Former New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni is headed to California, taking over the Los Angeles Lakers after Mike Brown was fired just five games into the season. After the initial surprise that Phil Jackson did not return for his third stint with the team, reaction to the hiring has been largely positive.
D'Antoni and his high-paced offensive system will be reunited with point guard Steve Nash who ran it to perfection when the two were with the Phoenix Suns and reached back-to-back Western Conference Finals. D'Antoni's offense will also have more weapons than it ever did in Phoenix or New York as he takes command of a team that has not only Nash, but Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Bringing an uptempo offense to LA has drawn comparisons to the former "Showtime" Lakers. As SB Nation New York's Ryan Jones wrote, "None of the teams D'Antoni had in Phoenix in New York had anywhere near the amount of talent he now has with the Lakers. So as much as you might not want to, get ready for the return of 'Showtime'."
The Lakers' version of the Princeton offense was much maligned to start the season and as SB Nation's Lakers' blog, Silver Screen and Roll, wrote Nash and D'Antoni's reunion should bring a heavy use of the pick-and-roll:
And this works because not only is Nash one of the best pick-and-roll guards of all time, the Lakers have the game's best roll man in Dwight Howard, who has more or less proven so far this year that even with only a portion of his full physical prowess, he can be an overwhelming force in the interior. He sets bone crushing screens to open up space for the ballhandler, expects to convert basically any lob thrown even remotely around his airspace, and pairs wonderfully with a passing guard of Nash's caliber.
While the Lakers have struggled defensively to start the season and D'Antoni is not known for his defensive tactics, Jones reminds that "D'Antoni's squads never need to be better than middle-of-the-road when the seven-second-or-less system is running on all cylinders. He's also never had defenders like Howard and Kobe Bryant at his disposal during his time with the Phoenix Suns or Knicks."
D'Antoni's time in New York may have ended with disappointment, but his next task is beginning with plenty of excitement and expectations.