When Mike D’Antoni was the bench boss of the Phoenix Suns, he was named NBA Coach Of The Year, in his first full campaign with the organization. The key to the coach’s and his squad’s success came from a helter-skelter, fast-break offense labeled “Seven Seconds Or Less” by the coach. The player that made that style work for Phoenix, was point guard Steve Nash; who returned to his former team after a stint with the Dallas Mavericks; the summer before the Suns coach won the award. Nash led Phoenix to the Western Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006, but the team would fall short of getting into the Post Season round, that awarded the victor the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
D’Antoni and Nash, parted ways in the Spring of 2008, as the coach and new Suns Team President Steve Kerr, differed on basketball philosophy. Kerr wanted to play a more defensive game, while the coach only cared about outscoring his opponent by one point at the conclusion of the contest. The coach was given permission for his agent to negotiate with other clubs and D’Antoni became the new head coach of the New York Knicks. However, Nash and D’Antoni would be teamed up once again; this time with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The veteran point guard inked a Free Agent pact with the club during the off-season and the Lakers were able to acquire the best center in the Association, as they pulled off a four-team trade to get Dwight Gooden from the Orlando Magic. Along side Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the squad was expected to be an offensive juggernaut this season, however Los Angeles started the campaign with Mike Brown as their head coach. The former bench boss of the Cleveland Cavaliers, believes that offense sells tickets, but it is defense that ultimately win games and Championships. In an ideal world; Brown would be ecstatic winning every game by a 72-68 margin; however the Lakers decided early in the season that they needed a coach who could take advantage of the offense on his roster; firing Brown after starting the season 1-4.
D’Antoni resigned his position as head coach of the Knicks, as he had lost the team and realized he was not going to get their loyalty back. Most likely, he would not have been near the top of most team’s lists of candidates to become their next coach, however Nash reportedly campaigned hard for his former coach to get the gig. Perhaps more importantly, the point guard got his back-court mate Bryant on board, which may have sealed the deal for D’Antoni to become the new coach of the squad, receiving a three-year deal for a reported $12 million.
Bernie Bickerstaff took over as interim coach as D’Antoni finished rehab after having knee replacement surgery at the end of October. The new Lakers bench boss would start his career in Los Angeles with a 95-90 victory over the Brooklyn Nets and has a 2-2 record in his new position after topping the Mavericks in Dallas on Saturday night by a 115-89 margin.
The Lakers have been without the services of Nash since the end of October, when his left leg was slightly fractured as Portland Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard accidentally caught the veteran with his knee in the second game of the campaign for Los Angeles. He is expected to be able to return to action early this coming week, according to the “Los Angeles Times,” and it is at that point that Bryant, his teammates and the new coach expect the “Seven Seconds Or Less” to make its real debut with the team.
After losing on Wednesday to the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers All-Star told reporters that he was not feeling more fatigued after playing in back-to-back games with the faster paced offense. Bryant said “I’m not working too hard, to be honest with you. The shots that I made were all jumpers. It doesn’t take much energy to knock those jumpers down. Bringing the ball up and having me kind of initiate the offense and score and stuff like that, it’s making me work a little more than I will when Gatsby gets back. When Gatsby gets back, I don’t have to do that. The game’s going to become even more easy for me.”
The “Black Mamba” has come up with a new moniker for Nash, as he is sporting a hairstyle that makes him look like he is part of the cast of “Mad Men.” Bryant’s new nickname for his teammate, stems from the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald; “The Great Gatsby,” whose title character transform himself from a working-class boy named Jay Gatz; into a very wealthy dandy, who rubbed elbows with the elite of his time. Apparently Kobe is waiting for his “Gatsby” to transform the team, as the fictional character transformed himself.
D’Antoni, told members of the media, that although Bryant will still be the main scorer for the squad, Nash will be the player who controls the flow of the offense. The new coach said “Our offense, when Steve Nash runs it, should look a little different. He did it the best and I’m looking forward to that. We’ll always go through Kobe. If it is changed a little bit then we’ll sit down and get it changed back because right now he’s playing the best I’ve seen him ever play, or as good as he’s ever played. He’s really letting the game come to him.”
The Lakers are still in that adjustment period, when everyone is overly polite to everybody else, until you really get to know them. In about a month we will see if Gatsby, Kobe and company can take advantage of the fast-break game they have been given.