence, but the Lakers may have made a good move on passing on the Zen Master if the rumours about the demands were true. If the rumours are false, which they very well could be, put Jackson at number two on the list.
Finally, there is Jerry Sloan. Who holds the record for the longest serving coach for a team in the history of the NBA. Sloan also boasts an impressive resume with over 1200 career wins and two NBA finals appearances. Yes, Sloan would have made for a good coach, and probably would be able to run some nice plays with a point guard like Nash and a finisher like Howard (remember Stockton and Malone?). Sloan would have been higher on my list except for how his coaching days in Utah took an unexpected ending. He couldn’t put up with Deron Williams any longer, and stepped down because of it. Now, as highly respected as Sloan is, I think it’s fair to say that there would be a much greater challenge in managing personalities in Los Angeles than there was in Utah. It probably wouldn’t even compare. But, if there was interest, he would have been a great choice.
Mike D’Antoni is surely no stranger to the playoffs. However, he is yet to coach a team all the way to the NBA finals let alone actually winning a ring. So, other than the couple of playoffs runs that the Suns made after acquiring Steve Nash, D’Antoni’s playoff record really isn’t all that impressive when compared to Sloan and Jackson. But in all fairness, not many coaches look good in comparison to those two, so I can’t hold that against him. A career 26-29 playoff record, and as mentioned, no championship, or NBA finals appearances. However, a coach’s playoff record and experience is important when looking at a team like the Lakers. Which then brings me to my very last point…
Can it Achieve Playoff Success
Playoff success, as well as championships are the most important thing for any team. Teams that do not defend well do not win championships especially in the NBA. This is a big reason why Mike D’Antoni’s teams look great in the regular season, but struggle when it comes to the playoffs.
Playoffs are a whole different ball game. There’s a slower pace to the game, better teams to play against, and a lot more pressure to hit shots. You can’t rely solely on hitting open jump shots and layups in the playoffs against the best of the best, which are almost always good defensive teams. You can’t.
Now, I could still see the Lakers getting as far as the conference finals, or even the NBA finals if they get lucky. But the last thing you want to do is get into a running game with the Thunder or the Heat. If the Lakers play a running game with the Heat, the Heat will win. If you look at my NBA Season Preview, I have the Lakers beating the Heat. But, that all changes now because run and gun offense will not beat the Heat.
While the Lakers do still have the best defending big man in the league, you need a good defense to stand a chance when it matters, in the playoffs. As a whole, it’s hard to see the Lakers becoming anything close to a good defensive team under D’Antoni no matter who their assistants are. While they will probably be a fun team to watch offensively, I would never bet on a bad defensive team to win. Ever.
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All in all, I think the Lakers should have hired a defensive coach in the first place, and, as I mentioned earlier, have Steve Nash run the second unit and late game situations.
Bottom line, defense wins championships. L.A. should know that.
So, in conclusion, I say no. I don’t think the Lakers will achieve championship success under D’Antoni.