- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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Mike D'Antoni declared at his introductory news conference that he envisioned a "Showtime: 2" for the Los Angeles Lakers under his watch and the team should average 110-115 points per game.
He has had to adjust those expectations, obviously.
The Lakers have won six out of their last seven games and have cracked 110 points just twice in that stretch, proving they can grind games out to get the victory even if it goes against the style D'Antoni is known for.
Things could get even slower for the Lakers offense with Pau Gasol out indefinitely and Dwight Howard still sidelined because of a sore right shoulder. L.A. will likely turn to the less-mobile Robert Sacre, whose game is suited for a plodding type of play, to plug up the middle in their absence.
D'Antoni claims he has already adapted to fit the Lakers this season and is ready to continue to do so in light of the injury news.
"We had a system that we ran in Phoenix that was different and it was really successful and I liked it obviously," D'Antoni told the Mason & Ireland Show on ESPNLA 710 radio on Wednesday. "It was fun to play that way, but I don't have a system. I just think we try to play what's best for our personnel and what's best for the game of basketball that's kind of evolving in the last few years. A lot of teams are going a lot smaller, they're spreading the floor more, they're using the 3-point shot a lot more. Basketball has changed and it's changed how you can't guard with your hands on the perimeter and the players have changed -- much more skilled, better shooters, better passers. So, that's where it is today."
D'Antoni's point about the direction the league is heading was evidenced by last year's NBA Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder that was dominated by wing players on both teams and marginalized the use of back-to-the-basket big men in their approach to the game.
"I can play any way," D'Antoni said. "I don't care if we run, if we slow it down, we want to win and we want to try to get the best out of every player and I do believe that opening the floor up and playing at a faster pace is a lot better for a lot of players.
"Now, we've struggled with that and we weren't built to be the Phoenix team. We weren't built to be real fast. I would like to get there some day, but we're trying to play at the speed that is more conducive to how we are. But, I do believe in a certain way and I do believe certain things in basketball do not change -- that's sharing the ball, spreading the floor, playing great defense, everybody playing for everybody else and not being selfish. I think every coach is more or less the same. I don't think coaches are that much different. It's just how you get your message across and can you get it across."
The Lakers are sixth in the league in points per game this season at 102.12 points per game and eighth in offensive efficiency, averaging 105.3 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers are the only team in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive efficiency with a sub-.500 record, suggesting that while D'Antoni's offense gets most of the attention when figuring out what's wrong with the Lakers, their defense is probably the real culprit.