I highlight the nuts and bolts in my recent conversation with Lakers assistant Dan D’Antoni, who has helped oversee the Lakers’ offense. Incidentally, he’s also the brother of Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni. Considering Mike has paced himself back from recent knee replacement surgery, Dan had helped as another voice in implementing the new fast-paced offense. Below are other portions of my recent interview with Dan
How would you evaluate the Lakers offense right now?
“We’re going through a faster paced offense than more half court. That’s 10 years of one way of playing and then a week or two trying to change mindsets. You can be successful the other way, but also successful running. We think running provides a good way toward winning a championship and an entertaining way to get there. Championships can be won many ways. It’s not any one way. Everyone tells you they got the right way. I’ll show you last year’s champion and they probably did it some other way. It’s a matter of our guys perfecting what we do and being confident in what we do, buying in offensively and defensively. Feel good, play hard as you can, get a break or two and win a championship.”
Where is the team at conditioning wise?
There’s more question they need to get in better shape. I don’t care what you’re doing. Id on’t care whether you’re a fighter or a track star, if you’re not in shape you’re not going to be at your best. If you’re not at your best, you’re going to get beat in the NBA. A little bit is conditioning and conditioning the body to run. A lot of it is mental conditioning. The thought that when that ball comes off and I’m going this way. Usually in basketball, it’s not who’s the fastest. It’s who starts first. We right now haven’t timed that start. We haven’t got the starter’s gun. HE blows the starter’s gun and then we realize a race is on. We have to get where we react to a faster pace. That’s not visible. That’s more of a mental process and conditioning process that when the ball gets through the basket, we’ll get it down the court a little quicker and catch the ball down the floor a little further. As soon as the ball goes up, take that first two steps and move on the other end. The speed takes care of itself. If you have fast players, they’ll be faster. If you have slower players, it will be a little slower. But it will still be effective.
How do you measure the mental aspect versus the reality that this is an old team?
If you’re too old to play in this league, you probably ought to get out of the league. I don’t believe that. I’ve seen John Havlicek at 38 and he was still running. All of you guys who have never played that much have written that so it’s true. I’m not sure it’s true. If they take care of themselves and coach watches their minutes a little bit, they should be in condition to run. They get paid a lot of money to get up and down the floor, provide entertainment and give a good brand of basketball. That’s a mental thing that you have to do it. Granted, you watch minutes a little closer. That’s about it.
What feedback do you give your brother?
I don’t care if you’re brothers or not, everybody has a different opinion. Everybody thinks their opinion is right. Just ask anybody. They’ll tell you you’re right and everybody else is wrong. I throw an opinion out and hten he makes that decision. Some people, if you want o keep your job and are worried about him liking you so you keep your job, you might watch what you say. I don’t need to do that. I just tell him. He understands basketball and is smart. He’ll pick and choose. He’s strong. Our family grew up competing against each other. He’s strng willed. He’ll take what he wants and not take what he wants.
Have you taken an adding role in overseeing the offense since Mike has had recent knee replacement surgery?
“There’s no question, especially with him and his knee has messed up. He doesn’t have that strong personality and swagger. The same thing with players, if they’re not in shape and feeling good and they’re running, they don’t play as well. Mike came in and just finished an operation. He’s trying to recover. I did a little bit more voice the first two or three days. As he gets back on his feet, he’ll grab the reigns, I’ll try to figure out to help him.
We’re still just on running down the floor. We’re trying to get them to space, and think about space. Getting there on time so coordination between the play is starting. We’re staying to play and they’re not where they’re supposed to be. Some people may think then the play doesn’t work. You didn’t run it right. It wasn’t set up to be successful. We have to get a rhythm for the team where we run as a unit and not chaos. That unit comes down together. From there there are specific principles and movements when it’s all in sync, it works. You can’t just wave a wand and think it will happen. It just doesn’t happen like that.
I saw you compared the Lakers’ development to the alphabet. Where are you?
Out of 26 letters, we’re at A, B, C and D. We’re just getting it where we’re down the floor and getting the spacing. When you have a concept, there are basic moves where there are six or seven options. If we have 10 concepts, we have one out of the first five. If you put it in too fast, you get confused and you end up not doing the first thing well. If you don’t do the first thing well, which is the pick and roll, if oyu don’y get that right, that takes time. You have to get that and start branching off. As they grasp the concept, the main things we’re emphasizing is spacing, pick and roll and running it with force. Once it’s open and that force comes to the basketball and the defense starts reacting to it. Right now we haven’t had that. If you look at our line, points in the paint, it’s not where it should be.
What does Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol need to do to improve their conditioning?
They just have to play hard. If they play hard, they’ll get conditioned. It is a difference. They were conditioned, but the game they played involved a lot of pounding. They have a lot of physical conditioning. But this system flips it where it’s more of a cardio thing. They just have to play hard and extend themselves. They may have to come out early, but if they don’t push themselves, they won’t get it.
How important is it to piecemeal the offense instead of throwing everything at them at once? You can’t do that. That’s like saying we’re going to go out and read Shakespeare when we can’t read yet. It’s going to take a while. I know it’s a hurry up business. But it’s not something you go in and say it’s done. They weren’t a running team when we came. I wish it came yesterday. But the reality is you have to evaiuate day to day. As they get the initial concepts, then you teach the other concepts. How to make backdoor cuts, when to dribble out to the perimeter etc. We’re staying with the basics a heck of a lot longer. I hope management understands.
Then again, Mike Brown was let go after a 1-4 start..
They had a year. It was a build up. That came from a buildup. If they give us a buildup and have a chance to get it in and it doesn’t work, well that’s the nature of the business. But we feel like where we have a training camp and get along with these guys, we’ll compete for a championship.
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