MdAntoni

How D’Antoni Adapts Will Gauge Success With Lakers

The hiring of Mike D'Antoni didn't go well with a lot of people and many Laker fans. His fit with the Lakers has been scrutinized even before coaching a single game. But whether you believe in D'Antoni or not, he is now the head coach and mostly likely here to stay regardless of the outcome of the season.

After what happened between the firing of Mike Brown and the announcement that D'Antoni has become officially the 24th head coach for the Lakers, there is no question Phil Jackson will never coach this storied franchise anytime in the future.

Then again, you could argue that Phil was probably never serious about returning at the helm for the 3rd time in his career. I just don't buy into that idea that Phil stopped keeping track of the team he guided to 5 titles. Phil knows exactly the situation with the Lakers long before the front office indicated their interest in bringing him back. And Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss and Jerry Buss know this. Perhaps, Phil's hesitation to agree by the end of the meeting last weekend was a clear sign that he's not that enthusiastic to return. So, the Lakers management moved on and the rest is history.

But with the unsuccessful tenure of Brown, make no mistake D'Antoni will be closely watched by Kupchak and Buss. They pushed the idea to D'Antoni that the Lakers are not interested in theories and experiments, just winning. How D'Antoni translates that to his coaching is a different story.

For him to find success with an organization that doesn't cater to anything but titles and with a roster of superstars and future Hall-of-Famers, D'Antoni will have to focus on the smaller details where Brown failed — the bench and maximizing the overall talent of the team.

D'Antoni is widely regarded as one of the most imaginative, offensive-minded coaches in the history of the NBA. His run-and-gun offense mimic that of the Showtime era and, more importantly, is a more elaborate version of the free-flow offense the Lakers are currently running under interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff.

However, Mike has to understand that this Lakers team isn't built like the team he had in Phoenix. He does have the same floor general in Steve Nash but the dynamics of the team is different. That doesn't necessarily mean less capable, but this Lakers team can score in a more versatile fashion.

The better D'Antoni can mold his system around the complimentary talents he's got on his roster and the age of his core players, everything else — defense, chemistry, camaraderie and effort — will fall into place simply because the offense will run smoother. If that happens, it's usually because the players are happy with their roles offensively.

As much of a hard worker Brown was as a coach, he couldn't grasp the importance of developing his second unit. That was a red flag when you consider how vital the bench is to any championship contending team, especially to a team that has a starting unit with only one player under the age of 30. And if he continues with his tradition of having an up-tempo team, D'Antoni is going to rely on his secondary unit to consistenly produce on both ends of the floor in order to keep his starters as fresh as possible.

Of course, finding a way to have the bench perform each minute they're in the game is just one solution. The key is figuring out which combination of starters and bench players work best in different situations. In other words, D'Antoni needs to quickly learn his players and what they're capable of on both sides of the hardwood.

It's an uknown but exciting new era for the Lakers that is steadily being shifted to Howard as their new cornerstone. Yes, the verdict is still out on D'Antoni if he's capable of guiding the Lakers to championship lore. But looking at how well the team has been playing in an offense that has more freedom and doesn't put boundaries in which the players are allowed to score lately is a sign that D'Antoni just might do wonders in L.A.

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