Thursday afternoon in El Segundo, Mike Brown explained in clear terms why he believes the Princeton offense is a key to success for the Lakers this season:
"We don't want to be so one-dimensional where when you play good teams, they say 'OK, Steve Nash is going to play pick and roll 75 percent of the time. Let's figure out how to defend that. And once we take that away, they ain't going to know how to play the game. I'm not going to allow my team to do that. Good teams will figure that out. Not only good teams. When you get somebody in the playoffs and you've got to play them seven games, they'll stop that one thing you're good at. So you've got to be good at a few things on the offensive end of the floor and not just the pick and roll."
I agree, particularly against teams like Miami and Oklahoma City, capable of playing extremely high-end defense. According to Synergy, both were effective against the P & R last season, the Heat being particularly dominant. Given the incredible versatility and basketball acumen of L.A.'s core players, limiting them to one form of offense seems like a waste. As Kobe Bryant noted Thursday, the point isn't to keep the ball from Steve Nash or cover for the relative lack of athleticism on the team.
"The reality is, when you have talented players that are willing to sacrifice their game and to play within a structure, it makes you unstoppable," he said.
No question Nash is uncomfortable (now literally, not just figuratively, following Wednesday's shin injury). He's putting enormous pressure on himself to keep the Lakers inside the Princeton structure, knowing the choice to do otherwise -- despite Brown's approval -- only prolongs the team's learning process. As I noted in Thursday's edition of The Forum, I firmly believe once the Lakers have a healthy grasp of the system, they won't run it nearly as much. Go back to the days of the triangle. Yes, it was the foundation, but in the fourth quarter the Lakers basically ran a series of Kobe/Pau Gasol pick and rolls.
They'll do it again this year, only this time will have Nash and Kobe and Dwight Howard (the NBA's best roll man) and Gasol to utilize, and the ability to keep teams honest at the same time thanks to a sound offensive structure.
That's the theory, at least. Obviously there are no guarantees any of this will work, that Brown is fully capable of organizing and implementing this type of plan, or the growing pains won't come back to haunt the Lakers, whether through a lesser seed or stunted development in other areas. But it's a calculated risk worth taking.
Wednesday night in Portland, the Lakers scored 106 points and shot 50 percent from the floor, despite turning the ball over 24 times. While the TO's are definitely a function of offensive confusion, they shouldn't last forever. In Tuesday's opener, the Lakers had 10 assists on their first 13 buckets. There are plenty of positive signs regarding the offense, and reasons to believe in the long run the Lakers will be better off.
Now, about that defense...