The Los Angeles Lakers made their decision, snubbing Phil Jackson by hiring former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni to lead them, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
Source: Mike D'Antoni will be the next coach of the Lakers. Not Phil Jackson.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 12, 2012
A lot of stories are going to be written about what happened between Jackson and the Lakers to prevent them from coming together for a third time, but we want to move forward and look toward the future on the court.
D'Antoni has a very unique and distinct style that is going to be extremely different from the Princeton-style offense that former head coach Mike Brown employed during his tenure with the team.
So where are the Lakers going from here, and is D'Antoni a good fit for this team?
What D'Antoni Brings
As mentioned, D'Antoni's style is going to be a 180-degree turn from how the Lakers have been playing offense in recent years.
Instead of focusing on passing and cutting on offense, the Lakers will now become a fast-paced, run-and-shoot team.
From 2004 until the time he resigned as Knicks head coach last season, D'Antoni's teams finished in the top four of the NBA in scoring offense six times. By comparison, the Lakers only had two seasons during that span in which they finished in the top four.
Offense is the only hallmark of a Mike D'Antoni-coached team. He has never given an indication that he's interested in coaching defense.
Using that same 2004 starting point we did to illustrate how talented an offensive-minded coach he is, D'Antoni's teams have not finished higher than 23rd in points allowed per game.
However, before we just completely sell him out as a coach who disregards defense entirely, it is important to note that D'Antoni has never had a team with as much defensive talent as the Lakers have right now.
Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace are all capable of going one-on-one on the defensive side of the ball and making life difficult for their opponents. It is hard to see them just completely giving up defense for the sake of offense.
Plus, D'Antoni's history and relationship with Steve Nash likely helped him get the job. Nash won two MVP awards with the Suns when D'Antoni was his head coach. Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated pointed out that D'Antoni has a "long-standing relationship" with Bryant.
There is also the feeling of stability. This is just me speculating, but perhaps the Lakers didn't want to go down the Jackson route again because they had no guarantees that he would be there more than a year, forcing them to go through the whole process again next season.
Another factor that might have played a role in the Lakers snubbing Jackson was his desire to have complete and total control of the team, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com.
Again, as I've written and said on TV, Phil wanted total control and say over the direction of any franchise he went to, a la Riley/Miami.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) November 12, 2012
Where Are The Lakers Right Now?
Contrary to what people would have you believe when Mike Brown was head coach, the sky was not falling in Los Angeles after just five games.
The Lakers had a bad stretch of games at the worst possible time for Brown. When teams have a lull in the middle or end of the season, people tend not to notice because the record still looks great.
But when a team that has as much hype and top-level talent as the Lakers—though it should be pointed out that Nash hasn't played since Halloween due to a leg injury—losing four of your first five games is going to lead to mass panic.
The Lakers' biggest problem to start the season was a lack of cohesion. This is a team just built on star power, with no regard to how all the styles and egos mesh together. You need to find a style that fits the talent you have, not put a bunch of different styles into a blender and hope something sticks.
Bryant needs to control the ball to be great. Nash needs to control the ball to be great. Howard needs a point guard who can feed him in the paint to be great. Pau Gasol is a good ball-handling big man who can create his own shot.
There is no sense of unity and connection with those four superstars. They are all just pieces in a puzzle that don't fit great together, at least right now.
Blame Brown all you want—we all know that Bryant's death stare at him was an indication of what he thought of his now-former head coach. But this is a process that was always going to take time to work.
And for anyone who wants to say that the Lakers are fixed after winning two straight games since firing Brown, remember they beat Golden State and Sacramento. Let's hold off on calling Brown the only problem that they had until we get a bigger sample.
Are The Lakers Better Now?
It is so hard to answer this, because Lakers fans and analysts believe that this team is something it isn't. This team was never going to challenge the 1996 Chicago Bulls for most wins in a season.
However, are they a team loaded with talent capable of winning a championship? Absolutely, but we said the same thing before the season. They aren't suddenly better now. They will be more exciting to watch with D'Antoni's system.
If defense is going to remain a priority for players like Bryant, Howard and World Peace, the Lakers will be one of the best teams in the NBA when all is said and done.
In today's NBA, two of the best teams are Oklahoma City and Miami. The Heat play lockdown defense and they wear teams down by running up and down the court at a breakneck pace. Ditto for the Thunder.
The Lakers are going to be fine, though that's not a product of D'Antoni magically righting the ship. They are going to be at the top of the Western Conference standings when all is said and done. They are still one of the favorites to win the NBA title.
Not even a slow start or an unusual coaching hire was going to change that seven games into the season.
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