The Lakers last season were often, put mildly, an inelegant group offensively. No real surprise, given everything they faced. New coach, no training camp, unlearning the triangle offense anchoring most of the group (and particularly Kobe Bryant) for years while simultaneously learning what Mike Brown wanted them to do in a system more dependent on set play calls.
Change was in order. From a personnel standpoint it certainly came with the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, but also could be more structural. As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports, according to Bryant the Lakers will in 2012-13 once again become a "system" team, not with Phil Jackson's triangle but Pete Carril's Princeton offense.
"... The prospect of returning to the discipline of an offensive system in the post-Phil Jackson era holds appeal.
"It's a great offense," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. "It's exactly what we need. It takes us back to being able to play by making reads and reacting to defenses. It takes a great deal of communication, but that's where we're at our best: Reading and reacting as opposed to just coming down and calling sets. Calling sets make you vulnerable.
"There's so many threats, so many options, it's very tough to defend. Against the type of defenses that teams play nowadays, they load up on one side and are constantly coming with help from the weak side. The Princeton offense makes it very, very tough to lock in on one particular player.
"From my experience, those types of principles -- ball movement, changing sides on the floor, everybody being involved -- those are championship principles. That's championship DNA."
The Princeton O isn't the triangle, but shares similar principles: reading defenses instead of simply calling plays, heavy on ball and player movement, an emphasis on skilled passing big men, and so on. In exactly what form the Lakers would implement it is still an open question -- we're not even into August yet -- particularly with Nash (among the greatest high screen-and-roll players in NBA history, and brilliant at probing a defense until a crack appears) in the fold. But if Kobe is talking publicly about it, it's hard to believe the Lakers won't have a strong Ivy League flavor next year. (In that spirit, they are rumored to be bringing in former NBA head coach Eddie Jordan, a Carill disciple and expert architect of the offense, to join Brown's staff.)
The Princeton offense plays to many of the team's strengths. As a group, the Lakers are a very high I.Q. bunch, and are accustomed to and comfortable with reading opposing defenses. It also suits individual talent, particularly Pau Gasol, because of the premium placed on passing. The Lakers have no shortage of players capable of moving the rock effectively. And for what it's worth, Jamison played well in the system under Jordan while in Washington.
I suspect if they go Princeton, it won't be an every-trip type thing. The Lakers didn't run the triangle on every possession, either. What Jackson's offense delivered, though, and what anchoring this year's offense on Princeton principles would similarly accomplish, was structure.
For a team often looking directionless last year on that end of the floor, a sense of identity starting with an empowering core offensive philosophy like the Princeton could prove very beneficial.