New York, NY (Sports Network) - I have breaking news! Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro have both decided to immediately institute the Princeton offense for their teams, and Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul are thrilled about the burden being lifted off their shoulders.
My sarcasm aside, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown has taken a barrage of criticism for his new offense and its role in how Steve Nash is utilized. Nash was on the sidelines Sunday night as the Lakers won their first game of the season with a 108-79 rout of the Detroit Pistons.
The Lakers' point guard suffered a small fracture in his left leg Wednesday in Portland and it was announced Sunday that he would be out at least a week.
But the news came Monday that Nash could be sidelined up to a month. Whenever the eight-time All Star returns, I'm sure the debate will continue over the Princeton offense. Brown staunchly defended the new system after the Lakers had dropped their first two games.
"The first thing is with our offense, every time down the floor - and if they want to, they can call Steve Nash and ask him - Steve Nash has the right to play pick and roll if he wants to," Brown said. "He has said it himself that he doesn't feel like he's as burdened because he doesn't have to make every play for everybody all the time with what we're trying to do. He can give it up and still have a chance to get it back. He's said that he feels as fresh as he's ever felt in his career because he doesn't feel the pressure of making every single play."
Since when is it pressure for a great point guard to have the ball in his hands most of the time and make plays? And as great as Steve Nash is at creating shots for teammates, why would you reduce his impact on the game with an offense in which he doesn't have the ball as much and is not taking full advantage of his skills, in particular running the pick-and-roll extensively?
If you take a look at the effect Nash had on the Phoenix Suns' offense and its individual players, how can you can you not question Brown for not letting Nash be Nash.
Last season, when the future Hall of Fame point guard wasn't on the floor, the Suns shot 41.6 percent from the floor, which was just slightly better than the 41.4 percent compiled by one of the worst teams in the history of the NBA in the Charlotte Bobcats.
Conversely, when Nash was on the court, the Suns' field goal percentage soared to 47.4 percent, which was barely below the league-leading rate of 47.8 percent of the San Antonio Spurs.
So basically the Suns went from being nearly the worst-shooting team in the league without Nash on the floor to being nearly the best with him there. It's also no surprise that Nash's presence on the court had a huge impact on Phoenix's scoring output, too. According to NBA.com's stats tool, the Suns scored 106.5 points per 100 possessions last season when Nash was on the court, but that figure plummeted to just 98.5 when he was off the floor. That's an eight-point slide, one of the biggest differentials in the league last season. Nash's impact on the shooting percentages of his Suns teammates was just as startling.
Channing Frye shot a dismal 34.9 percent without Nash on the court last season, but 42.7 percent with him on the floor. Marcin Gortat, whose career took off when he joined the Suns after being dealt from Orlando to Phoenix during the 2010-11 season, shot 56.8 percent with Nash on the court and 47 percent without him. Michael Redd shot 48.3 percent with Nash on the floor and 40.5 percent without him, while Jared Dudley hit 49.9 percent with Nash and 41.3 percent without him.
It's no wonder that when Nash was dealt to the Lakers, Dudley sent out this tweet: "Steve Nash has made many players millions."
In Nash, the Lakers have one of the greatest players in the history of the game in running the pick-and-roll, and in Dwight Howard, they arguably have the best big man scorer today in the NBA's go-to play.
But the Lakers' coach doesn't think the pick-and-roll should be the emphasis of their offense.
"We could spread the floor and play pick and roll all the time ... but it will make us one-dimensional," he said. "So when we play the good teams, they'll figure out how to stop that one thing that we're good at ... and when we're in seven-game playoff series, for sure the later we get into the playoffs, they'll be able to take us out of the offense because we'll be so one-dimensional. What we're trying to do, we're trying to eliminate that and be hard to guard because it's a read-based offense."
Maybe Brown should take a look at the film from the 2010 Western Conference finals when Nash and the Suns gave the Lakers a huge scare before bowing out in six games. LA never figured out how to stop Nash and the pick-and-roll, but basically managed to outscore the Suns.
Phoenix averaged 109.3 points and shot 48 percent from the field, and Nash gave the Lakers fits with his playmaking and scoring skills. He averaged 17.7 points and 11.8 assists in 32.8 minutes and shot 53 percent from the floor. He had four double-doubles, which included a pair of 15-assist games.
The bottom line is that the Lakers knew what Nash wanted to do and they couldn't stop him. Maybe Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol should remind Brown how difficult Nash made their lives in that series with pick-and-roll play.
While Nash has been sidelined, Steve Blake has been inserted into the starting lineup. To say this is bad news for the Lakers is an understatement.
Blake was a big reason why the Lakers had one of the worst benches in the league last season and was the lowest-scoring unit in the NBA. He plays the point but has no point guard skills. He's basically a spot-up shooter who happens to be a real bad shooter. In his first two seasons with the Lakers, he shot 36 and 38 percent from the floor. And in addition to offensive liabilities, he's not a good defender, either.
Meanwhile, the Lakers' bench, which was supposedly fortified with the additions of Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, has been awful over the first four games. The second unit is next-to-last in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game.
Jamison, who averaged 17.2 points last season for the Cleveland Cavaliers as a starter, is scoring just 4.3 per game for the Lakers in nearly 17 minutes, and is shooting just 42 percent from the floor. And Meeks has basically been a non- factor, with Brown inexplicably giving him very little minutes. The former Philadelphia 76ers guard is averaging just 7.3 minutes per game and didn't even get off the bench in Friday's loss to the Clippers, despite the absence of Nash.
Even if the Lakers' starting unit eventually gets its act together, it will be very difficult to reach their championship goal with a non-productive bench.
Prior to this season, Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings had only 13 games in which he registered double-digit assists, and only one time had he done it in back- to-back games. So it's pretty stunning that Jennings started this season with a pair of 13-assist games. The fourth-year point guard hasn't been a very good playmaker over his first three seasons, averaging only 5.4 assists per game along with 2.3 turnovers.
There's a couple of surprising names among the NBA's leading rebounders. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, the three-time defending scoring champ, is tied for third in the league, averaging 14.3 per game, while Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George is fifth at 13 per game. He also had a career high 17 boards in Saturday's double-overtime win in Sacramento.
The Houston Rockets' James Harden has been one of the big stories of the new season, but teammate Omer Asik also has made an immediate impact. The former Chicago Bulls backup center is pulling down 14.3 rebounds per game, ranking him third in the league with Durant.
Damian Mania should be growing at warp speed in Portland. Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard looks like the real deal and it appears he's ready to give the New Orleans Hornets' Anthony Davis a real run for the Rookie of the Year award. The former Weber State star, who was the sixth overall pick, had a great pro debut with 23 points and 11 assists in a win over the Lakers. Two nights later in Oklahoma City, matched up against Russell Westbrook, Lillard put up 21 points and seven assists in the Blazers' loss. And he capped off his opening week the following night with 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds in an overtime road win against the Rockets. Lillard stepped up in the extra session, scoring eight of the Blazers' 14 points, including a pair of 3- pointers.