When Lakers’ fans are throwing around blame for the fact the team they thought would be a contender is struggling for the eight spot, pretty much everyone who does not have a first name of Kobe is a target.
But one of the most fired at targets is coach Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni’s biggest problem is that he’s not Phil Jackson, who the fans wanted (and D’Antoni gets that). But how much blame can you really throw at a coach brought in eight games into a season where his star point guard was missing the next seven weeks, his star center was moving at half speed due to off-season back surgery, his star power forward missed games due to injury and pretty much everyone has been out for a while?
Steve Nash told Rick Berry on Fox Sports Radio not much in his mind. Via Sports Radio Interviews.
“I wouldn’t say he’s happy with where we are, just because it’s been a coach’s nightmare in a lot of ways. You’ve had a lot of guys either injured for great stretches, unfamiliar with one another, no training camp to really get the necessary hours in and finding our balance and who we are as a team. So I know it’s disappointing for him and frustrating because he hasn’t been able to really have a full shot at it.”
It’s a valid point. You can say D’Antoni’s system doesn’t really fit the Lakers personnel, but is that really on him or management for bringing him in? They knew what they were getting. And D’Antoni has modified that system dramatically — watch the Lakers game against the Clippers and you’ll see they ran a lot of “horns” and not a lot of vintage D’Antoni transition, drag screens and the rest. He’s adapted.
The bigger question for the Lakers: Does a training camp and some health turn this Lakers team into contenders up there with the Spurs and Thunder in the West? Or is it going to take more than that? It feels like the latter to me.
Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.
That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.
Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.
He’s certainly got the athleticism.
James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.
Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.
Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.
“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”
We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.
Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.
Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?
If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.
I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.
Because it’s summer.
Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).
Because Stephen Curry did it, too.
Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?
And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.
So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.
Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.
Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.
Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.
Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?
A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.