Mike D'Antoni, one day at a time (Getty Images)
Last November, in his first press conference as Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Mike D’Antoni talked up some pretty impressive potential scoring totals for his new set of All-Star toys. You may recall this aside:
“If we’re not averaging 110 or 115 points per game, then we need to talk.”
“Talk,” the Lakers did not. They fought, mugged, rolled eyes and went on to average 102.2 points per game, good for sixth in the league. No NBA team came close to the 110 mark, with the Denver Nuggets leading the league at 106.1, and no team has sniffed 115 points per game since Don Nelson’s first run with the Golden State Warriors in the mid-1990s.
D’Antoni’s recent explanation for that wild prediction? He “was on drugs,” ‘natch. From Ben Bolch at the Los Angeles Times:
"Yeah, well, I was on drugs back then," Mike D'Antoni said Monday with a chuckle, referring to the pain medication he was taking while recovering from knee surgery. "My knee was hurting. Vicodin was killing me."
If you’ll recall, D’Antoni actually mentioned being a little woozy on Vicodin during the actual press conference, so his story checks out. In the days leading up to D’Antoni’s surprise hire, there was talk that the former Nuggets, Suns and Knicks coach would be forced to sit until December while recovering from knee replacement surgery, so it was also a small surprise that he was able to take to the bench in mid-November.
That run, despite a furious finish, did not turn out as planned. Not only did D’Antoni’s Lakers fall short of the goal that they apparently needed to talk about, but the famed ‘Seven Seconds of Less’ coach couldn’t even get his team to lead the league in possessions per game, as the Lakers finished fourth. Los Angeles did make the playoffs in the final day of the season, but the team was swept by the San Antonio Spurs as Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant watched from the sidelines, and Dwight Howard hastened his El Lay departure.
D’Antoni doesn’t figure to want to push the ball as much in 2013-14. Yes, new additions like Nick Young love to fire away in three seconds or less, much less seven, but point guard Steve Nash is the NBA’s oldest player – recovering from both an injury-plagued 2012-13, and an ankle sprain suffered in pre-preseason workouts in September. With Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman picking and popping and passing, the Lakers figure to be a very good and solidly efficient offensive team, one that doesn’t need to push the pace with or without the eventually returning Kobe Bryant.
The coach, in talking with the Times, understands as much:
"It won't be crazy," he said, "but we want to push it and get a nice pace. We want to get some easy buckets before the defense sets up, so we'll be up in the top five probably in pace, but it won't be breakneck speed."
Sounds like a sober enough take.
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