Literally any other team in the league would crawl through an endline-to-endline litter of broken glass to gain the services of Pau Gasol—one of the most intelligent players extant and an incredibly effective presence in the low post. Too bad Mike No-D has no idea how to properly utilize Gasol’s genius-level on-court IQ except to turn him into a doltish mid-range jump shooter.
Moreover, the kind of madcap up-tempo game that D’Antoni preaches requires a deep bench, which is something that the Lakers sorely lack. As a result, the 40-plus minutes that Kobe Bryant routinely plays will eventually burn him out (or injure him).
Another attribute of D’Antoni’s egregiously offensive offense is a reliance on kick-out passes to reliable 3-point shooters. Do the Lakers have guys like that? Like Kobe (.303 from beyond the arc last season)? MWP (.296 in 2011-12)? Jodie Meeks (.371 lifetime)? Chris Duhon (.363 lifetime)?
The Lakers, however, are counting on Steve Nash to be the team’s savior. There’s no question that Nash has been a topflight player—smart, creative, unselfish, and perfect fit for D’Antoni’s helter-skelter operation. But Nash is rapidly approaching his 39th birthday, and has a chronic bad back. And who knows if his fractured leg might ultimately inhibit his game
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For sure, Nash will be able to exert more control over the offense than either Meeks or Steve Blake, but still, besides the routine brilliance of Kobe, the thoroughbreds just aren’t there.
Much has been made of the expectation that high pick-and-rolls involving Nash and Howard will be a devastating combination. It is advertised that the necessary defensive rotations will leave LA’s perimeter shooters wide open and that Howard’s dive-cuts will turn into dunk city. But there’s one defensive strategy that can negate the effectiveness of this tactic: If Nash’s defender goes through the pick, i.e., slides between Howard and Howard’s defender, then no rotations will be required.
What will happen, though, is a multitude of 3-point shots available for Nash (.428 lifetime). Expect Nash to at least equal if not surpass this rate of accuracy.
Even so, there are several advantages here for opposing teams.
The more shots Nash takes, the greater the pressure for him to shoot bull’s-eyes, the fewer touches Kobe gets, and the less involved the other Lakers will be in the offense. Also, with Howard’s defender able to maintain optimum position, DH will have much fewer chances to grab offensive rebounds. Furthermore, given that Nash should only play approximately 30 minutes per game, how many shots will he be willing to unleash? Especially since he has no desire to be a high-volume shooter.
This, of course, is the long view. We don’t know when Nash will be back.
Overall, the Lakers offense will certainly improve once Nash returns. On the other end of the game, however, Nash is all but helpless (except for drawing an occasional charge). So the Lakers’ already impotent defense will only get weaker.
For sure, they’ll be more and more competitive as the season progresses. Yet despite the star-power on the roster, too many of the necessary components of a championship team are missing.
Like Mike Brown, D’Antoni is simply the wrong coach for the wrong team.
Jimmy Buss strikes (out) again.
The newest addition to the SteridanHoops columnist staff, Charley Rosen is an American author and former basketball coach. From 1983–1986, he was an assistant to Phil Jackson with the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association. He also served as head coach of the Patroons, as well as the CBA’s Rockford Lightning, Oklahoma City Cavalry and Savannah Spirits. A native of The Bronx, N.Y., the 71-year-old Rosen is the author of 16 books about basketball. He is known for his in-depth analysis and caustic views.