Los Angeles Lakers: Triangle Offense

Unlearning what they've learned

December, 23, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
The introduction of a new coaching staff naturally brings a learning curve. It's true under the most normal of circumstances, and even more so this season. The Lakers are integrating Mike Brown's offensive system along with fresh additions to the roster without the teaching time afforded by a typical offseason and training camp. Playing precision basketball from the jump is an almost impossible demand, as evidenced by their 40-plus turnovers in two preseason games.

Other squads around the league face similar hurdles, but for the Lakers there's an additional complicating layer.

Throughout the Phil Jackson era, anytime the Lakers acquired a new player it raised the question of how long it would take for him to learn the system. Now the process is working in reverse. Key pieces of the Lakers' roster have had their NBA wiring formed in the triangle. Andrew Bynum has never played in a different system. For all intents and purposes, neither has Kobe Bryant. Derek Fisher is so closely associated with Triangle Point Guard, he's treated like a living, traveling exhibit from the Naismith Museum.

Principles of the offense are run throughout the league and the Lakers didn't run it all the time, but the triangle had been the Lakers' foundation for over a decade. They were the only team using it, and the mindset, approach, and execution were very specific.

As Bryant explains, unplugging from it isn't an instant process:

Following Monday's loss to the Clippers, Bynum admitted he was still feeling his way through. "Offensively, I don't know exactly where to be on every play," he said. "I really am so used to being on one side of the basketball, ducking in, and then reading different actions. In this offense, it’s more timing. More reading other players, knowing when to dive, versus when not to."

Talking with him later this week at practice, he elaborated:

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Some of us had to learn French...

October, 19, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Kobe Bryant talks all the time about the endless variety of options available once players fully understand the triangle. Easy for him to say, since he's already received a Ph.D in Three Sided Offenses. For those just working through their 100 level classes, there are multiple reasons the triangle can be tough to digest. Perhaps because the triangle requires newbies to recalibrate how they engage in an offense. Instead of more traditional, called sets, it works as a read-and-react system. There's definitely a learning curve, and as Steve Blake recently noted, with new players it's a challenge to get everyone reading-and-reacting to the same things.

There are other things making the triangle unique. Little stuff. Devin Ebanks talked about the footwork. Monday at practice, Luke Walton mentioned another, when asked what advice he'd give his new teammates in their educational process. "The most important thing is getting the terminology down. It's a reaction-type of offense, so if you don't have the terminology down, by the time it takes you to process to what [Phil Jackson is] telling you to do, you react and you're a second or two late already," he said. "After that, a lot of it is common sense, and going to what's open. He always says you can't make a mistake in the offense if you hit the open man or cut to the open area."

I asked Walton if, understanding he's working with a unique lexicon and because he's the type of guy who might, Jackson ever invents words just to screw with people.

"He doesn't make up words, but he definitely [messes with you]. We'll do four straight times where he'll call out second guard lag, fist side to a center opposite, counter action back to the guard on first time down, then come back and run [something else]. Like that, even the guys who have been here for eight years are looking at each other like, what the heck? Let alone the new guys, who look around like they're never going to figure it out."



Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0