Originally written November 26, 2012 on Purple and Gold Blog:
After a full week with new head coach Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers have improved significantly on offense, defense and in their bench production. They're looking better as a unit in terms of their ball movement, spacing, and getting to know each other's tendencies on the offensive side. Defensively, their rotation, transition, and energy have gone up, as well. Thanks to Bernie Bickerstaff's superb attention to prepare them for an offense that doesn't have any Princeton or Triangle on its name, the transition to D'Antoni has been without a hiccup. Their 2 wins under D'Antoni is indicative of what the Lakers can do both on offense and defense if they bring the intensity and effort. But their 2 losses against Sacramento and Memphis pretty much showcased that they still have a long road in adjusting mentally to become a legit title contender. The good news is it isn't even December yet and Steve Nash has yet to return. Pau Gasol, again, got the brunt of the blame for those 2 road losses against the Kings and Grizzlies for whatever reason. I guess it's easy to forget that Dwight Howard went 14 points on 4-for-11 shooting combined on those same 2 games. It's difficult for post-players to be productive on offense and have the team build on their team chemistry when the rest of their teammates ignore them. The way their fortunes changed when they got their bigs involved early and often against Dallas is a reminder of that. The next 3 games, starting on Tuesday against Indiana, will be at Staples Center before they see 7 road games the following 8 games. Seeing their struggles away from home, the Lakers can't take these early home games for granted. Even before the firing of Mike Brown, the team was having trouble finding its identity. Having gone through Bickerstaff and now D'Antoni, the steps moving forward stumbled a bit. But as many of you might question, how does that affect the way they play defense? For the most part, their effort on defense should always be there. They're a capable team as we've just seen against the Mavericks. But everything goes back to their consistency on how they attack the opposition and not having a system in place defensively. Brown was supposed to establish that first but his Princeton offense took priority over everything else. To a degree, it was a mistake since the Lakers didn't quite grasp his style of defense even last season. Then again, that's assuming he actually had a plan defensively to begin with. Not saying that D'Antoni has a better one. But at least, the team is responding to his demands to get back on defense, read what the offense is trying to do and just come out to make a difference on that end of the court a lot more than Brown ever could. And when you take all of that with Howard, Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant on the floor defensively, that just might be all the Lakers need. Without Nash at the point, it's impossible to gauge how much better the team can become offensively. Kobe has done a remarkable job filling in for him. Kudos to both Darius Morris and Chris Duhon for stepping up also. But if the team is already averaging 101.2 points under D'Antoni without Nash, it's a good bet the Lakers will get plenty more opportunities to put up points when he gets back. As long as the team continue to play for D'Antoni and buy into whatever adjustments that needs to be made, the Lakers are going to be just fine.
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