A couple of big moves were reported late Friday night. The bigger one was probably Greg Oden to the Miami Heat, but ESPN’s Dave McMenamin had a scoop of his own at almost exactly the same time as the Oden news: the Los Angeles D-Fenders are targeting Bob MacKinnon to be their next head coach.
Okay, so that might not make quite as much of a wave in the basketball world, but the Los Angeles Lakers paying attention to their NBA Development League team could end up being pretty important if they struggle early on this year or don’t reload with a few stars next summer. And the fact that they’ve decided to target MacKinnon, one of the more intriguing coaches at the D-League level, shows that they’re looking to develop a fun, winning culture.
MacKinnon coached the Springfield Armor for the past two seasons, but more famously was the coach of the 2009 D-League champion Colorado 14ers when he compiled a run-and-gun roster that averaged 118.9 points per game thanks to a pace of 104.5 possessions each outing. Run-and-gun, then, is obviously what he preferred to play before having to run the Brooklyn Nets offense in Springfield. With the Lakers’ affiliate team, though, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to go back to the D-League version of Mike D’Antoni Seven Seconds or Less offense he ran with the Phoenix Suns.
D’Antoni got away from running and gunning with last year’s Lakers lineup, but he’s said he’ll get back to his playbook this year. If MacKinnon is allowed to do something similar with the D-League squad, he’ll not only be helping them get ready for a call-up to the Lakers, but also give the players opportunities to get noticed around the rest of the league as well. The best part of a lot of possessions in the D-League though, as MacKinnon’s preached for awhile, is that players fighting for limited opportunities are less likely to worry about their minutes.
“The great thing about basketball is that it’s a player’s game,” MacKinnon said. “When I got the job last year, I figured ‘What’s most important to the players?’ The most important things are minutes and numbers. Points, rebounds, assists, that kind of thing. As a coach I thought, ‘What can I do to take some of their concerns away and make it more about winning?’ I thought if we could get our possessions up, the way that we play will be determined more by possessions than by minutes. If we get our possessions up, the numbers will take care of themselves.”
If the D-Fenders do end up hiring MacKinnon, he’ll technically be taking over for Mark Madsen. Madsen didn’t actually ever coach the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, however, because he was promoted to the Lakers’ as an assistant shortly after accepting the Development League gig.