Mike D’Antoni: From The Exit Of Slowtime To The Return Of Showtime

In all fairness, the offense had already shown some signs of life prior to Mike Brown’s firing, but nowhere near the levels it will likely see under the guidance of Mike D’Antoni. On Sunday, I was asked what a Mike D’Antoni team would look like, and even though I didn’t see it coming, I remarked that Staples Center would finally rock to levels of respectability. The crowd may still filter in throughout the first quarter (initially), but before the playoffs are upon us, the excitement of what this offense will look like could reach Great Western Forum levels.

While Steve Nash was already a reputable player in Dallas, he never played more effectively or to anywhere near as high of a level as he did when playing for D’Antoni in Phoenix. I’m sure all of Lakers Nation remembers the results of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007.

In my 28-plus years of watching this team, I don’t remember too many moments more disappointing than dropping that unexpected but well earned 3-1 lead in 2006. It wasn’t the low-point of the franchise, but definitely a heart-shredding situation. You know, with D’Antoni’s addition, games in Phoenix (Jan 30th, March 18th) may just be a ticket-worthy road-trip.

The excitement and hype that followed this team into training camp might just quadruple if D’Antoni’s system matches Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant as much as I think it could. Not only that, the bench could look much different if they were able to provide an energy boost each night. Jodie Meeks could certainly be helped into his shooting ‘stride’ by getting out on the break and scoring a few easy buckets.

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Prior to the season, (like many) I questioned whether Darius Morris was a good fit for this roster. While the past two games is a small sample size, his improved play and his skill set make him an even more likely candidate for minutes at the backup PG position with D’Antoni’s desire to get up and down the court in a hurry. If he can continue to limit his turnovers and determine the appropriate situations to attack, Morris could be the type of player to really flourish under D’Antoni. Let’s hope the same can be said of Devin Ebanks. As eager as I am to see Metta World Peace succeed, we can all acknowledge the need for some youth and athleticism at the position when MWP rests.

Full disclosure, I was in favor of Phil Jackson. When I sat back and analyzed the pro’s and con’s of each candidate, I simply had less reservations with a third installment of the Zen Master. That said, I left room in my basketball-loving heart for the notion of D’Antoni leading this organization into the future. Jackson may have sounded more like an immediate fix, but armed with this offensive firepower, D’Antoni’s system should lead to relatively instant success. The jury will still be out upon whether he can coach and lead a team to a title from a defensive perspective, but I’m willing to give the man a chance before I condemn him based on what has taken place in the past. It is an opportunity I was kind enough to afford Mike Brown, so it will be the same stance I take with D’Antoni.

One thing Lakers Nation will have to find a way to excuse, will be the turnovers. We all love the excitement of wheeling and dealing on the fast break, but with increased tempos also come a realistic possibility of the team nearing 16-18 turnovers on a nightly basis. Generally, the increased shot attempts and defensive turnovers that can also be generated from the frenzied pace can off-set such a number. Nash, himself, averaged nearly 3.5 per game while playing in the system. Not nitpicking in the slightest, but warning of potential concerns. I would like to see Bryant and Nash stay beneath 2.5 (a piece) if at all possible, since they’ll be the primary ball handlers.

Rather than questioning D’Antoni’s defensive schemes based upon his past results, I’m intrigued to see what his assistant coach roster will look like. There are rumors he will retain the services of Chuck Person and Phil Handy from Mike Brown’s staff. I’ll be very intrigued to see what type of defensive specialist the Lakers will bring in, a la Mike Woodson role during D’Antoni’s New York stint. I’m not certain what to fully expect from this team, but I’m eternally optimistic.

While D’Antoni may not have been the safe pick with the fan base, the organization seems to have a direction in mind. Far from perfect, but I would still take this brain trust over any other. I believe in the legacy and foundation of the organization, and will continue to support it. Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family have always found a way, so I think they’ve earned our patience at the very least. One thing Jim Buss has shown would be an ability to acknowledge and correct a mistake, especially if it could lead to the success of the franchise. Let’s hope that this is one of those corrections, rather than additional ammunition for his detractors.

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