In a move that shocked the entire NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown only five games into the regular season, during which the Lakers went 1-4. The speed at which the Lakers’ front office fired Brown is ridiculous. It would be the same as if an NFL team fired their coach before the two-minute warning of the first game! To replace Brown, a defensive-minded coach, the Lakers brought in former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, who treats defense as an afterthought. Gone is the Princeton offense that Brown attempted to implement this season with help from assistant coach Eddie Jordan, and in comes D’Antoni’s high powered, run and gun offense that allowed Steve Nash to be a two-time MVP.
One of two things will occur because of this change: either the offense will be molded to fit the team, or the team will be molded to fit the offense. If the former is true, then look for the Lakers to run a mixture of high pick and rolls between Nash and either Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol, and also isolation plays for Kobe to operate more freely. In this situation, Nash’s performance will see a large increase and his stats should be more around his career averages of 14 points and eight assists, rather than the pathetic four points and four assists he is averaging right now. No matter what other superstars the Lakers bring in, this team will always be Kobe’s team until he decides otherwise, so even if the team is molded to fit the offense, Kobe will still be the focal point. Look for him to be the primary ball handler in the high pick and roll sets with Howard and Gasol. Nash, sadly, will most likely be relegated to the role of spot up shooter — forgotten, only leaving the three-point line for his occasional turns running the point.
This team has too much talent to not make the playoffs, so before any crazy speculation begins about how the Lakers are a failure and destined for the lottery, understand that they will be among the top eight in the West come season’s end. However, a trip to the Finals is no longer a sure thing. None of D’Antoni’s teams have ever made it to the Finals, mainly due to their complete neglect of defense. One may argue that this because the teams had terrible defenders, but the 2006 Suns had perimeter defenders Raja Bell and Shawn Marion, along with shot blocking forward Amar’e Stoudemire commanding the paint.
The Lakers’ current roster includes top defenders Howard, Bryant, and forward Ron Artest, but will their defensive talents be enough to balance out a philosophy that seemingly shuns the idea of a defensive stop? The answer to this question will determine the Lakers’ success this postseason and will ultimately determine if the decision to fire Mike Brown five games into the season was a wise one or not.