Some Los Angeles Lakers fans may be getting excited about the prospect of Mike D'Antoni coaching the team, but they shouldn't be getting excited for the honeymoon when the wedding hasn't even happened yet. The offensive genius may have a good roster on his hands in Los Angeles, but it should be noted that his constant clashes with Carmelo Anthony while coaching the New York Knicks played a key role in the team underachieving.
Seeing as how the man now has to work with an even bigger star in Kobe Bryant, he should be wary so as not to repeat his mistakes from last year. As former NBA coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy noted in a recent broadcast, via a Tweet by Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com, the Lakers shouldn't be solely committed to a run and gun game. Not to put a damper on the excitement, but he's right.
Look at it this way. In D'Antoni's offense, the small forward's job is to wait on the wing and take his shot when the ball comes to him. Anthony just isn't that type of player, preferring to create his own shot and create mismatches.
Bryant is a very similar player, as he is one of the best scorers in NBA history and isn't the type to be married to one type of offensive scheme. Like Anthony, he likes to mix things up.
The fact of the matter is that while D'Antoni does take his approach to the game very seriously and likes to let the point guard run the show (Steve Nash, in this case), he cannot forget about the two stars he has in Bryant and Howard.
In terms of Bryant, no matter how much he loves D'Antoni's system, he isn't going to be happy unless he is given some freedom with the ball. Yes, listening to one's coach is important, but Bryant is fifth on the NBA's all-time scoring list and has averaged 25.4 points per game for his career. To be blunt, he doesn't really need to be coached all that much anymore.
Thus, if D'Antoni must have Bryant commit to some plays, they can't solely be ones that run quickly. There need to be isolation plays that let him take control every so often, be it faking someone out for a jump shot or driving hard to the basket. Bryant has been the face of the Lakers for a long time, and to make him stop being that for the sake of a team-oriented run-and-gun system is just foolish.
Regarding Howard, look at who D'Antoni's big man was during his four seasons with the Phoenix Suns. It was explosive scorer and current New York Knick Amar'e Stoudemire. In the five years D'Antoni coached him in Phoenix, Stoudemire averaged 23.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
Stoudemire's good performance in Phoenix can be attributed to the great on-court relationship he had with Nash. The two ran a great pick-and-roll, with Stoudemire coming out of nowhere to drive to the basket and make the shot, be it through layup or dunk.
Howard is more than capable of filling this role, but he has always been more of a post player than one to run the pick-and-roll. He works well down low and uses his body to create tremendous mismatches so that he can get to the basket and score.
However, his tendency to turn the ball over is a cause for concern regarding his ability to be part of a pick-and-roll offense. He has a great basketball IQ and could learn it in a heartbeat, but his 3.1 career turnovers per game are enough to justify that such an approach shouldn't be the only answer when it comes time to get him involved.
Seeing as how D'Antoni likes to run the pick-and-roll often, this could prove to be complicated. By simply creating some post plays for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, he is bound to get the best out of his All-Star center.
Now, D'Antoni fans may cry foul at this approach, but to ask Bryant and Howard to play any other way would be a recipe for disaster. As talented as they are, they are not run-and-gun players and need to be allowed some freedom when they have the ball.
Just look at what happened when D'Antoni tried with Anthony last season. The former Syracuse star was drowning in the highly structured offense and didn't even shoot 40 percent from the field over the season's first few months. Once Mike Woodson stepped in and instilled an isolation game, he instantly improved.
Simply put, while D'Antoni shouldn't abandon his system completely, he needs to understand that his go-to guy is Bryant and the team's offense starts and stops with him. Seeing as how the future Hall of Famer has five championship rings to D'Antoni's zero, the Lakers' new coach should take that into serious consideration when drawing up plays.
Once D'Antoni can realize that his system isn't for everyone and lets his stars have some freedom with the ball, then the team will set itself up for ultimate success.
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