Our First Clues Into Mike Brown’s Offense

Darius Soriano —  June 2, 2011

I may not care about winning a press conference, but I must admit that I came away impressed with Mike Brown after his introduction to the media on Tuesday afternoon. The new Laker head coach came off as intelligent and very much in his element when dealing with the press. He deflected the questions he needed to deflect, stood up for himself when appropriate, and seemed to have a clear vision for this team and its current core of players. After the presser was over, it’s now pretty clear how he could have wowed the Laker braintrust in an interview to become the team’s 22nd head coach in its rich history.

What interested me most, though, wasn’t his demeanor or even his ability to effectively get the media to on his side with his enthusiasm and comforting style. What interested me the most were the little details that he shared about his approach to the game and how that may translate to this particular group of players. Especially on offense.

In his presser, Brown shared that he has three “principles” that he focuses on when teaching offense:

  1. He wants to “attack the clock” and get the ball up court quickly in order to avoid having possessions deteriorate to the point where shots get forced up with the shot clock winding down.
  2. He wants the ball to move from side to side via ball reversals with an emphasis on the ball moving in and out of the paint.
  3. He wants the floor spaced.

After giving us these bits of insight, Brown also mentioned that he will incorporate “bits and pieces” of the Triangle offense while also falling back on his time with the Spurs to find ways to incorporate the big man talent he’ll have at his disposal with this Laker team. Brown also spoke about getting Kobe the ball in “his spots” in order to maximize Kobe’s talents as a scorer and shot maker.

Based on all this information, we can now start to speculate a bit more on what a Mike Brown offense will look like.

First and foremost, it’s obvious that the Lakers will play a bit faster than they did this past season. Expect to see the Lakers guards pushing the ball up court far more frequently than they did this past season, looking for their teammates to run with them whenever possible. This will mean more post lane sprints by the Laker bigs (Brown actually mentioned this in his presser) and for the Lakers wings to get out in the open court much more looking for easier baskets in transition.

Second, look for the Lakers to enter the ball into the post much earlier in offensive possessions in order to collapse the defense and take advantage of the strength of their post up threats. On the 2002-03 Spurs team, Tim Duncan often got the ball early in offensive possessions to let him set up shop in his comfort spots to attack the defense. On this Lakers team, Gasol, Kobe, and Bynum can all offer post up threats to mirror what Duncan provided that team. If the Lakers can effectively rebound the ball at the defensive end, I expect to see the ball up court quickly with one big man running to rim, the other running to one of the other low blocks, and the ball handler (be it the PG or Kobe) looking to either get the ball into one of them quickly or calling for a quick P&R to set up an action where the ball can get into the paint to compromise the defense.

Third, look for ball and player movement to be a big part of what the Lakers look to do. Mike Brown acknowledged the need to get Kobe the ball in “his spots” and for his big men to still get the touches they need to be effective. The only way this can happen is for the ball to move and for the players to move into those positions. We all know that Kobe’s best spots on the floor are at the elbow, the extended wing (or the “shoulder” of the court where the three point line arc meets the sideline), and at the mid post on either side of the floor. These are the spots on the floor where Kobe operated out of the Triangle for most of his career and where he’s shown the most comfort creating shots for himself or his teammates. We also know that Gasol’s spots are at the elbow and the mid-block on either side of the floor while Bynum operates best from the deep post on either block and at the front of the rim on lobs and duck in actions.

This is where Brown saying he’ll run “bits and pieces” of the Triangle come into play. Brown, a notorious film junkie, surely understands that there are several actions in any offense to best get players into these positions. All variety of cross and down screens, cuts and flashes, and classic post ups can get his players into these positions. It will be on Brown to diagram these actions but this actually shouldn’t be that hard considering nearly every offense uses these actions today in order to get their key players the ball. The Triangle used them, P&R heavy teams use them, and you can find these same actions in the Maverick and Heat sets during the Finals. Understand that just because the Lakers won’t have Phil Jackson (or Brian Shaw) running the triple post offense doesn’t mean some of the basic actions it used can’t be integrated into a different O to get the same type of results.

But there will be change too. We’ll see how Derek Fisher and Steve Blake fit into the philosophy of pushing the ball more. We’ll see where Ron Artest and Lamar Odom find their shots and if some of the versatility they offer can also be built into these same actions. We’ll see how an emphasis on attacking the paint off the dribble affects players like Barnes and Ebanks who seem to do best as slashers rather than ball handlers. Depending on the answers to these questions – or how player evaluation goes into determining whether or not these guys are suited to perform in these roles – we may see roster change over that gets different pieces to execute these sets.

In the end, however, I do think the Lakers will be just fine on the offensive side of the ball when incorporating Coach Brown’s ideas into their sets. There’s just too much talent – and diverse talent at that – for this team not to adapt. After all, this is still basketball and the Lakers have some of the best players in the world at their disposal. Just because it will look different, doesn’t mean the results can’t be similar. And after Mike Brown gave us some clues to how he’ll use these guys, we may find that things look pretty similar anyway.

Darius Soriano

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