The Lakers need to play better defense next season… unless they enjoyed how this season went. Thanks to terrible transition defense, shake perimeter defense and Dwight Howard’s back slowing him, the Lakers finished 19th in the NBA in points allowed per possession.
As does everything with the Lakers right now, some of that blame is being directed at Mike D’Antoni. So there is talk of him trying to bring a defensive specialist as an assistant coach on staff.
And he wants Nate McMillan — and if not him Alvin Gentry — according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.
With the Lakers in full-on evaluation mode after getting swept in the first round by the Spurs, coach Mike D’Antoni is actively exploring his long-standing desire to add a defensive-minded assistant. D’Antoni’s first choice is believed to be McMillan. But with the fellow Team USA assistant expected to land a head coaching job, coaching sources believe D’Antoni will get the green light to add former Suns coach Alvin Gentry to his staff for next season.
McMillan is the frontrunner in Detroit and will get the chance to interview pretty much anywhere else he wants.
I find Nate McMillan an odd fit with D’Antoni for two reasons. One, McMillan’s teams played notoriously slowly. His style was the complete opposite of D’Antoni. Still the two forged friendship through Team USA, where both worked as assistants to Mike Krzyzewski, so maybe that works.
The other thing that’s odd — McMillan’s teams were never great defensively. He has this reputation as a defensive coach based on his teams not giving up many points per game, but that was because his teams played at a painfully slow pace. In the 10 years he was the solo head coach of a team here is where his squads finished in league rankings of defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession): 17, 17, 27, 27, 28, 26, 17, 13, 15, and 14. Basically, his teams were never better than average. (Kelly Dwyer breaks it down in more detail at Ball Don’t Lie if you want.)
Gentry coached some good defensive teams back in the day in Detroit but his recent run with the Suns was not impressive (although the roster wasn’t exactly filled with defensive stoppers).
One way or another, look for the Lakers to make a move for a veteran coach on the bench beside D’Antoni next season. Which, if you’re looking to make a coaching change again mid-season, makes things far simpler. Just pointing that out.