There has been much talk, especially over the past week, of the pick-and-roll game between Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. When Nash and Howard were acquired, many believe that the pick-and-roll game between these two would be one of the most lethal of the Lakers’ offensive weapons simply because of Nash and Howard’s success with the pick-and-roll individually throughout their careers.
Whether it is because of not sharing the court for enough time due to injuries, miscommunication or the reluctance to utilize the pick-and-roll, it has been unsuccessful between Nash and Howard for the majority of the season. Lakers’ assistant coach Dan D’Antoni offered an explanation of the pick-and-roll issue recently to Mike Trudell.
D’Antoni was asked how Nash and Howard think and execute the pick-and-roll differently. He replied:
“Dwight was taught to pick, roll to the basket, seal and get the ball. He wasn’t pick, get the ball and then move. Steve is used to coming off the initial pick and delivering the ball without waiting on the seal. It’s a combination that takes time. Steve was hurt a good part of the year and there hasn’t been a lot of practice time. It’s a process for that feeling out to begin. I think it can happen. Now, if they allow outside pressures that you always hear to hurt the process of learning together and growing together, it could be trouble. If they can exclude that, understand that it is a process, then they have a chance.”
When asked why opponents are having so much success at disrupting the pick-and-for game for the Lakers, D’Antoni said:
“As Nash gets off that initial pick, defenses start to catch up. There’s a quick gap – a little bit off of him, a little off the roll guy early – and then as you get deeper, the floor starts closing down. For a smaller guy, that’s more difficult. Steve is still really good, but when you get rid of the ball earlier, you force rotations faster, which means the other passes are easier, too. When you wait, opponents stay out knowing you won’t get that little easy one, so they cut down on these passes out. Now he has two more dribbles down and they start reducing the floor and it’s stopped.”
D’Antoni was then asked how can Howard change his role in the pick-and-roll in order to have success with Nash. He offered:
“In the middle of the floor, you have to be agile, you have to start doing face-to-the-basket skills as opposed to back-to-the-basket skills. Amare (Stoudemire) was much better facing the basket, but Dwight (Howard) is a lot better with his back to the basket. I wouldn’t limit Dwight to that. A lot of people want to say: ‘Leave him the way he is.’ No, I think he can grow and I think he’s better than that. It takes times; it’s a process. He’s working on it every day. The coaches are working with him and I think he’ll get it. It’s just a process. It doesn’t happen tomorrow.”
The hopeful news is that the pick-and-roll had much better success on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns. The pick-and-roll, when run properly, can be a critical offensive set for the Lakers in order to ensure that their offense doesn’t become stagnate or predictable. The key is to have everyone on the same page.