The appointment of Mike Brown as the Lakers new coach has raised not a few eyebrows among the Laker faithful. Their reaction has been mostly negative, with many of them feeling that this is an effort by Jim Buss, Jerry Buss’ son , to put his stamp on the team . Initially , I too concurred with those sentiments but I’ve since then changed my mind.
There’s no doubt that the Lakers thumping defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks played a large part in the decision to go with Mike Brown . Had the Lakers won it all or even if they had made it to the finals , Brian Shaw would have been the odds -on favorite to succeed Phil Jackson. When the Lakers were ignominously bundled out of the playoffs , Shaw’s chances dwindled to nothing . It also gave Jim Buss the opportunity to clean house and move in a new direction . By all accounts , there was no love lost between Jim and his sister’s boyfriend . Now , not only is Phil Jackson gone but so is his triangle offense . I can’t help feeling that it is a good thing.
The Lakers were not a fun team to watch last year . Except for their 17-1 run after the All -Star break , they never seemed to me the dominant team that they had been in previous years . On many nights the defense just wasn’t there and the players didn’t seem to play with any urgency until the fourth quarter.Mostly , they looked stale and Jackson seemed curiously disengaged , merely playing out the string. This happens when a coach has been around too long and has been too successful. If you remember , it happened to Pat Riley too in his stint with the Lakers . After awhile the players just tuned him out .
The Laker front office apparently gave serious consideration to just three candidates : Brian Shaw , Rick Adelman and Mike Brown . With their desire to make a clean break with the Phil Jackson era , there was almost no chance that Brian Shaw would get the job. He was too closely tied to Phil and the triangle offense and, besides, Buss and Co. might have feared that that Shaw would not be able to control a Laker team loaded with veteran players.
My choice for coach would have been Rick Adelman .After a jouneyman career as an NBA player , Adelman became a coach and won over 800 games in stints with the Portland TrailBlazers , the Golden State Warriors , the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets . He twice took Portland to the NBA finals and his Sacramento Kings always gave the Lakers and the Spurs fits . He didn’t do well with the Warriors ( no one else has either) and his Rockets , without Yao Ming , came close to dethroning last year’s champion Lakers . His teams have always played hard and he’s always been able to get the most out of his players . The knock on him was that he is the same age as Phil Jackson and will turn 65 this month ; the Lakers were looking for someone who would guide the team for the long haul. Too bad , because I really , really like him as a coach and I think he would have been a good fit .
Most of those knocking the Mike Brown appointment do so because of his Cleveland tenure when he failed to win it all even though he had LeBron James on the team . They forget that Brown did not have much of a supporting cast for James and he still managed to take the team deep into the playoffs , even making it to the NBA finals one year. For two years in a row , he guided the Lakers to the best regular season record in the NBA only to come a cropper in the playoffs.
At least part of the blame for Brown’s failure must go to owner Dan Gilbert (who coddled James and allowed him to get away with murder) and an immature, selfish James who didn’t always give his best effort. Brown did however get James and the team to buy into his defense-first philosophy and the Cavaliers always did well against the Lakers in the regular season . Brown’s defensive smarts , learned under Greg Popovich in San Antonio , will be a welcome change for the lackadaisical Lakers .
What I’m still a little doubtful about is Coach Brown’s offensive strategy. When the Cavaliers came up against the superior defensive teams like the Celtics and Orlando in the playoffs , they struggled and Brown seemed unable to adjust . Was it his fault or was it that he didn’t have much to work with except LeBron James ? I guess we will soon find out but , at least , Brown deserves a chance to put his system in place and adjust to this team , so different from the Cavaliers that he coached last year.
One of the big advantages of Mike Brown as coach will be that he is certain to scrap the triangle offense . The triangle offense is great but it had become boring and predictable and it hid the deficiencies of the point guard . Derek Fisher would have been retired at least a year ago under any other system . The triangle relies less on a PG than other systems but it cannot mitigate Fisher’s defensive liabilities . With the triangle relegated to the scrap heap , the Lakers will no doubt look for a younger PG to run the offense. Fisher , I hope , will take a buyout , perhaps be appointed an assistant coach; failing that he will ride the bench . The Lakers need to get younger fast if they want to keep up with teams like the OKC Thunder.
I also look for Mike Brown to develop a bench . One of the biggest problems with the 2010-2011 Lakers was their lack of a bench . Except Lamar Odom , no one got consistent playing time and for that I blame Phil Jackson .True , Matt Barnes was beset by injuries but Steve Blake , in my opinion , had his confidence destroyed. In the pre-season , everyone was high on the two second-rounders , Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, but neither of them got a sniff once the regular season started .
The word out of the Laker front office is that there will not be any major changes , that Jim Buss considers Andrew Bynum untouchable . That would seem to indicate that the Lakers will not be going after Dwight Howard . Also , without trading either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum , I don’t see how they are going to acquire an elite PG . By standing pat , I can’t see them challenging for the title next year. Still , Mitch Kupchak has made some good trades in the past and I hope he can pull off another one or two and give Mike Brown the help he needs .
GO Lakers !!