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Phillip Barnett —  May 26, 2011

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: The Southland is still buzzing after the news that Mike Brown will succeed Phil Jackson as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. A surprising hire, to say the least, and also one relatively unfamiliar with Lakers fans, since Brown has only been a head coach in the Eastern Conference. Obviously, there are questions, and we’re trying to provide as many answers as possible.  Earlier, we got some insight from John Krolik, host of “Cavs The Blog (True Hoop network). After, we talked to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, who covers the Miami Heat for the Heat Index. Before taking his talents to South Beach, Windhorst spent several seasons covering the Cavaliers for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. During that time, he got to know Brown well as both a coach and a person.  Windhorst was very candid pointing out Brown’s strengths and weaknesses — no punches were pulled about the necessary likelihood of hiring an offensive coordinator — but made it abundantly clear how much he respects the Lakers’ new coach. Here are some excerpts of our conversation with Windhorst, which can be heard in its entirety by clicking on the module to the right.

From Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Since the Lakers fell apart against the Mavericks in this year’s playoffs, it has been impossible to imagine anyone who could beat the expectations that come with that job at this moment. Filling Phil Jackson’s shoes is one of the smaller challenges. The team has hitched its wagon to a “lead by example” leader, in Kobe Bryant, who not only no longer practices, but also has declining efficiency and a tendency to remind his teammates, publicly, that he will continue to shoot more than them regardless.  The best young player and hope for the future, Andrew Bynum, is bitter about team dynamics. The team’s other star, Pau Gasol, has descended into various stages of sulking and huffiness. Also on the roster: Some of the nuttier forces in sports in Ron Artest and Matt Barnes, to go with nice guy — but literal “walking reality show” — Lamar Odom.

From Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Sometimes, it just doesn’t even seem fair. Or meant to be. Or both. First, I can’t tell you how proud I am of this Thunder team. To come back with that effort in those circumstances… inspiring. They were ready to go from the tip, ready to fight. I think even us fans were sort of ready to pack it in after Game 4?s crushing defeat. I wouldn’t have blamed the team for just going through the motions, for just showing up. I kind of felt like cheering through the motions. Despite trying to talk myself out of it, the mountain the Thunder had to climb was too steep and the cruelty of Game 4 too fresh. But with their hands on another win — I mean, they were right there — the final few minutes doomed the Thunder. Scott Brooks pulled out all the stops. Russell Westbrook absolutely busted his butt. Nick Collison did his Nick Collison thing. Kevin Durant, Eric Maynor, everyone, put in the work. Losing a seven-point fourth quarter lead makes me want to belly-flop into an empty pool, but sometimes, it’s just not your time. It’s Dirk’s time. It was just meant to be for the Mavs.

From Alex Groberman, Opposing Views: According to a statement issued by the Los Angeles Lakers, they have reached an agreement with ex-Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown to fill the void left by the departure of Phil Jackson. The deal, reportedly, is slated to earn Brown approximately $18 million over four years with the last year being an option. As speculation ran rampant that Rick Adelman, Mike Dunleavy or Brian Shaw were the heavy favorites to win the L.A. head coaching job, Brown flew in under the radar and stole the position with a strong interview, sources indicate. That coupled with the team’s emphasis on finding a coach on the cheap as part of their new cost-cutting initiative sealed the deal for the former Coach of the Year. “We’ve met with Mike and are very impressed with him,” said a statement issued by the Lakers. “In addition, we have an outline for an agreement in place and hope to sign a contract within the next few days.”

From Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: The idea that Kobe Bryant would’ve ever called LeBron James for a confidential scouting report on Mike Brown is sheer fantasy. They don’t share much of a relationship, and even less a common interest in fortifying each other with the best possible coach for a championship chase. Why would they trust each other’s referrals? James wants the Los Angeles Lakers to fail, just as Bryant does the Miami Heat. For Bryant, there was never time to consider Brown’s candidacy as Lakers coach because sources close to him say that he was never asked about the candidates to replace Phil Jackson. The Buss family promised they would proceed this way, without the consultation of the most important person in the franchise.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: I’m not thrilled with the Lakers’ decision … scratch that … Jim Buss’ decision to hire Mike Brown as the new Lakers’ coach because of all the “con” reasons I highlight in this item I posted earlier. It’s clear that the Lakers wanted to move in a  new direction away from  Phil Jackson’s leadership, but it’s quite striking that an early playoff exit suddenly ruined Shaw’s chances. Although the Lakers never had any formalized agreement of any sort, it had always been presumed that Shaw would have succeeded Jackson because of his long familiarity with the triangle and his strong relationship with the players. Instead, the Lakers suddenly are going in a completely different direction. It’s not always bad to start something new, and it’s clear by the way things ended in the Lakers’ 2011 Western Conference semifinals sweep to the Dallas Mavericks that Jackson had lost his effectiveness with the team. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to completely start from scratch. It’d be one thing if Shaw was passed up in favor of Rick Adelman because of Shaw’s lack of head coaching experience;  Adelman’s corner offense bears some familiarity with the triangle. But I’m not convinced Brown will be able to squeeze championships out of this current roster because there’s too much of an adjustment period. The Lakers have taken pride in having great success with taking risky decisions that work out in the end. I don’t believe, however, that this is one of them.


Phillip Barnett

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