By Sean Hartnett
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A day has passed since the Los Angeles Lakers opted to hire former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. Now that the dust has settled, the Lakers’ decision isn’t any less shocking. Especially considering the way they treated the man who delivered their organization five NBA titles.
The Los Angeles Times revealed that Phil Jackson was awoken around midnight Sunday by general manager Mitch Kupchak, who informed him the Lakers were going with D’Antoni.
Jackson’s camp distanced themselves from reports that “The Zen Master” demanded an ownership stake and various other perks. Even if Jackson asked for “the stars and the moon” to facilitate a third stint in L.A., the Lakers should have given it to him.
Only under the watch of executive vice president Jim Buss could the Lakers pass on an 11-time championship winner and instead hire a man who has never reached the NBA Finals.
D’Antoni’s Offense Isn’t An Ideal Fit For The Lakers
Steve Nash will undoubtedly benefit from playing under D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense that allowed him to win two MVPs in Phoenix. Mike Brown’s Princeton offense limited Nash’s creativity and his need to improvise.
It was like telling Michelangelo he could only paint the simple home interiors when you knew he could create stunning imagery on the mural of the Sistine Chapel.
With D’Antoni given the reigns of “The Lake Show,” Nash will be free again to express himself. The problem is, Nash is 38 and doesn’t have the legs of a 30-year-old anymore — but that’s the least major questions raised by the hiring of D’Antoni.
Phoenix Suns’ teams under D’Antoni enjoyed offensive explosions because they had the speed needed to run the fast break and perimeter sharpshooters required to outscore teams with aplomb.
The current Lakers team assembled by Kupchak doesn’t have all the necessary pieces to utilize D’Antoni’s offense. They’re one of the slowest teams in the NBA and lack consistent long-range shooters outside of Nash and Kobe Bryant.
Howard And Gasol’s Abilities Will Be Cut In Half By D’Antoni
Dwight Howard demands the ball in the low post. He not only needs the pick-and-roll but also touches in the post to be effective. The Suns’ teams under D’Antoni used Amar’e Stoudemire as a power forward playing center and Howard doesn’t have the slashing ability or the shooting range of a younger, healthier Stoudemire who flourished under D’Antoni in the mid-2000’s.
Pau Gasol’s intelligent movements made him an ideal fit in Jackson’s triangle offense. A growing number of Lakers beat writers have pondered whether Gasol will clog D’Antoni’s offense. Neither Gasol or Metta World Peace are consistent enough perimeter shooters to thrive in D’Antoni’s system.
Lakers Must Prove To Howard They’re A Long-Term Fit
D’Antoni has received a three-year deal to coach the Lakers. There is a tremendous pressure on him to appeal to Dwight Howard, who is an upcoming free agent. The Lakers have less than a year to convince Dwight Howard that they will remain an elite force in the Western Conference with an aging veterans like Bryant and Nash locked into long-term contracts.
With D’Antoni, The Same Questions Remain
Let’s get one thing straight. The Lakers will win plenty of regular season games and show flashes of stylish ball under D’Antoni. No one is doubting that.
The 2012-13 Lakers will be competing for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference and have the talent to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Whether D’Antoni can finally get one of his high-tempo teams into the NBA Finals in an entirely different story.
Judging by the way the roster is assembled — and given D’Antoni’s reputation for lack of emphasis on defense — it’s very hard to imagine the “Seven Seconds Or Less” Lakers winning an NBA title.
Is D’Antoni’s offense bound to fail in Los Angeles? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.