Ettore Messina And The Lakers’ Offense

Darius Soriano —  June 6, 2011

While the Lakers have not yet confirmed the report, it looks as if the highly regarded Ettore Messina will leave Europe to join Mike Brown’s staff with the Lakers. His role is yet to be fully defined, but initial reports have him as a “behind the bench” assistant coach that will serve in more of the advisor type role that Tex Winter served for Phil Jackson’s teams over the years. And while it’s difficult for anyone to actually be like Tex Winter (the man is a hall of famer and on of a kind, after all), every staff needs smart coaches that can teach the game and by all accounts Messina is exactly that. Needless to say, this is a great get for Mike Brown and the Lakers.

With this addition, we move even closer towards envisioning what the Lakers offense could look like next year. We’ve already been looking at this topic, but we now have another key piece to expand our view. Over at Land O’ Lakers, there’s a great interview with Os Davis from BallinEurope on some of Messina’s philosophies as a coach (go over and read it), and one piece of insight caught my eye in particular:

Messina’s teams tend to play quite a slow tempo relative to that of most European leagues, particularly in Spain’s ACB, where Messina was for the past two seasons with Real Madrid and where the floor is wide open. Of course, there are exceptions to this. His 2005-06 CSKA Moscow squad could go into fourth gear early and run the court for the entire match. (Of note, too, is that this team was the ultimate fruit of Mikhail Prokhorov’s business labor, that CSKA dominated defensively in both the Euroleague and Russian Super League, and that Messina was named Euroleague coach of the year.) But the general rule on a Messina team is a slow tempo, half-court game on both sides of the ball.

This is interesting because it seems to fall into conflict with principle number one of Mike Brown’s offensive philosophy: attack the clock. If Mike Brown is saying he wants his team to play faster but one of his key assistant coaches – especially the one that is most renowned for his offensive approach – is used to his team playing a slow down game, it doesn’t seem as if these approaches line up.

However, when looking bigger picturer, these points of view aren’t necessarily diametrically opposed.

Understand that “attacking the clock” isn’t the same as running a fast-break offense (ala the SSOL Suns). I do expect the Lakers to push the ball up court.  But advancing the ball quickly doesn’t have to lead to a quick shot and for the Lakers I don’t really expect it to. What I do expect is for the Lakers to get into their offensive sets quicker and not burn as much of the precious 24 seconds at their disposal each possession on bringing the ball up court. This would be a departure from last year and would fall more in line with the way that the Lakers played in their championship seasons of 2009 and 2010 where they got into their sets faster and relied less on the walk-it-up attacked the employed this season.

Obviously this is all speculation. And until Brown and Messina are actually working with the team and we get to see the approach implemented and performed on the court we won’t know how the team will play or how different (or similar) they’ll look to this year’s team. However, with every new nugget of information we get, the puzzle is becoming more complete and we get a better idea as to what this team could play like next year.

So far, based off what we’ve learned, that team looks to be one that will focus on post play (from both the bigs and, I’d imagine, Kobe) while also looking for opportunities early in the clock that, if they don’t materialize, would transfer into the early initiation of the offensive sets. The benefits to this type of attack are multiple but best explained by the simplicity of it all: shots from the post are higher percentage than those further away; shots against a defense that isn’t as set are often easier than those against a defense that’s dug in and fully positioned. If the Lakers can effectively get shots closer to the hoop or ones against a defense that’s not yet in position to defend effectively, they’ll be more efficient (while also being less reliant on end of the clock, isolation shots that the Lakers have settled for too often frequently).

One of the great things about the team next year will be the fact that they’ll still have the talent to be a great team on offense but will go about it a different way than in years past. Needless to say, I’m excited and intrigued about the possibilities.

Darius Soriano

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to Ettore Messina And The Lakers’ Offense

  1. It would not be wise to try to play a fast tempo with this roster; they’re just not capable of it on a consistent basis. So bringing in someone who has been successful with slower tempo offenses seems totally appropriate.

    I wonder if Messina will provide any benefit when it comes to scouting/drafting European players?


  2. To me, this all points to a personnel change. I’m trying to rack my brain of any options the Lakers have, especially because we know Andrew Bynum is not on the table according to ownership. If we are relying on an improved blake (which would not be a stretch, in his defense its hard to get shots and adjust to the triangle in one year) he would also excel more as a traditional pg and I believe as a starter. Looking at our team it disappointed me that we chose to start Bynum, especially considering that most times kobe wouldn’t take advantage of our bigs. I think Gasol and Odom play much better together. We have options to do something no one talks about and that is just making some changes in our starting line-up. For instances I think Matt Barnes will end up being a starter along with Steve Blake. In terms of our teams this spaces the floor out much more because both are better knock down shooters then Fisher or Artest, even though they may not have shown it statistically and historically they are. They are also better team defenders at this point strictly because of their mobility. With that said coming in with Andrew Bynum, derek fisher (someone who will actually throw the ball in to Andrew), Artest and Lo ( who probably enjoy playing together) and shannon brown who is only going to get better if he decides or we decide to bring him back. I think that bring s a lot more balance to our team. mix in our developing rookies and what not its not at all a bad situation. I also believe a sleeper candidate that no one is talking about as an option for the Lakers is michael redd. Him and kobe have a decent relationship. He’s on the market and he is a knock down shooter/ create your own shot guy you need. I think that’s a calculated risk the lakers should take. Also, I know this doesn’t factor into the cap but phil jackson was making more then half the team, as currently constructed we still have that mid level from sasha as well as an increased willingness to spend because our coaches salary is cut down by more then half. I do believe the Lakers can make 1 or 2 moves that will greatly impact the roster and with that being said they really don’t need to.


  3. Assuming some version of the MLE will still exist, I’d imagine the easiest fix would be to try and find a free agent PG that can provide shooting and league average defense at the minimum. That would seem the least intrusive and not have the complexity of trying to make a trade and changing the roster too much. The team doesn’t need an all star at that position, just someone who is league average or a little better. Someone like that should be affordable at MLE.

    However, I’m not sure what free agents are out there that would fit that description. Found a link that shows FA. List doesn’t sound too promising for even an average production PG on both sides of the ball.

    I don’t have much faith in Brown improving as he’s had three years now in the same system and hasn’t shown much.

    I do think Blake will do better. Barnes if healthy should revert back to pre-injury production. Ebanks if healthy should also be able to contribute athleticism.

    Then hopefully sign at the minimum a decent veteran 3rd center that can give a bit better productivity than Joe Smith.

    I think those are all realistic goals that fit within the roster and financial restraints but still improve the team.


  4. Renato Afonso June 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Like I said in previous posts about Messina, I think people are overlooking his coaching in Italy. Sure he gained even more reputation by leading CSKA to the title and for coaching Real Madrid, but people must not forget that CSKA was a juggernaut those seasons. They simply had the best roster in Europe.

    Regarding the half court sets and pace, the ACB league is probably the league with the best transition defense in the world. They don’t practice fast breaks or other form of uptempo drills in practice: they go for transition defense. Also, remember that the game in Spain is very tough and it’s not unusual to see almost every player reaching the foul limit. They foul, they hit, they run back to prevent easy layups and open shots. This type of game causes any team to rely on the half court sets more than anything and, as such, they take that type of game from the ACB league to the Euroleague. Teams from other leagues play more uptempo and I would like to see a tempo comparison in Euroleague according to country. I bet you that spanish teams are the slowest (among the contenders).

    What we should be looking for is the numbers for his tenure with Kinder Bologna when he won the Euroleague with Ginobili and Nesterovic on separate occasions. His teams always played good defense and, if I recall correctly, his Bologna teams ran a little more than this Real Madrid and a little less than the CSKA juggernaut those years. And I do believe that he will fit in just nicely with Mike Brown since they both believe that it all starts with defense. I’m loking forward to see our improvements in transition defense and how it will change the pace of the game or throw the opponents FG% off their traditional mark.

    About european scouting, there are plenty of SF’s who can shoot the three and we need one of those. Messina wouldn’t be necessary to find them. However, the athleticism in the NBA is unmatched in Europe and don’t expect Messina to solve our starting PG problem nor our backup SG. Be happy if he can find a 3pt specialist…

    NOTE: I’m actually doing some scouting job for a portuguese league team who is looking for a three point specialist who plays SF. Guess what? Plenty of those around… Too bad they can’t play defense…


  5. It is not easy for a pg to come into the triangle and immediately contribute. So given that, Blake deserves a chance to see what he can give the Lakers by way of running a team this year.

    Shannon, has shown the willingness to improve and he made progress last year with his 3 point shooting and he should continue to improve to the point of sustainability for the entire season.
    One problem that most people don’t realize is that when one works on their shot over the summer they generally can not maintain a level of consistency throughout the season without actually going participating in 82 games. Because there is no way to replicate a full season during summer workouts.

    @Chris Y, Michael Redd is intriguing and is definitely worth investigating.

    The offense doesn’t have to be all running game or all half-court. The two can co-exist effectively!

    Matt Barnes and Steve Blake should come into camp looking to un-seat Artest and Fisher!


  6. Rusty Shackleford June 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I’m not on board with Michael Redd being worth the investment. I like the idea but I really think the Lakers can’t gamble with over-paying ANOTHER player. Steve Blake does not deserve $4 mil. a season. Looking back; how in the hell did that happen?

    I truly believe that Ownership is at it’s maximum salary they want to spend each year. No more bringing in mediocre players for the vereran’s minimum. Every one of these poor signings is like paralyzing the team’s ability to improve at a personnell level. I’m not somebody who know’s the structure of every contract on the roster but I think the Lakers should fill more spots with rookies this year than guys like Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff (with all due respect).

    Also, I’m bummed out that Andrew Bynum is said to be un-tradable because if I were the Lakers I would send him to Denver along with anything ouside of KB24, Pau, Lamar & Fish (Not for statistical reasons) for something like Nene, one of the pg’s, and Gallinari.


  7. To see a world in a grain of sand?
    And a heaven in a wild fllower?
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand?
    And eternity in an hour.

    Thank you for your sharing!


  8. Question, is consultant more of a formality of title as opposed to commitment of time? Will Messina be a full-time staffer? I know that management is trying to toe the line on cost and sometimes, a person will elect to take a consultant title in order to preserve their salary quote (rather than set a new precedent).


  9. The Dubs hired Mark Jackson. Wow. Is B Shaw still unemployed?

    Pretty surprising, he was on the short list for 3 desirable HC jobs and got beat out by TV analysts.


  10. My favorite off season move so far has been Mark Jackson’s hiring by the Warriors. And with that comes the delightful news that he is leaving the booth!!! No more of his asinine comments and easier said than done approaches to basketball.

    “Mamma, there goes that man” … and not a second too soon.


  11. #4

    I’d like to ask Renato since he’s familiar with PG’s in Europe, outside of Ricky Rubio, could you give us some names, ht, ppg in the Euro league who would be NBA ready.

    Question to Darius, if these PG’s from Europe were not chosen for the first 60 picks, can Lakers sign them on a bi-annual contract or split MLE? There are advantages and disadvantages in getting a Euro player in the mold of Peja’s, Marco Beliinelli, Sasha they are good shooters but weak on D. and chances are, they’re currently signed by a Euro team.


  12. And that is why it was smart for Kurt Rambis to take the Minnesota job, rather than wait a couple of years for what many thought was a “guaranteed” Lakers job.


  13. Jackson to Warriors? Mute off!


  14. “Mamma.I can`t wait to see if this guy can actually coach” Brown also said you have to fit the offense to the personnel,not visa versa.


  15. Mark Jackson away from the microphone. Good stuff. Now if we can snare a front office job for Reggie somewhere…


  16. Michael Redd would be awesome becuz he really is a knockdown shooter. Also, he is not Steve Blake … he is a career 20-point scorer and it would be like getting Glen Rice all over again to be your third option. I would pay him MLE money in a heartbeat!

    Not so fast on Barnes replacing Artest. Ron-Ron is still a hell of a player folks and altho he isn’t the defender he used to be he is still pretty dam good. The problem with Artest is that the triangle was not suited to his game and it was very painful to watch at times. This guy is still a beast and we need to show him some luv…we need him to feel happy and secure…A refocused Artest will be essential to another championship run and if the Lakers get their Backcourt personnel right then it means Artest would be guarding Dirk, Durant and LeBron instead of chasing guards around because no one else can do it. Also, Barnes better be looking over his shoulder becuz he needs to be more consistent himself coming off the bench. The Lakers I’m sure will be looking for a younger more athletic 3 and if they can upgrade there then they will. My personal pick would be Al Thorton.

    PG…The backcourt needs revamping period. All you really have is Kobe and the rest of Lakers perimeter were exposed by Dallas. Shoot really New Orleans exposed us their guards were killing us and everyone was smelling “Blood in the Water”. So, as stated in an earlier post Redd would be awesome. Also, Minnesota might be convinced to part with one of the 3 legit PG’s they have. Rubio, Ridnour and Flynn in addition to Telfair somebody’s got to go.

    We have options…get ready LakerLand….Jimbo & Mitch are strategizing and Kobe is resting! Gonna be some hell to pay!


  17. The elusive Laker PG, an interesting read from Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld.


  18. If we’re looking for backups on the wing, what about Nick Young? L.A. native, half decent player to have as a backup/rotation SG. Hell I even think Sasha wouldn’t be terrible as a SG/PG if we could get him at a discount.


  19. @18 – I figure Sasha will sign a new contract with the Nets. They like him there and he put up 11.4 in 28 mpg as opposed to 1.8 in 5 mpg in his last L.A. stint. For a guy who so desperately wanted to play, New Jersey’s probably feeling pretty good.


  20. Nick Young was the Wizards’ leading scorer last year, and he’s a restricted free agent. Both of those facts suggest he’ll be looking to get paid as much as he can command. The Lakers aren’t in position to get into a bidding war with the Wizards or anyone else, especially not for a guy who plays a role very similar to Kobe’s. Nice player, but not a realistic fit for this roster.

    As for bringing back The Machine… if the price is right, it may be a good option. Dave’s probably correct, though. Lots of reasons for him to stay a Net.


  21. Renato Afonso June 7, 2011 at 3:07 am

    11. Edwin,

    The top PG in Europe would never go to the NBA and be submitted to a rookie contract unless they were a top pick. It could happen if they were young enough but, due to the pace of the game and the fact we only play 40mpg, the best are either really close or above 30y.o. and, as such, they won’t play in the NBA. You could argue that some of them could’ve gone to the NBA but with the Westbrook’s, Rondo’s, Rose’s and even Collison’s in the NBA today they wouldn’t be able to play the necessary man defense.

    To me it’s a mistery how guys like Spanoulis and Prigioni never made it or even Marcelinho Huertas from Brazil. How Jasikevicius also didn’t pan out as expected… I don’t even think that Rubio will/would be a success in the NBA since his jumpshot has no range at all. Nihad Djedovic is more of a combo guard and isn’t suited to the NBA (although he’s only 21).

    So, the guys that the Lakers should be watching are from the team that could’ve beaten USA at the last world championships but never got the chance to play them in the final (due to a huge mental mistake): Serbia.

    You’ve got Milos Teodosic at 6’5” and 24y.o. playing PG but he’s insane… I mean, he seriously is insane but has a tremendous range in his shot, has a superb ball handling and can be one of the top PG’s in the world when his head is in the right place. When it’s not, then he believes he can win a basketball game alone and single-handedly loses you the game.

    You’ve got Marko Keselj at 6’10” and 23 y.o. playing SF. Think Vladimir Radmanovic 2.0 (better handling, faster and slightly better on defense without snowboarding trips). Both these players are in Greece.

    And at 6’8” and 27y.o. there’s my favorite player in Europe right now: Dusko Savanovic. He is a SF who can do it all. He has post moves, he can shoot the 3 point EASILY, can drive with both hands, plays as hard as he can, plays defense, can rebound (mainly because he actually boxes out)… He is the perfect backup SF if our starting SF plays defense. Don’t think we can have him or is even being scouted, but I would love to see him play backup to Artest.

    You can check the links above to see those players and you may recognize them from international games. Or you can check this youtube link from 2010 world championship:

    The first Savanovic sighting is at 2:50… Notice that Gasol blocks him twice and he never loses the ball, about two minutes later. At 8:40 he shoots off the dribble. Also don’t miss the play at 9:25 where he finishes the play off a spin move in the key. From that moment on it’s all about Keselj and Savanovic. I remember that game quite well and Teodosic had a terrible game but was saved by Keselj, Teodosic and Velickovic.


  22. Please do not EVER compare Nick Young to Kobe Bryant! Their games are not even similar. Young does not defend, facilitate or rebound. Kobe does all of those things at a premium level. The only thing they are similar at is that both are pure scorers, and even there Kobe is thousands of miles ahead of young, obviously.

    Question to Darius and other knowledgeable people:

    Can we trade Matt Barnes now that he exercised his player option?


  23. This may have been addressed while I was away, but why is Gasol making noise about playing this off season for Spain when he really seems to need to do … domething else? (like take a break)

    His inconsistent play seems as much a cause of the Lakers downfall as lousy PG play. Gasol needs to locate his Mojo! Will he find it playing this Summer?


  24. #22. Mamula,
    Yes, I believe the Lakers could trade him. However, due to his value (salary vs. prodcution) I don’t think he’s a guy that the Lakers would actually look to deal.

    Speaking of player options, I’m interested in seeing what Shannon decides.


  25. Gasol rested in the last offseason, maybe playing for the national team will sharpen his skills like it did Odom this season after playing for the USA national team.


  26. 21 Renato,

    Thank you for all the info and links. Indeed, that was very informative. You are absolutely right on Teodosic, he can’t be insane in company of Kobe, Artest, Barnes, there should only be one closer. Bynum and Gasol wanted touches too. However, I see the importance of a Euro player in the 2nd unit on limited minutes as a spot shooter. Like for example Sasha, he helped the Lakers win the ’10 Finals with his flawless shooting on free throws. This season, how many Lakers kept on missing FT’s including our starters. In the end, it caught up with them against Mavs. who great in free throws. Therefore a Euro in the mold of Peja may give up defense on power plays but could recoup it in the rain of 3’s. Well, the presence of triple towers, I think should take care of rebounds while Artest and Barnes are the hatchet men.


  27. Its so funny how everyone wants to give some players years and years and years to learn the triangle to be capable of contributing to the team, (see Sasha and Farmar). Yet, other players like, Artest, Barnes, Blake and Brown are not given that same learning curve.

    Now that the triangle is gone, Artest will either revert to being an offensive threat or he’ll cause friction because he’ll take more liberty with picking and choosing when he feels like controlling the offense (see Sacramento and Houston).

    Barnes and Blake can play more consistently in an offense that is less restrictive, so they should be just fine in Brown’s offense, actually, both of them should be much more reliable.

    Brown is sort of the question mark. Mainly, because he played previously on teams that had a fluid offense and he never managed to stick with those teams: Even though he is athletic. So, one wonders if Brown will have the ability to run the offense under control in an open floor. He has not been able to do that under any dependable regularity thus far in his career. I’m hopeful that Brown will continue to work on his game with ball handling, consistent shooting or better decision making during the off season.

    Wow, this will be a great summer, one thats marked with with so much uncertainty!


  28. I agree 100% on Teodosic and Savanovic IMO they could start in the NBA