Mike D’Antoni is to star players what a nuclear accident is to superheroes and supervillains. He becomes a team and gives the best players powers beyond their greatest imagination. What they do with it is their choice. While the best results have been Icarian flights flirting with titles as opposed to the Sun, that process has yet to lead to a championship. Whether this is bad luck or an unfair burden on a player is up to the respective fan. It’s an intriguing training tactic that’s great in the hands of players who use it correctly, and downright dangerous for those who don’t.
It’s so dependent on a man — and maybe a sidekick — that the transformation is hard to reverse. I don’t think LaMelo Ball needs to take on that kind of burden because he’s so unique as a presenter that making him a ballstopper to disrupt this altruistic way in which he’s playing is risky.
D’Antoni, a free agent trainer, is a serious contender for the Hornets vacancy, by Adrian Wojnarowski, but the last thing the team needs is a guy whose game plan is to give it to their best player and avoid him. I believe Ball, like James Harden or Steve Nash, is good enough to be the main ball carrier and offensive threat on a team. I just don’t think it’s necessary for a team that’s already scoring 115 points per game.
As a team, Charlotte led all others in assists per game and had the fourth-best offense in the league. With 7.6 assists, Ball landed in the league’s top 10 assist men, but the catch is that he didn’t dribble in circles looking for Miles Bridges or dribble half the shot clock between his legs before hitting a Stepback 3 made or set up a teammate. The only player in this top 10 who held the stone less than the ball per touch is Nikola Jokić. after second spectrum.
That means the third-year guard-to-be lined up his teammates without hitting the shit out of the ball. Spreading on rare dribbling is a rare skill, and passing balls is indeed rare. The way he moves the ball is contagious, causing teammates to cut rather than stand around and stare, knowing that if they are open they will be found. It also tells teammates they can keep the ball moving because they don’t have to worry about never seeing it again.
The knock on ball and the main reason for his downfall — aside from the fact that he jumped continents during his pre-NBA career — is that teams feared he would become a diva. The guy scored 92 points in a high school game and mostly did it by cherry picking. It seemed like his father Lavar created a monster due to the incessant hype.
That wasn’t the case, and despite Lavar’s best efforts, LaMelo doesn’t come across as a first-person player on the pitch at all. (He’s definitely not afraid of a little self-promotion, though. Dating Instagram models who once dated Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and showing up to a game in a bitter lemon Lamborghini with matching outfit isn’t exactly subtle.)
I don’t want to predict which side of the D’Antoni badge ball would roll down if put on it, because whether it’s going the Nash or Harden route, that taste of power is hard to give up. Also, there isn’t much room for error in the playoffs, and even less room for improvement. The team knows what you want to do and it becomes easier to defend after seeing offense for a few games.
It’s almost impossible for a player to continue improving their game once they’re maxed out. “Do more” when you’re already doing everything is why Harden couldn’t up his game in the postseason or even carry his MVP form into the playoffs in some years.
Who will be the next Hornets coach?
There is reports that Ball wants the same coach – Mark Jackson – that LeBron James desires, but luckily for Ball, the Hornets aren’t pursuing Jackson. I see the logic because Steph Curry and Klay Thompson credit Jackson with instilling defense in them. So the thought process is essentially a bizarre Golden State where Charlotte, who already knows how to score, learns to defend under Jackson. The downside is that a guy who can barely break down what he’s watching while calling a game on ESPN is calling your games.
The other three candidates Woj named were the Warriors’ Kenny Atkinson, the Mavs’ Sean Sweeney and the Bucks’ Darvin Ham. Atkinson is the only one with experience as a head coach. However, I think he’s a raspier Steve Clifford and the Hornets don’t need to concede sets to score.
Sweeney appears to be a qualified candidate for coaching, but Ham’s patience has run out Mike Budenholzer, respect for a title team, and NBA coaching and gaming experience make him an ideal pick. Milwaukee credits Ham with improving defense over the past year as well as overall player development.
Defense and player development? Wow, that sounds like a perfect match for a young team that doesn’t play an iota of defense and has a rising Superstar.
D’Antoni’s potential is as compelling as it is transformative for LaMelo. While the Hornets Star Guard might give it MVP numbers, it’s not radioactive mud to wallow in.