Column: Is D’Antoni the right head coach for LA?

Ron Rokhy

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Newly acquired Lakers’ head coach Mike D’Antoni is known for his offensive specialist days in Phoenix and New York. Is he right for the Lakers? Photo courtesy MCT

Ron says:

The Lakers’ stunning announcement — which had them choose Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson as their new head coach after last week’s firing of Mike Brown — is a good move and a step in the right direction for the star-studded franchise.

Not only were Jackson’s rumored demands of owning part of the team, controlling personnel choices and leeway for road-game travel absolutely ridiculous, D’Antoni’s style of offense will fit the Lakers better because he’s accustomed to working with Steve Nash, as he coached him for years on the Phoenix Suns.

D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy, which holds the run ‘n’ gun style of play dear and preaches the best defense is more offense has been criticized over the years for producing high scoring games that don’t result in playoff victories. However, what some people forget is that defense is largely left up to the players, and D’Antoni has never had a star-studded defensive cast as he does now.

Everyone knows Nash is a poor defender, and on Phoenix and New York, D’Antoni also had to contend with other defensive liabilities: Amar’e Stoudemire and David Lee are known as two of the worst starting power forwards on the defensive end of the floor; Carmelo Anthony, who’d much rather score than lockdown his opponent and Al Harrington, who simply has never shown an interest in playing defense at any point in his career.

Sure, he may have had some defensive monsters like Raja Bell and Shawn Marion over the years, but that doesn’t compare to having the best defensive big man of the modern era in Dwight Howard, and two heavily-decorated perimeter defenders in Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers’ defense will take care of itself. The veteran players understand the importance of defense when it comes to winning rings. But more importantly, D’Antoni’s offensive schemes will launch the Lakers’ offense to new heights.

The ultra fast-paced style of offense D’Antoni brings to the Lakers will be amplified by the fact that Nash has legitimate superstars in Bryant, Gasol and Howard to dish the rock to. From 2004 to 2007, when D’Antoni coached the Suns, they averaged 109.8 points per game, never dipped below the second-best offensive ranking in the league and made the Western Conference Finals twice while completely ignoring the defense.

Though D’Antoni isn’t in the same league as Jackson when it comes to winning championships, his experience with Nash and his offensive prowess make him a huge upgrade over Mike Brown as his players will make up for his lacking defensive schemes.

 

Casey says:

When Mike D’Antoni was hired as the Lakers new coach, he said he was surprised.

So was the rest of Laker Nation.  Ever since Mike Brown got fired, the obvious first choice,  the one the Lakers shouldn’t have passed up on, was Phil Jackson.

In Jackson’s career, he has won 11 titles, five of them with Los Angeles, and the Lakers know he breeds champions.  He gives them a balanced attack on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, something that D’Antoni has yet to do with any team.

In D’Antoni’s career, he holds no titles and five playoff appearances.  His teams are consistently ranked among the worst in the NBA in defense, and as it has shown time and time again, a one-sided team can’t win a championship.

His up-tempo style of offense worked for the Suns, but the Lakers lack of shooters and speed can’t do the same. Their climbing ages don’t help much either.  A sprinting offense, on Bryant’s bad knees and Howard’s hurt back, won’t work — his offense is based on rosters that have speed and quickness, something that the Lakers just don’t have.

D’Antoni teams are famous for caring more about scoring points than guarding anyone, and while that may fill the seats and make games exciting, it doesn’t necessarily translate to wins.  However, D’Antoni now teams up with Dwight Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. It remains to be seen whether Howard will help a lackadaisical D’Antoni defense, and may make Howard’s decision on resigning easier or harder.

Claiming “he is the coach for this roster,” the Lakers took a big risk that may not pay off as they hope.  D’Antoni once had Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Joe Johnson and Shawn Marion all on Phoenix when they were in their primes and was never able to take them all the way.

This may just be another bad Jim Buss move, one done out of panic because Jackson demanded too much. Firing Brown excited the Lakers’ fanbase who are tired with their early losing ways and the unproved Princeton offense, but Buss messed up by not doing everything he could to hire who the fans wanted: the Zen Master.