Thoughts On Kuester’s Arrival, Shannon’s Potential Departure

Darius Soriano —  July 1, 2011

If you read our links this morning, you’d know that yesterday there was actual happenings with the Lakers outside of the lockout. Announcements were made that the long anticipated hire of John Kuester as lead assistant to Mike Brown is finally done and that Shannon Brown exercised his right to not pick up his player option for next season, thus becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Both moves were expected but now that they’re official, they’re worth further discussion.

First off, the Kuester’s addition is another good add to a staff that already has Ettore Messina behind the bench as a consultant. Kuester is another bright offensive mind with a lot of NBA experience and is known as a good teacher of the game. When you combine Kuester and Messina with the whispers of Chuck Person and Quin Snyder potentially filling out the staff, that’s a strong group of coaches to help Brown run this team.

Obviously, the hire of Kuester doesn’t come without trepidation. His run as a head coach with the Pistons was disastrous with awful results and claims of player mutiny overshadowing the few positives of his tenure. He seemed overwhelmed by the task of running a team but the nail on the head was his inability to relate to the players in a way that seemed to inspire the discontent. This should all matter much less (if at all) with Kuester taking on the role of assistant rather than head man as the task of keeping everyone (both players and coaches) ultimately falls on Mike Brown. But perceptions often endure and Kuester has some ground to make up in the credibility department whether that’s fair or not.

That said, the Lakers are a veteran team of professionals and I expect them to act accordingly. The bigger goal is to win and I expect Kuester to help the team positively in this regard. His comfort level with Mike Brown and the success they’ve shared in the past should create a good foundation for the team and the players to build on. Ultimately, I’m happy that Brown has gotten his guy on his staff so they can proceed with building game plans that are successful.

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One player that may not be around to take part in those game plans in Shannon Brown. We’ve discussed the man we’ve called WOW a few times lately and I won’t rehash all those ideas now. But to summarize he’s grown a fair amount as a player with the Lakers and with that growth has come positives and negatives. He’s shown he can impact the game with his athleticism and shot making as well as with his lack of attention to detail.

But now that he’s opted out, the Lakers are in a position where they’ll need a replacement of some sort. Kobe was able to play his fewest minutes since his second season almost primarily because of Shannon’s performance as his back up. With Brown gone, we’re either in for Kobe’s minutes going back up or giving those minutes to one of the other guards/wings on the current roster. And while I’m all for seeing if Barnes, Ebanks, or one of the rookies can step in and play, I’m not for relying on that going into next season. I’m also not for relying on Fisher or Blake picking up minutes as the de-facto back up to Kobe in small line ups.

Of course, there’s still the option that Brown returns as he did before last season when he and the Lakers did this same dance. Mutual interest is natural considering the familiarity between the parties. However, if Brown does leave the Lakers for greener pastures (more money) or a role where he can spread his wings more, back up shooting guard will instantly become a priority for this team.

The problem then becomes forecasting how the Lakers fill that role considering we don’t yet know what rules the league will be operating under. But that’s the nature of this lock out. There will be more questions asked but until there’s an agreement between the players and owners they’ll go unanswered.

In any event, I wish Shannon Brown the best of luck in whatever decision he makes. He made us all stand up and cheer at least once a game with one of his patented high flying moves and showed tremendous growth as a player that few expected anything from when he originally came.

Darius Soriano

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24 responses to Thoughts On Kuester’s Arrival, Shannon’s Potential Departure

  1. Renato Afonso July 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    On Shannon Brown, the thing that must have weighted the most was the announcement of the lockout. All players under contract will have to sit it out. I believe the law doesn’t allow them to sign two different contracts with different teams.

    Shannon Brown is not necessarily rich nor household name in today’s NBA. He came from the D-League and fights every year for a contract. I believe his decision will allow him to play in Europe, even if it is for less money, at least it will be a paycheck. I’m just wondering where will he land…

  2. Good point about Shannon. He is only as known as he is because he played on this team, so hopefully he can parlay that into a contract or something somewhere. I like the guy, even with the occasional lapse of judgement on the court.

  3. Wow, how things change…from “let Shannon dunk” to “let Shannon leave”.

    I like Shannon a lot, even though sometimes he drove me crazy, and he definitely made positive contributions to the last 2 titles. In some ways, I think he’s like a good-attitude version of Smush Parker – same position and size, athletically gifted, does some things very well, prone to the bonehead play and matador D. Of course, he doesn’t have Smush’s smirk/sulk and he wasn’t miscast as a starting guard, so my memories of his Laker career (whether or not this is it) will be a lot more positive.

  4. This past year, I’ve wondered why Brown hasn’t grown more. I’ve been rooting for him to succeed since the 09 playoff run. Usually when players don’t show great improvement, it can be attributed to a combination of three things: attitude, work ethic and smarts.

    Shannon has always come across as someone who graded high in all three. I was always befuddled by the lack of bigger improvements. In that sense it was more frustrating to see his mistakes since there was no clear explanation for the lack of progress.

  5. Count me as someone who isn’t feeling quite as optimistic about the Kuester coaching hire.

    Maybe I’ve been spoiled by a lot of years having Phil Jackson, but I am kind of scratching my head at the moment for why the premier franchise in the league with a roster that can still be legitimately described as “championship contender” seems to feel the need to take on “roll the dice” coaching hires with “upside”.

    Now, I could be way off base here. Maybe Brown and Keuster and Messina are brilliant and inspired hires. But…they sure are unexpected.

    To me they feel like that guy in your fantasy football drafts who reaches for a borderline or questionable player a couple of rounds too early because he thinks that the guy is on the edge of making “the leap” and he wants to be hailed as a visionary genius at the end of the season for bucking conventional wisdom and being the smartest dude in the room.

    I mean, has Kobe been on board with the latest Kuester hire? Shouldn’t we be concerned that, right after hiring the head coach without even a “what do you think?” reach out to Kobe they brought in a guy whose players LITERALLY mutinied LAST YEAR? We’re not talking about a roster full of known troublemakers for the most part either. The guy lost the grip on a locker room that included folks like Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.

    How’s he going to do trying to handle Kobe and Ron Artest? Is Mike Brown going to be the guy who makes it all work? His credentials are that he let Lebron James run roughshod all over his last team. (With the front office basically undercutting him the entire way but still…)

    Maybe I’m wrong. But these are hires that teams who can’t pull in the established “name” guys make. These aren’t the guys you expect the Lakers to be turning to as first options.

  6. #5. I don’t think we should be so quick to absolve the players in Detroit. Those guys also had a hand in ensuring that Flip Saunders and Michael Curry got their walking papers too. I feel both the coach and the players deserve blame here.

    Also, Brown was a legitimate hire and not a reach at all. Some would have preferred Shaw (I was one of those guys) or Adelman (I thought he would have been a good hire) but Brown measures up well with both of them. Adelman’s been to 1 2 Finals and had many deep playoff runs. Brown has been to 1 Finals and had 3 deep playoff runs w/ Cleveland. I don’t think we should equate unexpected with uninspired.

    As for Brown’s time in Cleveland, I think your point about ownership deserves weight. I also think the roster put together in 2010 hurt the Cavs badly against the Celtics (that roster was built to beat Orlando, not Boston). I’m not trying to say Brown has no fault or couldn’t have done a better job. But I’m also not quick to poor on the blame with him. Plus, in the end, we’ll see if he has the chops to coach this team. If he doesn’t, I think it will be easier to know after the fact rather than guessing at it now.

  7. Hey Darius,

    Thanks for the response, and you’ve definitely hit the other side of the argument square on the head.

    You can make the argument that Brown put together some brilliant defensive teams, that he got teams with questionable talent to lead the league in wins, etc.

    Similarly, you can (and did) point out that it isn’t like the players on that Detroit team are perfect angels with unblemished histories, etc.

    I’m reserving judgment. I’m just a little uneasy at the moment that typically, teams with as much talent, resources, pull, etc. that the Lakers have don’t do “reach” picks. They select from the very cream of the crop.

    Now, again, you can kind of see the strategy developing a little bit and when you step back and look at how these coaches fit together AS PART OF A LARGER WHOLE rather than individual flawed pieces it makes a little more sense. (Similar to how looking at just Artest in isolation raises all sorts of question but looking at Artest being asked to do a specific set of things with certain boundaries makes it more reasonable.)

    I’m just a bit uneasy and cautioning against “they hit it out of the ballpark” style analysis because I think there are a LOT of questions not just with each individual hire but with all of them put together and the whole way that they’re approaching the process. (For example, how quickly they settled on Brown, how they snatched up Kuester who wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with competing offers, etc.)

    Like I said, feels like the guy in the Fantasy Football draft who, if he DOES end up right on his picks DOES look like a genius. On the other hand, if his picks end up wrong he looks like a complete idiot.

    The Lakers are not making the “safe” picks with their coaching hires so far.

  8. BTW, to clarify, not saying that YOU are doing the “hit it out of the ballpark” analysis. (Wish this site had an edit button.)

    Just expanding on what MY fears and concerns are. I’m not sure that this is a good hire. It COULD be, but I’m more skeptical than you at this point.

  9. It’s time for Shannon Brown to move on. You can tell from his shooting form that he’s worked on his game but I just don’t think he has the intuitive feel of basketball on both ends that could make him anything more than an end of the bench player in the NBA.

    I think someone is probably going to see his rings and athleticism and overpay him though, but that team’s fans better prepare themselves for not throwing their remote at the tv the first time he takes a contested 20-footer with 15 seconds on the shot clock.

  10. I’m puzzled as to why many folks seem to think the Lakers somehow “settled” by hiring Mike Brown.

    Seems like a solid hire, at the very least. More worrisome to me is Kobe’s apparent decline and if he will remain in denial or realistically adjust to his diminished powers.

    BTW, Darius, it seems like Shannon Brown’s opt out is a crap shoot for him. Now that Brown’s an unrestricted free agent, what does that really mean, since the CBA is, ahem, being re thought – to put it politely?

    Also Darius, another question: Aren’t all NBA players free to play in Europe, China or wherever until there’s a new CBA?

  11. Oh, True Hoop has some info on NBA players options regarding employment if this drags on. Free Agents can play anywhere they can get a gig. For players under contract, it’s a little more complicated. Interesting.

    I’d love to see multitudes of players file for the clearances needed and head to Europe in droves! The owners are, well …

  12. R,
    Hop over to http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop and look at the Friday Bullets.

    Go down to the 4th paragraph. It explains why NBA players with contracts may not be able to sign any contracts overseas.

  13. Craig W – Yes, if I was a player I think I’d look into getting clearance to go elsewhere. I’d encourage ‘em all to do it. It would send a message if nothing else.

    Especially if some of the top guns – Kevin, I’m looking at you! – checked it out.

  14. Are the Lakers done with hiring asst coaches,or could there be more to come? Brown worked with Kuester before and feels comfortable with him. Since Brown delegates,we`ll just have to seen how the new staff works together,but I like the fact that they seem to have to have worked under diverse coaches over the years and bring many view points to the table. Brown`s big task will be geting the team to buy into his methods,by showing those methods result in winning games.I expect him to very tough on defensive effort and execution.

  15. I’m always going to remember Shannon’s death-defying one-handed jams. The guy had serious hops and he played hard. It may not have worked out the way we would have wanted, but he was a good Laker. Go in peace.

    Re: players going overseas, remember that euro teams have restrictions about how many overseas (American) players can be on each team. There’s only so many jobs available.

  16. 17) Right, right most teams allow two American players per team, unless they are eligible to be considered a foreign player, i.e. Tony Parker, Michael Pitries, Sasha Vujacic, Ronnie Turiaf etc, at which time a foreign team can carry three Americans. Also, don’t forget that for every NBA player that goes over seas in order to earn a salary, they are displacing current Americans that were not good enough to play in the NBA from doing the same thing. The guard that left the Lakers to play overseas comes to mind.

    Regarding Shannon Brown (ShanWOW!) He deserves a chance to play in an offense that is more conducive to his style of play. I’d like to see how he does in Mike Brown’s offensive scheme. Shannon can play defense he actually made an effort to do so when he first joined the Lakers but I guess the coaching staff (Phil Jackson) asked him to be more of an offensive player. As Shannon was asked to be the Kobe off the bench. Think about it who else was going to come off the bench and fill that role? Surely, not Steve (I can’t hit an open jumper) Blake nor was it going to be Lamar (the reluctant star) Odom. Not unless, you think that Luke Walton, Joe Smith or Derrick Caracter could have done the job better. Cut the guy some slack we got more out of him (as a throw in player in a trade) than we did from players that we actually picked up in the draft or through free agency. Shannon did exactly what the coaching staff asked of him over the summer, namely to work on a 3 pt shot, which he did. Do not forget that at the start of the season Shannon was responsible for putting the Lakers in position to win games early in the season. If not for those few wins when he was scoring 12-17 points a game the Lakers might have been in a worse position than they were during the playoffs. Considering the fact that they lost 5 games in a row several times in the waning part of the season and lost their footing on home court advantage.

    I for one hope that Shannon returns, as a high flying basketball player he remained relatively injury free. The other two players–Kobe Bryant and Devin Ebanks–on the Lakers that are capable of displaying athleticism in the open court are both plagued by injuries.

  17. 4) Chownoir,
    ” Usually when players don’t show great improvement, it can be attributed to a combination of three things: attitude, work ethic and smarts.”

    Smarts/intelligence off the court does not bring with it smarts/intelligence on the court. Two different things.

  18. shannonlove12 July 2, 2011 at 5:10 am

    I will always miss Shannon Brown. If he goes ( and i have a bad feeling that he will) , the excitement will
    go with him. There is something special about him.
    Yes, I know how he tanked this last year , especially
    after starting gang busters at the start of the season.
    But he always tried to compensate in other ways. He’s
    a ball stealer , second only to Ron Artest ( oops! Meta
    World Peace!). He absolutely defies gravity when he flies up to the hoop while dunking it in. He’s been
    good at defense guarding whomever Jackson put
    him on. I’m gonna miss this guy!!!

  19. Funky Chicken July 2, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I’m not going to miss Shannon Brown all that much. For all the excitement that his high-flying dunks brought (and they brought a lot), they were worth 2 points. A shooting guard on a team with two 7-footers needs to be able to shoot (and make) jumpers more than he needs to be able to dunk. For that reason, I would expect Goudelock to not only make the roster but take a lot of the minutes that might have otherwise gone to SB.

    This isn’t to hate on Shannon, who definitely overachieved based on everyone’s expectations when he was a mere throw-in as part of a deal to dump Radmanovic and sign Adam Morrison. However, even after a few years in the Laker system, Brown looked more like an unbroken, young horse to me than anything else–full of energy, and not always able to control that enthusiasm.

    On a team with very little athleticism and quickness, those attributes will be missed, but for all the athleticism he had, Brown was an average defender at best. I wish him well, and I can see him improving his game (or at least his stats) by signing elsewhere, but in my view this loss will not likely have a meaningful effect on the Lakers’ chances of getting back to the championship.

  20. One pothole that we fans always seem to fall into is the possible incorrectness of first impressions. Once said – true or not – they remain forever in fans minds as a definition of a player, coach, or front office person.

    Shannon Brown is an example of this. When the trade was first announced, all the ‘talking heads’ assumed that Shannon was a throw in for salary reasons.

    However, we subsequently learned that Shannon was a key part of what Mitch was requesting and that Charlotte didn’t really want to include him. The deal was not complete until Charlotte included him in the deal. It is probable that Morrison was the throw in to make the salaries equal and for Charlotte to get rid of Adam’s contract – he was the most onerous contract in the bunch, i.e. Charlotte made the deal to get rid of his contract, not because they didn’t like what Shannon brought to the table.

    Subsequently Charlotte was able to trade Vlade, but the Lakers were not able to get rid of Morrison before the end of his contract – probably validating Charlotte’s assumption that it would be harder to dump Morrison than Vlade.

  21. Not sure what to take from all this, but it does seem that there was a serious panic button being pressed after our not-so-ceremonious departure in the post season.

    Also, people take development for granted, but really, it’s not. Most players really have peaked by the time they see the court unless we’re talking rookies or players restricted by a system.

  22. 25) Therefore, would you not agree that Shannon Brown was restricted by the Triangle?