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Mike D'Antoni not worried about Steve Nash defensively off the ball

January 19, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Cavaliers forward Alonzo Gee, left, drives toward the basket as Lakers guard Steve Nash defends.
Cavaliers forward Alonzo Gee, left, drives toward the basket as Lakers… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Coach Mike D'Antoni recently moved Kobe Bryant on the ball defensively, asking him to spend tremendous energy guarding younger, athletic guards like Kyrie Irving and Brandon Jennings. 

Will D'Antoni stick with that plan with Bryant, even if it wears him down?

"How many more games do we have?" joked D'Antoni. "Unless he dies before ... like an old mule, you've got to shoot him. No, he can do it; and you know what? There will be games where we take him off and put him on Dwyane Wade for example," laughed D'Antoni.

Naturally, if Bryant is guarding the point guard, Steve Nash is going to have to defend a bigger player. In some cases it will be the opposing shooting guard or a small forward.

D'Antoni isn't worried about Nash getting exposed often on the cross match.

"Well, he doesn't get hurt down there and he's always in the right position," said D'Antoni. "We do have Dwight [Howard] behind him."

The Lakers might give up a few points from players like Alonzo Gee or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but that's something D'Antoni is willing to live with.

"[Nash] can front and we'll take a couple of buckets. I think Gee from Cleveland got a couple of tap-ins," said the Lakers coach. "I think what Kobe is doing offsets by 10 times what they might get on a perceived mismatch that's not their strength anyway. We're not going to put [Nash] on their leading scorer at a small forward, but if he's [defending] the fifth scorer on the team and they want to go there, then so be it."

D'Antoni noted that Nash is a strong team defender.

"The best thing about Steve, what he's doing, he's organizing our weak side," said D'Antoni. "He's always in the right spot. He's always cracking back at the right time and he's getting guys organized and that's been valuable."

The issue the Lakers ran into on Thursday in their 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat was dealing with Miami's lineup with Ray Allen, LeBron James and Wade. If Bryant is on Wade, Nash certainly can't take James, which leaves Allen -- who hit a crucial late bucket for the Heat.

The Lakers have played better since moving Bryant onto the ball defensively, but there's still a lot left to resolve as they try to climb into the top eight in the Western Conference.

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Pau Gasol 'probably not' open to coming off the bench

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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