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NBA AM: Lakers To Have Freedom Under D’Antoni
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On November 16, 2012 @ 9:36 am In All,NBA | No Comments
The Mike D’Antoni era officially began on Thursday for the Los Angeles Lakers and his message was clear: The players are going to have fun in his system and have the freedom to play to their strengths.
“It’s basketball,” D’Antoni said during his introductory press conference. “I’ve coached Steve [Nash]. I know how much fun that is so I know how much fun I’m going to have. I’ve coached Kobe [Bryant] and Dwight [Howard]. I know the possibilities we’re going to have. It’s endless. There’s always we have to win. If you come close it’s not good enough. That’s almost in every organization. Your expectations are something and most of the time you don’t want to be in the situation where your expectations are too high and you can’t get up there, but that’s not the case here. Our expectation is to win a championship, we have the team and players to do that. We know it takes staying healthy, this and that. But, boy is it fun trying. I can’t think of a better group, city and fan base to try and get it done.”
A point of emphasis that D’Antoni continuously went to was accentuating the positives and not asking players to do things they’re not suited to.
“Jodie Meeks for example, I told him today the only time he needs to shoot is when he touches the ball, other than that don’t shoot,” D’Antoni said. “That’s what he does. You’re in the league not because you can drive, dish or do all that stuff. That’s not him. I think when players understand that they’re in the league for a reason and that’s their strength that they play to, we don’t worry about the other stuff. We’ll work on it and try to get it better, but he doesn’t need to be in that position because he never would have made the league if that’s what we wanted. We look at the positives and try to accentuate it. Again, so many players have so many positives. That’s what makes this team unique.”
What will also make this team unique is the way that D’Antoni plans to utilize his big men. In recent years, the Lakers have been very traditional in the way they use their post players, more often than not just dumping it down low to them and letting them go to work. However, that will not be a part of D’Antoni’s game plan.
“They’re the force that really, it all starts with them,” D’Antoni said of his bigs. “I know the point guard is the guy that is running the ship but I told Dwight today he can be in every play. We don’t call plays. He can run down, pick the ball and roll to the basket. One of the least efficient plays in basketball is just a straight post up. It’s not efficient. What we want to do is create a pick-and-roll where they switch and we go in and now the percentage goes up. He creates such a force going to the basket, we’ll have kick outs with wide open threes. We want to have some dunks with him. His touches should increase. His ability to be able to get to the rim should increase. It should be a lot easier for Dwight.
“What we don’t want to do is say ‘Ok other team put your best defensive player on him, get your defensive scheme to where you’re going to scheme him and then Dwight here go do something.’ It’s not fair to anybody. He can do it. That’s what Kobe does. They can do it and do a good job. If we can clear this up and clear some room, there’s no stopping him. I expect Dwight, as soon as he gets healthy, he’s not healthy right now, to be unstoppable I don’t care what they do. They’re not stopping him.
“He’s the dominant center in the league. There’s nobody else like him. I just think right now he’s playing at 75-80 percent of what he can do. Every month will get better with his back and his timing and he’ll comfortable with what we’ll do. Dwight is a man himself, you’re already good just with him. I don’t care who you put around him. You put the guys we have, there’s no reason we’re not great.”
As the Lakers await Nash’s return so they can see him on the floor together with Howard, something we’ve only seen on a very limited basis so far this season, D’Antoni made it seem like he’s just as happy about having Steve Blake to run the show for him as well.
“I told Steve Blake every time June rolls around I asked about him,” D’Antoni said. “I’ve been trying to get him for 10 years. He always went somewhere else. I’ve been trying to get him. I think he’s perfect for our system. Finally we get him.”
D’Antoni is expected to make his debut Sunday against the Houston Rockets. Although he anticipates the team being able to adapt to his system easily, it may be awhile before they start to really look like a true D’Antoni-coached squad.
“My biggest thing now is I don’t want to put too much out there,” D’Antoni said. “We just have to win games by the energy level and just playing until we get things sorted out. This is a big home stand we need to take care of business. Every day is going to be easier. And, when we get Steve Nash back it’s going to be a lot easier because he knows the offense and knows what we want to do.”
There is still no timetable for Nash’s return, although he is reportedly feeling better and close to being cleared. Blake should be back for D’Antoni’s debut on Sunday.
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