Mike D’Antoni’s Lakers Won’t Yield Results Until Dwight Howard Is Himself

The formulation of the Mike D'Antoni-Los Angeles Lakers pairing was as poorly executed as interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff's final offensive possession during L.A.'s 84-82 home loss on November 13.

But the end results (D'Antoni reunited with Steve Nash and coaching by far the most talented team of his career) could very well justify the means; if D'Antoni can bring the franchise its 17th NBA championship, that is.

That "if" is not nearly as big as the team's record (3-5) or conference standing (tied for 13th) would suggest.

In fact, according to vegasinsider.com, the Lakers are the second favorite team (3/1) to win the 2012-13 NBA championship, trailing only the defending champion Miami Heat (9/5). Clearly those odds are more reflective of the team's immense collection of talent and less of their slumberous start.

On paper, the club possesses a nearly unprecedented hoard of skills, savvy and smarts. The Lakers starting five (Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard) features two former MVPs (Nash and Bryant) and two former Defensive Players of the Year (World Peace and Howard).

But there's one of these award-winning players that D'Antoni will need more than the rest—the 6'11", 240-lb. Howard.

Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2009-11), will anchor a D'Antoni defensive system that has typically ranked somewhere between selecting his post-game attire and setting his fantasy football lineups on the coach's priority list.

Granted, D'Antoni has never coached a player who could even approach Howard's defensive acumen. Truth be told, he's never even had one who could approach that of World Peace.

No one knows how his defensive sets will look. Probably because we've all been too busy envisioning the myriad of possibilities of a D'Antoni offense featuring five different players who've averaged better than 20 points per game in a season ...

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