With so much success wracking up double-digit assists in the past few games, Kobe Bryant has brought a new level of excitement to the Lakers franchise. Bryant and the Lakers have won two in a row, one of which was against what is arguably the best team in the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But there has been continued conversation about how Bryant is playing his own type of basketball, not the system that Mike D’Antoni put together. Unfortunately for these naysayers, you have to understand the type of system D’Antoni runs to realize that this is exactly what D’Antoni preaches.
Mike D’Antoni never had a real formal system. He didn’t have plays that he would call up. Yes, D’Antoni liked to push the tempo. And yes, D’Antoni relied heavily on the 3-point shot. But when you break down what D’Antoni really relied on, it’s easy to realize that this is exactly what he wants.
He relied the most on a skilled ball handler. He relied on someone who could break down offenses and get the ball to an open man with the confidence to hit his shot. That was Mike D’Antoni’s offense. That’s why Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire were so great together. Nash was such a lethal ball handler that he could feather a pass to Stoudemire for an easy dunk. If Nash couldn’t get the ball to him, there were other guys who could catch the ball and score.
One thing that D’Antoni never really relied on was the post-up. He preferred to go at a fast pace because he had the personnel to do that. But when you broke it down, all that really mattered to him was that he had a ball handler that could get the ball to the open guy time and time again.
Kobe Bryant is a tremendously talented ball handler. And when he believes he can get the ball to someone—and more importantly, that the guy will be able to score—he’s not afraid of making the pass. Add in how easily he gets doubled because, well, it’s Kobe Bryant and suddenly, you have a lethal scorer who is also passing wonderfully.
This explains why Steve Nash has repositioned himself to the 2-guard. There’s no denying that Nash can still play pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball. But he’s also a 40%+ 3-point shooter. With Kobe getting double-teamed, it’s easy to pass it out to Nash for the easy 3-pointer.
Is this the run and gun type of offense that Mike D’Antoni likes? No. But it’s the ball movement that he likes. And it should be remembered that it’s this type of ball movement that coaches all around the NBA hope they can get their players to do. It works. The ball moves faster than any player and therefore, finding the open guy is possible.
Kobe is going off to the races again tomorrow night versus the Timberwolves. I’m going to go enjoy the Kobe “Magic” Bryant get more assists.