All indications pointed to Phil Jackson returning to the Los Angeles Lakers for a third time in 13 years. Everyone seemed to be on board with Phil coming back to LA to turn around this team filled with superstars.
It was a foregone conclusion. A matter of time. A done deal!
Not so fast.
After all the talk of Phil’s triumphant return to the Lakers’ sideline with the old coaching staff coming together with the Triangle offense ready to be implemented once again in Los Angeles, the front office led by Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss chose to go with Mike D’Antoni.
All the excitement and anticipation surrounding the 11-time NBA champion saving the day for a third time vanished as quickly as it arrived.
A new era of Lakers’ basketball is born. D’Antoni has signed a three-year deal with the team and will bring his unique style to the table.
A familiar face for Steve Nash with five years together with the Phoenix Suns. Nash won two NBA MVPs under D’Antoni with the Suns before the head coach agreed to a deal with the New York Knicks back in 2008. D’Antoni coached in New York for three and half seasons before resigning in March of 2012.
Along with Nash’s history with D’Antoni, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard also have history with D’Antoni during their time with Team USA.
In 10 NBA seasons, D’Antoni has coached 727 games during stints with the Denver Nuggets, Suns and Knicks. The win-loss record isn’t as impressive as Mike Brown (314-167) and nowhere near Phil Jackson (1,155-485), but it’s above .500 with 388 wins and 339 losses (.533).
Although D’Antoni doesn’t have the accolades of Jackson or even Brown, the 61-year-old might be the missing piece to the championship puzzle in Los Angeles. D’Antoni is known for his run-and-gun offense or “Seven Seconds or Less” with a strong emphasis of scoring as fast as possible every single time down the floor.
The fast-paced offense was a staple of the Suns with Nash running the point. Phoenix lit up the scoreboards on a nightly basis as a result. Although the defense suffered and was never a strong point for any of D’Antoni’s squads in the past, offense was never a problem in Phoenix with teams always finding it incredibly difficult to keep up with Nash and company.
D’Antoni’s goal was keep opposing defenses on their heels on a nightly basis. With Nash at the helm, the Suns were successful at doing just that while keeping the rebuilding Lakers at bay in the Pacific division.
With Nash, Howard, Kobe and Pau Gasol, D’Antoni has the tools at his disposal to implement his patented offense in Los Angeles. The age factor might come into play with only Howard (26) under the age of 32 in the starting lineup, but there’s a very good chance D’Antoni can turn this team around with his style of play in order to put the Lakers’ offensive woes far behind them.
The only major concern with bringing in D’Antoni is on the defensive end of the floor. Defense was always the Achilles heel for the Suns during his time in Phoenix and may have prevented Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion from advancing to the NBA Finals out of the Western conference.
Along with poor defensive schemes, D’Antoni doesn’t exactly have the same firepower coming off the bench as he did in Phoenix and New York. The best player off the bench for the Lakers is forward Jordan Hill. There’s no doubt Hill will benefit offensively in the new system, but D’Antoni needs shooters. If Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison can’t earn their paychecks, problems may begin to arise with the new offense similar to the Princeton offense that Brown tried to get up and running this season.
Needless to say, bringing in D’Antoni is yet another transition to a different style of offense and may take time for all players involved to get acclimated, but the potential for a Showtime-caliber performances from this team is there. An exciting brand of basketball may be on it’s way back to Los Angeles with the Lakers potentially becoming the best offense in the NBA.