Mike D’Antoni lowers expectations for Lakers’ pace
About the only thing the Lakers achieved in seven seconds or less last season was making their coach regret saying his team should “easily” average 110-115 points per game when he took the job.
“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.”
The Lakers didn’t exactly die a slow death on the court in a season that fell far short of expectations, averaging 102.2 points (sixth in the NBA) and 96.8 possessions per game (fourth). But they also didn’t resemble the shot-clock-defying offenses D’Antoni ran in Phoenix that generated the seven-seconds-or-less mantra.
Which kind of pace does D’Antoni envision the Lakers running this season?
“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.”
Playing at a faster tempo seems to be more of an option this season because the team got younger and more athletic with the additions of Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson.
“I think we have to utilize our wings, their speed and athleticism,” forward Pau Gasol said, “but not too much faster than we did last year because I think we still have to play at somewhat of a controlled pace and a pace that everybody’s comfortable with.”
Can he cut it?
Ryan Kelly has gone from the Final Four to the final four.
The rookie from Duke who won a national championship as a freshman is one of five Lakers with either partially guaranteed or nonguaranteed contracts vying for as many as four remaining roster spots. The others are Xavier Henry, Elias Harris, Shawne Williams and Marcus Landry.
Kelly made his preseason debut during the Lakers’ trip to China, looking somewhat shaky as expected for someone who had not played since April after having surgery on his right foot.
He made his first shot — a three-pointer — and averaged five points in only 12 minutes per game during the two-game trip. No one can accuse the second-round draft pick of lacking self-confidence.
“I’ve never been the biggest, the fastest, the strongest or nothing,” said Kelly, who is a wiry 6 feet 11 and 230 pounds, “but I’ve gotten it done and I’ll keep doing it.”
Kelly’s future with the Lakers could hinge in part on how many players the team decides to keep during the season; its roster can number between 13 and 15. General Manager Mitch Kupchak recently said ownership may be willing to keep 14 or 15 players because the team’s payroll is down from last season.
Chris Kaman missed practice for a second consecutive day because of gastrointestinal distress and is expected to sit out the Lakers’ exhibition game against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
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