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Schmeelk: D’Antoni Is The Right Choice For Lakers

Benefits Gained By Hiring D'Antoni Are Endless
(credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
» More Columns

Phil Jackson was obviously the man the Lakers wanted to be their head coach.

Unfortunately, Phil Jackson not only wanted the job, he also wanted to embarrass the Lakers ownership along the way. Not only did “The Zen Master” want total personnel control but also ridiculous allowances like not having to make all the road trips. The Lakers wisely moved on from Chief Triangle and winded up with Mike D’Antoni, who should reinvigorate what has been a stale Lakers team.

The benefits here are endless and it starts with D’Antoni’s reunion with Steve Nash. These two have had a ton of success together, and even with Nash a few years older, they will still be effective. Nash can also help D’Antoni install the system and teach his teammates how to play the pick and roll while spreading the floor. The number of open shots Nash will create for his teammates in this system is insane.

It’s also unlikely D’Antoni will run into trouble with Kobe Bryant, who idolized him when he played in Italy. Kobe has referred to D’Antoni as a great coach and has played for him on the US Olympic team. Kobe will be able to play off the ball and take advantage of the some of the drag and hand-off plays in D’Antoni’s offense. When Nash is out of the game, he can also initiate the offense with the pick and roll at the top of the key.

Dwight Howard might not get as many post isolations, but the number of easy dunks and layups he will get for being a screener for Steve Nash should help avoid any complaining from the Lakers big man. There is some concern about the spacing on offense if Gasol and Howard are both in the game together, but Gasol has good range on his jump shot. The two should be able to co-exist. The Lakers do have the option of going small with Antawn Jamison at the four, someone with three point range.

Gasol should be able to do his most damage in the high post, where D’Antoni initiates some of his sets. Gasol is one of the best passers in the league out of that spot, and I would expect some high-low action with him and Dwight Howard to create some easy baskets.

You can dismiss the speedball problem a lot of people see with this move. Despite the title of Jack McCallum’s book, D’Antoni’s offense is much more concerned with spreading the floor, ball movement and taking the first and best open shot than he is constantly pushing the ball in transition. Sure, the Lakers pace will increase, but it won’t become a breakneck fire drill.

Hartnett: Lakers Not Built For D’Antoni’s Offense

The one concern with the Lakers personnel is their lack of shooters. Ron Arterst can hit the corner three, but his shot is inconsistent. Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks are unreliable as well. I would expect the Lakers front office to start shopping for some low cost shooters on the free agent list, or on the bottom of other teams’ rosters. I would also expect Antawn Jamison to become a much bigger part of the offense.

Of course, that lands us on the magical question with any Mike D’Antoni team: do they get enough stops to win a title. This is where Kobe Bryant will have to assert his will, in emphasizing not only to his teammates, but Mike D’Antoni as well, the importance of defense. Having good individual defenders will help a lot, especially the size in the middle provided by Howard and Gasol.

The Lakers still have every opportunity to be the best team in basketball when the playoffs arrive, even if they don’t have the best record. In fact, they might play some downright ugly basketball as the season goes along as they try to adjust to Mike D’Antoni’s offense. As long as they stay afloat, they have the chance to peak when it’s most important: playoff time. This won’t be the last time the NBA hears from the Lakers this season.

You can follow me on twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York Sports at: https://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk

Will D’Antoni reinvigorate the Lakers?  Let us know…