EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The newsiest thing happening Saturday afternoon at Los Angeles Lakers practice: Mike D'Antoni confirmed he plans to coach Sunday night against the Houston Rockets, assuming his energy allows as he continues to get on his feet in the wake of recent knee replacement surgery. (The second newsiest concerned Steve Blake, who didn't practice Saturday and is questionable for tomorrow night.)
The funniest thing was probably watching Darius Morris watch Steve Nash put in his time on the elliptical machine as the Lakers' starting point guard recovers from a small fracture in his left fibula. Morris couldn't get over how smiley Nash looked, as if he could just be "some guy at 24 Hour Fitness." Shows his ID card on the way in, grabs a towel, and goes.
Morris is young and grew up in L.A., so he probably hasn't met that many Canadians. A jovial people, they are.
The most entertaining?
How about Darius Johnson-Odom, standing well beyond the 3-point line, throwing the ball against the back wall of the gym with a hard underhand toss, then grabbing the rebound and rising to dunk with a right-handed windmill. On the first try. Then, just for fun, DJO jumped and put his head up at the rim. Not bad for 6 feet 2. For those wondering why the Lakers chose to keep him around with their 15th roster spot, that sort of athleticism provides a strong clue.
At his introductory news conference, D'Antoni said if the Lakers weren't consistently up around 110 points a night, something wasn't working correctly. Obviously that means the Lakers are hoping to add more possessions to game, meaning the opposition will get more trips, too. That makes points allowed a bad measurement of defense. D'Antoni, therefore, spends his time looking at efficiency. "The whole thing is the number of points you score for every possessions," he said. "That's the only thing you can do. ... That's the only metric that's even worth anything." I asked if he had a number in mind. "Less than we get," he joked, before saying he definitely believed opponents should be held under a point per possession -- I got the impression he might have a more specific figure in mind -- while the offense should be over.
For the record, via ESPN's calculations the Lakers currently average 1.049 points per play, and allow .976.*
The Lakers aren't a team generating many turnovers. They were last in defensive turnover percentage last season, and this year are 27th. If a team doesn't generate turnovers, a treasure trove of easy points, it's that much more important not to give away points at the free throw line. "We don't foul as a team. That's huge. We're number one in not fouling." (Technically, the Lakers are second in opponent's FT/FGA to New Orleans, but led the league by a fair margin last year.) If the Lakers are going to improve defensively over the course of the year defensively, this can't change.
*Offensive and defensive efficiency are calculated differently by different sites, so the numbers don't always match. Basketball-Reference.com says the Lakers average 1.066 points per offensive possession, and give up 1.019. According to Hoopdata.com, the Lakers score 1.031 points a trip, and allow .971.