As expected, Lakers Media Day in El Segundo was a morning filled with wall-to-wall excitement. Excitement at the additions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison. Excitement at the team's legitimate depth. Excitement at the prospects of being among a handful of teams considered serious contenders for the 2013 championship.
But there was also excitement about the implementation of elements from the Princeton offense, a blueprint largely designed by new assistant coach Eddie Jordan. At the risk of stating the painfully obvious, the Lakers' offense left something to be desired last season. Obviously, extenuating circumstances -- the lockout, practices rarer than the sighting of a bald eagle, a lack of perimeter players beyond Kobe Bryant and, for a bit, Ramon Sessions -- accounted for some issues. But the Lakers weren't the only team negotiating those hurdles, so a trip to the drawing board was clearly in order.
The Princeton should simultaneously add elements of structure and freedom, and as Mike Brown explained, it's a system he's always envisioned using under the right circumstances:
"I've always been fascinated with that offense ever since the days I was in Cleveland and it seemed like every year I was there we faced the Washington Wizards and Eddie Jordan in the first round. If you take away everybody's different abilities that they have in the NBA and how good or bad they are in those different aspects of the game offensively, and you turned everybody into robots or equated to being the same player, then I always felt that offense was the hardest to defend. The spacing is tremendous. The ball movement is tremendous. The ability to play a stress-free game was off the charts. So those things have always attracted me to it. I just never really had an understanding or the opportunity to implement it. Not only that, I never felt that Cleveland and I had the teams for it. You know, when you have a guy like LeBron (James), he's a pick and roll player. The same thing that Miami does for him down there, we did for him up in Cleveland. You try to play to your player's strengths.
"Here, after being with this team for a year, this is a very intelligent team, and they play very well when it comes to using a motion offense and using their intelligence."
Brown's right about his team's collective IQ being suitable for running the Princeton. Similarly, the high number of quality passers on this team makes for a nice match. Of course, it's also important to remember the Lakers won't be locked into this system in the strictest sense. As Brown explained in an August Q & A with BK and reiterated on Monday, the freedom to initiate pick-and-roll action will be afforded at the top of most possessions. Given the presences of Steve Nash as quarterback, Dwight Howard as a roller extraordinaire, and Kobe and Pau Gasol as excellent P/R weapons, not doing so would be silly. And whatever positive elements from last season's offense will be carried over.
Phil Jackson's Lakers didn't run triangle on every sequence, and it wouldn't surprise me if Brown's Lakers were even looser with the Princeton. But it's always beneficial to have a system in your back pocket to center yourself during rough or sloppy stretches.
Plus, there's the benefit of familiarity. Jamison ran Jordan's offense during his days as a Wizard, so the sixth man's learning curve with his new team may be less steep. Metta World Peace is familiar with the principles, having run similar action with the Kings. Kobe and Pau can do motion offense in their sleep. And Steve Blake played under Jordan in D.C., so he has a good idea what the offense is about. Thus, he may not be able to participate in some of training camp due to a foot injury, but at least he'll have first-hand experience with what he's watching from the sideline.
As for Nash, this system will probably require some adjustments as a ball-dominant point guard, but his thoughts on the finished product and Princeton's ultimate purpose were quite optimistic.
"I think the new offense will be many things. I think it will give us an opportunity to space the floor. Give us an opportunity to have balance. Read and react off each other and make it difficult for the defense to make decisions and make it difficult for the defense to load up on any one or two players. I think that's an offense that can fit very well with our talent. It will allow us to hopefully have an understanding to where we're flowing instead of being regimented and predictable. It's a good opportunity for us to really build something together.
Below are more videos from Jamison and Blake discussing the Princeton.