For good reason, there’s been an increased focus upon L.A.’s pick and roll offense lately, centered upon Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and how things can improve.
Before the season started, that combination seemed an immediate and obvious solution to all things on offense, but for many reasons, things have not worked out that way … at least not just yet.
“Dwight was taught to pick, roll to the basket, seal and get the ball,” explained assistant coach Dan D’Antoni. “He wasn’t pick, get the ball and then move. Steve is used to coming off the initial pick and delivering the ball without waiting on the seal. It’s a combination that takes time.”
But that may very well be changing, as witnessed not only in Wednesday’s blowout win over Boston, but in the last several games, as Howard and Nash seem to have found some common ground.
“Steve (and I) talked (today) about the last three or four games in our pick-and-rolls,” said Howard. “He’s been doing a good job of allowing me to come set a screen, I’ve doing a good job of hitting his man and I’m able to get a good roll and he’s been able to get a good shot – and we just got to continue to do it.”
In Orlando, Howard said he was used to hitting the guard with a solid screen and forcing the man guarding him to help on the ball-handler. In the first half of this season, Howard said he more often only got a small piece of the guard defending his point guard and then got out, slipping to the rim. He thinks if he gets back to making solid contact – as he did to free Nash multiple times against Boston – things will continue to improve.
“Once you do that for awhile in the season, the refs become accustomed to it and you can hit guys harder and teams start worrying about the pick and roll more,” the center offered. “It’s something we’re trying to get used to.”
“Just attention to it and really trying to make it a bigger facet of what our team does,” added Nash. “It’s important for us to put pressure on the defense and the pick and roll allows us to get penetration, allows us to get Dwight rolling to the basket and opens up other guys, so the options out of it are tenfold. Hats off to Dwight. He’s really been hunting my guy and trying to get me a little space where I can create (of late).”
However we dissect the variations of screen-roll offense, Mike D’Antoni said that a lot of it is just about effort and communication between the two participants.
“I think they’re developing a little better chemistry,” the coach said of Howard and Nash. “I’ve talked about it the last three or four games, and again, I think people had a little more pep to their step – and it works.
“Dwight didn’t play in October. He was hurt. That’s one. Two, (the) offense (under former coach Mike Brown) wasn’t a pick-and-roll structured offense, so they didn’t do it a lot. Three, I get here and Steve is out eight weeks and Dwight is still trying to find his legs. There were a lot of things going on and then we got sidetracked.”
Howard said that it took “two or three years to really get the pick and roll down” in Orlando, but that it was “virtually unstoppable” once figured out.
As for this season … and beyond?
“There’s still time for improvement and we have years to play with each other,” he concluded. “It’s a learning process.”