Why D’Antoni hire is a good move for the Lakers

Hernando Planells
"Personally I love the hire. Yes, Jackson is a proven championship coach, there is no disputing that. But how long does he have left and better yet, how long will he be with the team?"

Hernando PlanellsHernando Planells works for Duke Basketball. He has experience coaching in college, overseas and the NBA Development League, and have conducted player development clinics in the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and Switzerland. Hernando is half Spanish and half Filipino; his mother hails from Cagayan de Oro. Follow him on Twitter, his website and his blog.

The last few days I have heard every big name media person talk about the Lakers situation.

Some love the move while many absolutely can’t believe that Phil Jackson isn’t coming back for the third time.

I’m going to start off by saying I am NOT a Laker fan… im really not a fan of any team. Coaching in many ways makes you numb to the romance that fans have with teams. I find myself looking at the style of play, the strategies of different coaches, how they fit their “system” to their players and how players and coaches prepare mentally.

I don’t know much about Coach Mike Brown. I do believe he is a very good coach – some will argue that he had LeBron in Cleveland and that’s why he was successful for the most part – but every coach has benefited from having great players on their team at one time.

Last year Brown and his assistants installed the “Strong Corner” offense which in many ways has some similarities to the Triangle. The success or lack thereof brought changes to the staff, with some changing positions and others leaving to become head coach. So this year, Mike Brown installed the Princeton offense which like the Triangle has good spacing and ball movement.

The problem I and many other coaches had was that the Lakers roster isn’t built for that type of offense. Kobe Bryant played in the Triangle but how many times have we seen him veer off of it and just create? Steve Nash and Dwight Howard are products of the pick and roll game, the staple of the NBA.

So last weekend Coach Brown was let go. Phil Jackson was the favorite to come back and when the smoke cleared, it was Mike D’Antoni who jumped in!

Personally I love the hire. Yes, Jackson is a proven championship coach, there is no disputing that. But how long does he have left and better yet, how long will he be with the team? The organization as a whole has to not only look at this year but also the next few years.

Howard is a free agent and the uncertainty of how long Jackson would be there could be an issue. With Coach D’Antoni in the mix, they now have a coach they know will be there, providing of course that he is successful.

Bench problems

The Lakers DON’T have a bench. In fact they really have 4 tremendous players and the rest are just fillers.

But you need your fillers to perform.

The Lakers need Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake and the rest of the group to perform. The up-tempo game gives them more opportunities to do just that. It will help Jamison and Blake shoot higher than 35%, it will allow the younger players such as Darius Morris, Jordan Hill and Meeks an opportunity to use their athleticism to get out and run. 

Lack of post touches?

Does D’Antoni have a traditional post up offense? No, but what he is able to do is adjust his offense to the parts that he has.

What you will see from all the bigs, Howard, Pau Gasol and Hill are high pick and rolls which allows the bigs to use their speed and athleticism to roll. Most NBA teams “hedge or show” hard against the pick and roll, thus allowing the screener more opportunities to roll or slip very effectively.

NEW COACH. Mike D'Antoni has been tapped to coach the Los Angeles Lakers after a disappointing start of the season. Photo by AFP.

Now if teams “sag” or play underneath the screener then the bigs will still roll (Gasol will more than likely pop) and then post up.

We must remember that Howard is not your traditional post-up player. He is learning how to play in the post. Now he is much better than most but he is a physical specimen that can outrun, outmuscle and out jump any big man in the league – the Lakers must utilize that skill set.

No need for defense?

He knows the importance of defense, he may not spend as much time on it at practice as many others do, but it is still emphasized.

Let’s also not forget that in the NBA there is very little time for practices during the season. The culture in the NBA is to rest legs – there are teams in the league who practice less than 20-30 times during the season. Now they still conduct shoot arounds, video sessions, strength training etc., but full on 2-hour practices in between games? Nope they don’t happen as much as we all think they do.  

To say that a coach doesn’t pay attention to defense is pretty far-fetched – all coaches preach about defense some are effective and some aren’t. It’s about getting the guys to “buy in.”

I heard a story once about how former Pistons coach Chuck Daly asked his players how they wanted to guard the pick and roll – he ultimately was the final decision-maker on that but he listened to the players, got their input and was pretty successful with it, ultimately empowering his players to feel that they have a say on how to do things.

Lakers win sealed?

No. All this means is that there is more stability with the team now then a few days ago.

Right now the players are happy, they know what Coach D’Antoni brings to the table – it all comes down to the coaching staff selling the vision every day.

I don’t know if Brown didn’t do a good job of selling it but it does appear that no one, including Kobe, was buying into it… and in professional sports that’s so key.

There are so many of us coaches who know the game, understand the Xs and Os, realize the importance of statistical analysis, but there are few that can sell the vision everyday at a high level. We know that Phil Jackson can do that, we will find out if Mike D’Antoni can do the same.

Watch this video that touches on a few things about Coach D’Antoni’s offense – you will see how he was able to use the parts he had in Phoenix and New York and how they apply to today’s Lakers. – Rappler.com

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