by Pat Ralph
There is a popular expression in sports that goes: “Offense can win games, but defense wins championships.” It is a belief held by most sports experts about how to succeed at the highest level in a particular sport.
However, it does not seem like the Los Angeles Lakers front office or head Ccach Mike D’Antoni believes in this theory.
Of the many compelling stories so far this NBA season, it is fair to say that the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggle has been the most dramatic story.
Despite losing in the Western Conference Semifinals last season to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers refused to let their window close and were committed to improving their roster in order to make another run at an NBA Championship.
In the offseason, the Lakers upgraded at point guard by landing two-time MVP Steve Nash in a trade with the Phoenix Suns, as well as adding key bench depth with the signings of veteran scorers Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks.
The Lakers made the biggest splash of the summer when they acquired six-time NBA All-Star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic in four-team trade that also sent Lakers center Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Trading Bynum has proven to be one of the few productive moves for the Lake Show, as he has yet to play a game this year for the Sixers due to injuries.
Heading into the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers had an All-Star starting lineup and a team ready to contend again for an NBA title. Despite these additions, letting defensive specialist Matt Barnes walk to their crosstown rivals has not worked out, as Barnes has excelled off the bench for Lob City.
However, this season has been anything but good for the City of Angels’ second best team, as the talented and deep Clippers have emerged this season with the second best record in the Association.
Currently standing at 17-21 and out of the playoff picture, the Lakers should look no further than themselves for why they have been so bad this season.
First off, one of the worst decisions the Lakers have made so far this year was firing head coach Mike Brown five games into the season and replacing him with D’Antoni.
Most people feel that Brown’s firing was a stubborn move since he had led the team to the Pacific Division title in his first season, and actually knew how to coach defense.
However, with the Lakers’ ill-advised move of hiring a coach who does not have defense in his vocabulary, the Lake Show has ordered a recipe for disaster.
Anyone who has watched D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix and New York knows his teams were very talented, but they were never able to make it to the next level because they never played defense.
So far this season, the Lakers’ inability to play defense has been one of the multitude reasons why they might not make the playoffs.
In addition to this, D’Antoni’s up-tempo offensive style does not fit with the roster that the Lakers have, which is the third oldest in the league. To this point, D’Antoni has been unsuccessful at implementing his offensive system into the gameplan, and he seems to have no plans to change that.
The only idea that D’Antoni has come up with to improve the Lakers has been to give the most important defensive assignments to Kobe Bryant.
However, this is an inadequate solution to the problem, as this will take more energy out of 34-year-old Bryant on the defensive end that could be used more effectively on the offensive end of the ball. Bryant, who leads the league in scoring, has been one of the only Lakers producing.
It goes to show also how unreliable and expendable Metta World Peace has become on defense, as he was once a defensive specialist for the Lake Show.
Dwight Howard’s poor attitude, big man Jordan Hill’s season-ending injury, an unproductive bench and power forward Pau Gasol’s ineffective play have also crippled the Lakers greatly this year.
Howard, whose poor attitude in Orlando last year landed him on the trading block this summer and not with the Brooklyn Nets or a contract extension, has brought his disgruntled attitude to the West Coast.
Howard has complained about his role on the Lakers and that he wants more touches on the offensive end. However, his argument is flawed.
First and foremost, Mr. Howard needs to realize he will not be the number one option on offense when Bryant is on the team. Secondly, the Lakers have been doing more post-ups this year than in the past few seasons, which goes completely against D’Antoni’s offensive system.
If D’Antoni is able to incorporate more of his offensive sets into the Lakers’ gameplan, Howard could see his role shrink even more.
For Howard, the best thing he could do is be quiet and perform on the defensive end, which is Howard’s specialty and where the Lakers need more help.
If Lakers fans want to see their team make the playoffs, the Lakers will need to add some offensive and defensive pieces at the trade deadline, as well as clarify each player’s role on the team.
Recently, Lakers’ Executive VP Jim Buss, son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, was on the radio and stated that he was 100 percent confident in the job D’Antoni was doing and that he felt good about where the team was.
Unfortunately for you Mr. Buss, most fans in Laker Land are being a little more realistic about their chances of making the playoffs and the direction this team is going in.
It is time for the Lakers’ management to be realistic with itself, and the first thing it can do is realize that turning down 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson for D’Antoni was not one of the best decisions.