Speak Out: Lacking the D in D’Antoni’s Lakers

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Saturday, February 2, 2013


IT'S tough to put all the blame on one man—but the thought it pretty tempting.

I first caught wind of basketball coach Mike D’Antoni when he led Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns back then in 2005. Watching the Suns play under D’ Antoni back then could lead one to utter the statement that “offense is the best defense.” Who wouldn’t be a believer if your team wins 60 games out of 82?

See, D’ Antoni had a coaching philosophy: “seven seconds or less.” He relies on an equation that if his ball club is talented enough, the more possessions a team gets translates to getting more chances to score. Stack one up against the other and you have a team scoring about over a hundred almost every game. That was the formula the 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns adopted. They ranked first in the league in points per game with an average of 110.4.

With a one guard like Nash running the pick and roll offense, he just needed the right players excelling in their roles on the half-court. The Suns then had All -Star big men Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and shooters Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson. All Nash had to do was feed these men the ball when they’re in their sweet spots.

Unfortunately, the Suns never carried the Larry O’ Brien Championship trophy, nor did they even get past the Western Conference finals. They say that some teams are built for the playoffs. That means the worst thing a team could have is predictability. During the post-season, two teams are pitted in a grueling a two-week stretch that’s similar to a chess game.

Here’s the sad stat. Remember how the Suns was first in the league scoring an average 110.4 points per game? They were also dead last in the league by allowing the most points scored by an opposing team; they allowed teams to score an average of 103.3 against them.

In the playoffs, grit and defense are a must. With respect to D’ Antoni (who won the coach of the year award that season), ruts happen and when the offense isn’t clicking and you’re not exactly a defensive guru, you’re in for a bad surprise.

When D’ Antoni was picked to head the troubled 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers, there was no way my mind could grasp the concept of how this was going to work. Make no doubts about it, the starting lineup of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard was a dream team in its own right. But with two 7-footers, they’re obviously not a running team. And right now, starting Earl Clark and benching Pau Gasol just shows how the Lakers front office is wasting some money and salary cap space.

In my humble opinion, what I feel the Lakers should have done primarily was number one, commit to defense. Sure an aging Steve Nash might be a liability at the one spot, but they do have three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Dwight, a 12-time All Defensive team selection in Bryant, one-time Defensive Player of the Year in Peace (who won the award back when he was known as Ron Artest), and 7-footer Pau Gasol who can at least, scare guards from slashing into the paint.

But does D’ Antoni have that mindset? The D in his last name may not stand for Defense.

Even with their egos, a team packed with this much star power couldn’t possibly stoop this low on the brink of missing the playoffs. If the Los Angeles stick to defense, slow the game down, take care of the ball and execute plays half-court, that would probably spell a different record besides the under .50 standing they have right now.

And all this talk coming from a Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers fan in the first place. See, that’s how sad the situation is over at Lakerland has become.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 03, 2013.

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