The Los Angeles Lakers did not give Interim Coach Bernie Bickerstaff much time to relish in his perfect 2-0 start. Not sure if you heard...Sunday night, the Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni as the new head basketball coach. Despite that, the Lakers and D'Antoni are taking things slow, like any good relationship should. It's unlikely that the D'Antoni will be on the bench leading his new squad when the Lakers face off against Western Conference foe San Antonio Tuesday night. D'Antoni, after recovering from a recent knee surgery, is rumored to be joining the team as early as Friday when the Lakers play Phoenix. On the surface, this hire is interesting, even a bit head-scratching.
How is a coach that has made a name for himself touting a run-and-gun style offense, going to fare when he inherits a Laker squad that's noticeably bigger, older, and, well, slower? D'Antoni, now reunited with his former Suns captain, Steve Nash, and fellow Olympians Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, will look to answer this question heading into the remaining part of a high expectations season in Tinseltown. A couple things are for certain, he'll need to speed up the pace of play and improve the defensive efficiency of the 3-4 Lakeshow when they battle the consistent Spurs Tuesday night at Staples.
Pace Pace, Baby
Once dubbed "Seven Seconds or Less," D'Antoni's basketball style should help speed up an offense that hasn’t been known for it's pace of play since the Showtime days. The Lakers' Pace Factor (Pace factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team) is currently sitting at 92.7 ranking them below the NBA Average at 17th (surprisingly just below the Miami Heat 92.9). And, this year is an improvement over the past 2 years when the Lakers finished the 2010 and 2011 seasons at 20th and 21st respectively in pace factor. If the Lakers are going to have any chance offsetting the Spurs' awesome efficiency, they'll have to push the ball, and get to the bucket early and often.
People love to ignore defense because it's not sexy, but the main reason why the Lakers got off to a bad start this year is the fact that they struggled at that end of the court. In the last three years, the Lakers' defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) averaged 8th in the NBA. However, even after holding the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings to 77 and 90 points respectively in their last two games, L.A. still ranks a sub-average 18th on the defensive side of the ball. While the Spurs are an extremely efficient offensive team, ranking 9th in offensive rating, they're prone to turnovers -- they turn the ball over on 16.1% of all possessions, so LA should have some opportunities to capitalize.
Tune in tonight to see if the Mike Brownless Lakers push their longest and only winning streak of the season to three.