I recently wrote an article on how Lakers fans were stuck with Mike D’Antoni, and how we as fans might as well embrace him and see how far he can take the team in a restructuring period.
Naturally, I took some heat for it (although surprisingly, many fans were actually receptive to it).
However, now with the addition of Kurt Rambis to D’Antoni’s staff, perhaps that stance will lighten, or fans will at least experience some level of comfort knowing one key member of the Lakers’ 2009 championship coaching staff is back on the sidelines (Rambis left to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves the following season).
Rambis, who had often been critical of Mike D’Antoni’s system–or lack thereof–will likely be there for one reason: Defense.
Rambis strongly favors an intricate offense such as the Triangle, but much as he was a defensive player in his playing days, he’s a defensive coach in his coaching days.
After the 2008 NBA Finals, in which the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics, Rambis was appointed by Phil Jackson as the defensive coordinator and implemented some zone schemes.
Now, although the Lakers’ opponents’ field goal percentage in 2008 (.445) was already good (ranked 6th in the league) and stayed relatively the same in 2009 (ranked 6th again at .447), opponents’ points per game dropped from 101.3 (19th) in 2008 to 99.3 (13th) in 2009.
That may still not seem like a huge leap, but the improved defensive strategy marginally helped the Lakers in the playoffs, leading them to their first championship under the new Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol era, which has netted them two championships.
How much so?
Although the regular season numbers were similar, in the postseason, the Lakers’ opponents’ field goal percentage dropped from 43.6 (6th) in 2008 to 42.9 (2nd) in 2009.
More significantly, opponents’ points per game went from 100.2 (12th) all the way down to 95.2 (8th).
Obviously, the health of Trevor Ariza and relative health of Andrew Bynum played important parts in the 2009 playoffs as opposed to the run in 2008, but Rambis’ new defensive schemes certainly helped out quite a bit.
At the very least, fans can be certain that under the tutelage of Kurt Rambis, the Lakers should be paying more attention to defense in the coming season.
Some will be hoping that should D’Antoni be fired, Rambis would be the replacement, which is certainly a feasible option and could be a solid backup plan.
I personally want to give D’Antoni’s offensive system another shot, but am plenty more comfortable with the defensive side of things now that Clark Kent is back with the Lakers.
Lakers hire Kurt Rambis and Johnny Davis to the coaching staff. Be sure to subscribe to our Lakers Nation YouTube channel by clicking here!