Lakers Deep Enough for D’Antoni Offense?
Keeping up with an offense led by fiery offensive guru Mike D’Antoni has never been easy. Featuring a frenetic pace intent on running other teams into submission, it takes time and effort to develop the wherewithal to carry out D’Antoni’s high octane attack.
Looking at D’Antoni’s current team, the Los Angeles Lakers feature a whole lot more skill than young and eager legs to carry out this offensive philosophy.
This leads us to a very important question regarding whether or not the Lakers can win a championship this season: Does LA have enough depth behind their stars to execute D’Antoni’s offense?
“We’ve got plenty,” D’Antoni said of his reinforcements off the bench. “[Devin] Ebanks played good [Saturday in Dallas]. That’s the first time I’ve seen him play, looks like he has a good feel for the game, I think he can play. You’re talking Jodie [Meeks], [Antawn] Jamison, [Steve] Blake, Jordan Hill; we’ve got a lot of good guys coming off the bench.”
In terms of where the reserves stand from last year to the 2012-13 season, it’s obvious that the Lakers – on paper at least – have made an improvement. In talking to mainstays in LA’s locker room, it’s clear that this team believes that the depth currently in place in enough to make a serious run this season.
“We have a lot of talent in this locker room,” Lakers center Dwight Howard said. “We just have to learn out to use it together.”
Even though the tools may be in place in LA’s locker room, the truth is that the bench hasn’t been consistent enough for the 7-7 Lakers to be a force in the Western Conference to start the season. Most recently, LA’s reserves have begun to pick up the pace with new head coach D’Antoni’ running the show.
Antawn Jamison, who had struggled mightily this season before breaking out over the Lakers last two games, says the change in play has hinged on figuring out just what to do in D’Antoni’s offense.
“The most important thing is now we kind of know exactly what coach wants out of the bench,” Jamison said. “At first we were thinking of what we want to be and he just wants us to go out there and be aggressive and compete and he has been preaching that since day one.
The first couple of games we were still trying to figure out what we want to do, but now we are kind of understanding what we have to do on the court and the last couple of games we’ve been able to do that.”
For Jamison, who’s averaging career-lows in virtually every statistical category over the first couple of weeks of the season, the last two games have been a welcome change. Against the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, Jamison set season-highs in scoring in each contest and displayed an aggressiveness that had been lacking for the Lakers reserves to start the season. Leading the way off the bench, Jamison has averaged 17.5 points, 11 rebounds and shot over 63 percent from the field after failing to break double figures in scoring over the first 12 games of the season.
“It just got to a point where we are just getting frustrated by the way things have been going,” Jamison said. “Myself, as far as my play, the way the bench has been playing. We are just tired of making excuses so it’s just one thing that finally clicked. This is how you play the game. This is why I was brought here to compete this way and go out there and just have fun. We’re just finally starting to have fun and competing and playing the way we know we’re capable of playing.”
As far as the Lakers’ sixth man is concerned, breaking out of his early slump hinged on Jamison freeing himself in the Lakers offense. Instead of over-thinking every move on the team, including whether or not he has been stepping on Kobe Bryant or Howard’s toes, Jamison has concentrated on just playing his game in this offense and it’s paid dividends as of late.
“For me, it was just thinking too much, thinking of should I get out of Kobe’s way, or let Dwight get it,” Jamison said. “I just finally got to point where I got to get out of this situation, bring some energy, bring some spark and by doing that I’ve just got be aggressive, attack the boards. If I take a shot I got to let it rip, just having that mentally has helped me out a lot as far as being aggressive and that’s what coach wants. He doesn’t want guys out there thinking and passing up shots and I learned that very quickly the first game or two.While I’m out there, I’m competing at a high level, being aggressive and just trying to do it at a high level on both ends of the floor as well.”
Judging by the last couple of contests, It’s apparent that the 14-year veteran Jamison has taken matters upon himself to try to jump start the Lakers reserves. With Coach D’Antoni still tinkering with his rotation, other key Lakers reserves like Meeks and Hill are going to have follow suit in order for this team to propel itself back to contention.
If LA can develop any kind of consistency with the minutes played behind their superstar-laden lineup, the Lakers could be more dangerous than anyone expected but, to this point, that simply hasn’t happened.