A Look At Another Change For The Lakers

Phillip Barnett —  July 11, 2011

I feel like, as a unit, we didn’t do what it takes to keep Brian Shaw, and that’s real disappointing. You can’t forget where you’re from. You can’t forget what you’ve been through. You can’t forget who helped you win a ring, who was there for you when you were frustrated or stressed out, and I’ve got to give credit to Brian Shaw for all of that. This doesn’t mean I won’t love Mike Brown. But for the next couple of months, I’m going to be disappointed about Brian Shaw.
-Ron Artest

Hoops Hype’s Roland Lazenby mentioned some of the changes we can expect to see with the Lakers in a recent post:

The NBA lockout will end someday, and when it does Los Angeles Lakers fans may well find themselves wishing it hadn’t.

Fans will discover they’re witnessing the new Lakers, the ones run by Jim Buss and built to cater in every facet to seven-footer Andrew Bynum, a nice enough 23-year-old kid with a dubious medical past and an even more suspect future.

Yes, aging star Kobe Bryant will still be a part of the equation, but he was put on notice over the summer when Jim Buss hired new coach Mike Brown without so much as a brief discussion with Bryant.

The message is clear: Brown is Bynum’s coach, and the team belongs to the young center as well.

Lazenby makes an interesting point, however, the above quote sheds an interesting insight on one of the lesser talked about changes/losses in the Lakers organization; not just the loss in Brian Shaw, but the collective loss of the emotional ties between the players and the previous coaching regime. With Phil Jackson retiring, a new player/coach dynamic is being brought in along with a new coaching philosophy. We aren’t just going to see a new offense and defense, but we’re also going to witness how Lakers players and coaches interact with each other as well — and this might be Mike Brown’s toughest challenge during his inaugural season.

The give-and-take between Kobe and Phil Jackson has been well documented, as well as the team’s collective hope to be led by former Lakers Champion and assistant coach Brian Shaw. These were two figures who not only held the players respect as coaches, but were guys the players were able to sit down and talk to about all things life. There is a culture that’s built within club houses, and while I couldn’t tell you exactly what that culture was like during Phil Jackson’s second tenure as the Lakers head coach, I can tell you without a doubt that the culture will be dramatically different with Mike Brown as the head coach.

We’ve seen in the past, especially with international teams, that consistency within the locker room can prove to be just as meaningful toward a team’s success as having talent. This dynamic is usually brought up when you talk about teams, but is equally as significant when talking about coaching staffs. Phil was able to select the right guys on his staff to mesh with the diverse group of players on the team to maximize their ability to succeed. It’s impossible to tell right now, but one of the things we might want to watch when the next NBA season starts is how well the players and coaches work with each other. Phil was very good at allowing his coaching staff to handle specific players or specific situations and stepping in when necessary. He was also very good at allowing the players handle some situations by themselves. We’re all well versed in the “Phil doesn’t always call timeouts” narrative, but one of the things that went relatively unnoticed was how often when he actually did call timeouts, either Fish or Kobe was coaching the other guys up.

The players are going to miss having Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw, Jim Cleamons and Frank Hamblen around for their basketball minds, but they’re also going to miss the mutual respect and camaraderie that came with the group. This is a veteran Lakers team that has been together for the most part, for the better part of three years with the same group of guys on the bench pointing them in the right direction both on and off the court. Mike Brown and his staff are very smart basketball guys, but I’m wondering if they’re going to be just as receptive to this team or if this team is going to be willing to open up to them. An NBA season is a long time to be around a small group of people, it’s going to take more than just being on the same page on the court for this team to really succeed in ways the roster suggests it can.

Phillip Barnett

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36 responses to A Look At Another Change For The Lakers

  1. Funky Chicken July 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Can’t agree with Lazenby on this one, as it sounds like he tried to force the facts to match his theory. How does the hiring of Mike Brown (without consulting with Kobe) suggest that this is Andrew’s team? Was Drew consulted where Kobe was not?

    Lazenby’s bias is pretty obvious by his suggestion that Bynum’s future is “even more suspect” than his “dubious medical past.” Really? Nobody can reasonably disagree that Bynum’s medical past has been problematic (not sure how it was “dubious”) but why is Bynum’s future “more suspect”?

    This is another example of a guy with a deadline who needed to publish a story and didn’t have the patience or the ability to use the facts to guide him, so he just went with his original theory, facts be damned….

  2. I’m re-posting my view on Andrew.

    I understand where Lazenby is coming from on Andrew. I don’t think a player who has been injured as many times as he has (though not always the fault of his own) can have a long and healthy career. I don’t see Drew ever being like Dwight or Shaq for that matter. He may be sort of like a Brad Daugherty instead of Sam Bowie or Bill Walton, but I don’t see much else.

    The biggest problem with trading him for Howard is having to take on a contract like Agent Zero’s. That would force us to get rid of someone extremely valuable like Lamar which would cause other problems. In the perfect would we could trade them straight up, but this isn’t a perfect world.

    Jim Buss’ decisions so far have not been so great and you can see by the writing on the wall that it may cause problems down the line. He started some dissension with his comments a couple years ago. Dr. Buss had to come back into the fold and clear that up. The Lakers have been extremely lucky to go to three and win two championships. From an injury that caused a phone call that eventually netted us Pau, to the teams that matched well against us getting knocked out of the playoffs, to players missing point blank lay-ups at the end of games.

    We have been fortunate. Our luck ran out last year. Now we have to make wise decisions and get everyone on board in order to get everything we can out of this championship calibur team.

  3. Excellent post Phillip. I really worry about changing everything about a championship team. They may have stopped listening to PHIL, but they respected everyone else from the coaches, to the scouts and Assistant GM. For the Lakers to fire virtually everyone and bring all new personnel in scares the living hell out of me. How can you possibly get everyone on the same page in a lockout year? The answer is you can’t.

    This is why no one trusts Jim because his judgement is not circumspect. After listening to he and Jeanie speak, whom do you trust more with the Lakers?

    (IMO) The should have made B-Shaw a one year coach, run the same things and then brought Brown in the following year. If you think that they could not have hired him under the table with that plan in mind you would be very naive (IMO).

  4. #1 – I don’t know, Lazenby is obviously a very opinionated guy but I think his point about a directional shift under Jim Buss is well taken. Also, there’s a larger tone to this post which works nicely – taking three different points of view and showing a commonality. Phil Jackson constantly preached team togetherness. It didn’t always work in the moment (famous feuds, etc.) but there was a structure geared toward coaching staff and players being a whole unit. Hopefully it’ll all work out but there’s been a sea change for sure – hard to see how gutting the team’s staff from top to bottom is going to foster unity.

  5. Funky Chicken July 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    dave m, I don’t disagree about a directional shift in the front office in general, but to state it as if the F.O. has decided to bump Bynum to #1 and Kobe to #2 is hysterically overstating the case.

    Phil Jackson did talk a lot about team togetherness, but I think that stuff was overblown. His teams were probably among the least “together” dominant teams we’ve seen in recent NBA history. During the first 3-peat it was well-known that the locker room was dysfunctional with the Shaq/Kobe drama, although they looked very together whenver they held up the O’Brien trophy. That same team, however, completely disintegrated in 2003 against Detroit.

    More recently, this current Laker squad seemed (for two years at least) to be considerably more together than their predecessors, but once more I think the winning had more to do with the perceived unity than anything. Kobe wanted to be traded, then wanted Bynum to be “shipped out”, but then Pau happened and the team started to win (and looked pretty together). That seemed to be the case until this year’s playoff run, where they looked anything like a close-knit group of guys and, like Phil’s 2003 squad, went out in totally disarray and got swept.

    I’m not minimizing togetherness at all, as I think it is a very important part of championship basketball, but I do think that togetherness sometimes follows rather than causes winning. Our current squad looked damned together and unified during their post allstar break 17-1 run, but then looked as disjointed and “separate” as possible during their meltdown in round 2….

    Finally, I’m just particularly bothered when the likes of Lazenby try to fit the facts into their theory and ignore the fact that one of the most frequently used words to come out of Mike Brown’s press conference was “family” (in the team concept), which suggests to me that Brown also believes in togetherness, and in that regard probably isn’t all that different than PJ….

  6. Rusty Shackleford July 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    There’s no way I’m writing the Mike Brown hire off as a poor hire before he even has the chance to prove himself. The knock in Cleveland was that there wasn’t enough talent around the superstar (after watching this year’s final I wonder how much talent is needed – ZING!) along with poor offensive strategy. Brown is taking charge of a team with plenty of firepower on both ends of the floor so why not give him the benefit of the doubt?

    That being said, my choice was Adelman. I have always respected the scrappiness his squads show. I thought it would be a nice change of scenery for a fanbase that seems to question its teams desire to come out and play on a nightly basis every year. I just don’t want to go through another shitty run like the Kwame years.

  7. The ‘talking heads’ are the ones with all the comments about Jim Buss – and we know how reliable they are.

    The fans are the ones who are overreacting to each and every turn in the road – and we know that is the normal practice for fans.

    Neither of these groups has any responsibility for building and maintaining the Laker franchise – thank goodness for that, IMO.

    The only thing we all can agree on is that the Laker organization normally plays it’s cards very, very close to the vest. This means we will all hear very little about any decisions before they are made. Sorry, but that is the history over the last 30+ years.

    Perhaps we should all just ‘cool our jets’ a bit and not go off on Jim Buss before he has a chance to prove himself. We didn’t follow that advice with Mitch K. and he seems to have done all right – except that we all seem to have a hangover memory of Mitch being a dunce and a tool and seem to bring it up whenever anything goes remotely wrong.

    The real question is — Are we fans the dunces and tools?

  8. #7 I agree with you – everyone is jumping on Jim Buss and claiming he is going to be the downfall of the team. Let us see where things go before being so harsh.

    Further, what exactly are his “poor decisions”? Choosing to draft one of the best centers in the league and hiring the most qualified coach available?

  9. Craig W –

    I’m not so sure this (in particular) is a case of fans overreacting. Upon taking the reins of power, Jim Buss proceeded to fully clean house. Add up everyone in that exiting conga line and you’ve probably got a couple hundred years of Lakers’ employment and a whole lot of rings. It’s his right to do so but it also makes him fair game for criticism and I for one, haven’t even gotten started.

  10. #8 – I’ll list just one “bad decision” by Jim Buss for starters. He fired Ronnie Lester who’d been with the Lakers for 25 years, as the head scout and Mitch Kupchak’s right-hand man. Ronnie’s the guy who scouted and championed Andrew Bynum. Jim Buss had nothing to do with it until it was gift-wrapped and dropped into his lap.

  11. #10 I totally agree with you Dave M. There is nothing wrong in expressing opinions about public figures like Jim Buss and Mitch K after all, we are enumerating some hard realities on Jim Buss reappearance.

    1. Jim Buss played a major role in Kobe’s rant in 2007.
    2. Isn’t it not strange of JB not talking to his former coach who brought fame and fortune to the franchise?
    3. Hire a new coach without even telling your franchise player of your decision on who would be his new Coach.
    4. Maybe there is a lockout and Lakers wanted to avoid expenses. It is not customary to see a great franchise in terminating people who were responsible in building this team like Ron Lester, Bill Bertka, Rudy Garciduenas etc. Perhaps, “firing” is just too extreme decision of austerity.
    5. Lastly, sudden shift of environment from Dr. Jerry Buss to Jim Buss. The public relations of the new empire leaves a lot to be desired.

    You can’t blame the fans to be inflamed with the sudden shift of new surroundings all at the same time. After being eliminated in the 2nd round without any challenge, trading draft picks, insecurity of having no veteran PG, boring lockout, insecurity of complacency of distracted players. Well, it is normal for fans to have an outlet to express their disgust and frustrations. Secondly, there is so much diversity in this region. It’s hard to silence critics and fake love when there is none.

    In the end, we are all Laker fans and that includes Roland LAzenby, Eric Pincus and many Southern California sports scribes, we all have our own respective opinions about people running the team however, we always come back to one denominator. We want WIN Championships. We don’t want to lose grip of the successful tradition.

  12. Renato Afonso July 12, 2011 at 3:48 am

    I agree with Edwin except for the 3. point he made. The decision of a new coach must not be run through any of your players. I don’t care about Kobe’s stature in the league…

    However, the thing that worries me the most about Jim Buss is exactly the firing of some people who have been with the Lakers since the Showtime days. Why was there a need to do that? Didn’t they find enough talent for us? Were they incompetent in their jobs? I still can’t understand the need to do it unless those people filed for retirement (which they didn’t).

  13. …actually we all want to win championships, but think they should be won our way.

    I don’t really like the large scale layoffs either. I do think Jim Buss has some things to answer for. However, we really don’t know anything about the Lakers financial situation. Yes, they did apparently make money last year – we don’t know how much. The thing is, the Lakers are the Buss family’s only income source and they cannot afford to run deficits like, say, a Mark Cuban can.

    If the Buss family thinks this lockout is going to last for the entire year, then they really must cut out some ‘bone’ from the Laker organization.

    Also, they may also want to start up their organization more focused on foreign players and advanced statistics when the league reopens. Those were not strengths of this organization and Jim Buss may want to put more emphasis on them.

    I am not saying these are the facts, but these are not things fans are even thinking about.

  14. The crazy thing is there is no way to “fire” an owner once Jim Buss eventually takes the reins from his father. (See Dolan, NYK). You can replace coaches, players, systems, GMs, equipment managers, etc., but not owners. Here’s to hoping Buss Jr. really can get his act together and learn how to listen to his competent staff. This is no time to have a power play simply for the sake of it.

  15. #10. Dave M,
    This may not seem like a difference to anyone, but when Lester ended up speaking to the press, he said that before last season he (and several other staffers) were offered contract extensions (3 year extensions, I believe) but at a reduced salary. He turned that offer down and went into last season as a lame duck (of sorts). The Lakers then let those contracts expire w/o renewing them and thus Lester (and crew) were let go.

    Again, that may not seem like a difference to anyone and it’s just as easily argued that forcing paycuts on staff (especially for a franchise that’s doing as well as the Lakers) is just as bad – or worse – as firing them outright. I’m certainly disappointed that so much institutional memory has walked out the door. Just thought I’d clarify what actually happened to Lester (and presumably the others on the scouting staff).

  16. If and when we have a season, it will not lack for a storyline. I wonder if Phil is observing with bemusement, perhaps putting pen to paper?

  17. Does anyone know:
    If by some chance the entire season is lost, is that year considered fulfilled for the purpose of the contracts that are still in effect? i.e. if right now a player has a contract through the 2012-3 season, and the 2011-2 season is lost, does the contract still expire at the end of the 2012-3?

  18. Lakers will be fine people relax.

    Jim Buss might have some growing pains but he will get it right eventually.

    Remember the sky was falling when Jerry West left and Kupchak took over and look how that turned out.

    Bynum is not running the team and I don’t know where the writer is getting that crap from….a bit of a reach. I’m sure after the decision was made the first call was to KB24 and not Bynum.

    As far as the scouts….why would you pay these people during a lockout? It is indeed time for the Lakers to shake it up a bit and I am sure they have a plan.

    Rest easy all is well in Lakerdom!

  19. Its interesting that you wrote about the coaching change today because the T’wolves officially fired Rambis. Do you think the wolves waited so long to prevent Rambis from being considered for the Lakers head coaching job. Hypothetically speaking, being fired from the worst team in the league and going back to the team he loves wouldn’t have been much of a “punishment”.

  20. Ex – don’t know if it’s standard but a lot of contracts have suspend and extend clauses that cover work stoppages. There’s variations as far as length or in some cases, mutual options.

  21. You know me… I am not one to talk much about coaches. chemistry, or players personal lives. I care 95% about the talent on the floor. I know sometimes that is boring but it is what ultimately matters the most. Dave Miller (who I do not think is a great basketball mind) hit the nail on the head in last weeks Triangle (is that segment soon going to be called the LeBron Isolation). Miller said this team needs more than some slight tweaking. If they want to win it all they need a new starting PG and a new back up Center in that order.

    Everyone knows we need a starting PG but almost as important is an average back up Center. Gasol in the new NBA where teams are going big (to matchup with the Lakers) is not a Center and gets outplayed by below average Centers ala Perkins. Teams are again putting bad Centers in the game to just have that all to important size. Statistically the Lakers rebounding and defense was very poor when Gasol was in at Center. This is of no fault to Gasol who is not in any way a Center.

    Where and how do we get that starting PG and back up Center? TMac? Aaron Brooks? A trade? Samuel Dalembert? Please send suggestions to Mitch’s inbox…

  22. We can’t discount the idea that the firings of some of the front office staff may turn out to be more like layoffs. It’s heartless, but if as a business decision Buss saw the lockout coming and opted to cut payroll for those who couldn’t do anything for the team during that time, we’ve seen worse things done in the corporate realm.

    I’m not defending it — just raising the idea that maybe some of those let go may be rehired once there is day-to-day Lakers business again?

  23. I do hope the Lakers can immediately re-hire most of its staff if the idea was that the Lakers didn’t intend to pay for staff that would have nothing to do during a lockout.

    Re: Aaron’s question about how to get a top level PG, it will take a pound of our big men (Gasol or Odom, Odom being most likely) to get a competent PG. I don’t buy the TPE argument (if it exists) because the market is flooded with TPEs right now (Clev, Minn, Toronto, etc.). What makes our TPE exceptional? If the team is unwilling to let go one of our bigs, then we will most likely have Fisher or Blake as the starting PG next year. it is what it is.

  24. 15. Darius –
    I’d read about the reduced offer and I agree that it becomes part of the equation. Lester and others took a gamble – declining the pay cut most likely hastened their demise. And, it’s not like this is unusual – large companies across the spectrum of business are now routinely eliminating existing positions altogether or offering new positions at a cut rate that effectively duplicate the prior ones. It’s a shame. The fact that Lakers ownership chose this path, parallel to the larger NBA efforts to weaken or break the players’ union, is very disappointing.

  25. 25. Dave M, I understand how it looks classless, but as a business, how can we chastise the franchise for letting go of employees who for the foreseeable future were not going to be doing anything for the company? I’m with you from a moral standpoint, but it’s not my money.

  26. Darius

    You failed to mention the pay cut was 30%!!!! That is major!!!

  27. 26. DY -I mentioned a trend by big businesses to use salary-cutting practices but the Lakers decision feels a bit different. I don’t believe that the majority of teams are cleaning house in this same manner.

  28. Phillip / Darius – Do you have a link for the Lazenby article?

  29. there’s no question that lazenby’s analysis has a bias, but how different is Oden from Bynum in terms of injuries? It’s a big risk, and you’d like to have a lot of faith in the guy who is taking that risk.

    There’s no question that the lakers made zero effort to publicly thank jackson for what he did. If you’re Kobe or Pau, you don’t think they notice that?

    And the transition from jerry to junior was not really smooth. The Buss family doesn’t owe fans any explanation for what they do – people vote with their dollars. But the fans don’t go to see Jerry hanging out with high school cheerleaders either. It’s the product on the floor – the product the owners bought and selected. Junior has essentially cleaned out a lot of longtime staff – save Mitch Kupchak. Do you reallly think Junior is giving Kupchak the freedom to do what he wants after Junior fires a lot of Kupchak’s support staff?

    When the owner of that product doesn’t impress most fans or writers, I don’t know how that makes fans or writers dunces or tools. Every serious, knowledgable fan I talk to is worried/concerned/unsure about the direction of the team.

  30. #31. The difference between Bynum and Oden is about 250 career games played and actually recovering from his injuries to suit up. I’m not giving up on Oden yet, but their injury histories aren’t in the same league.

    As for Lazenby. His perspective is shaped by one side of the story; by a certain perspective that some have but is not universally accepted. So, I’m not as eager to jump into the doom and gloom pool simply because he (and others) feel that way.

    As an aside, there will always be a certain sect of fans that find problems with what the Lakers are doing. Even when the Lakers win the championship, some find ways to criticize. It’s the nature of the beast with this specific franchise. Not saying that you’re doing this, just stating what I’ve observed from running this site and interacting with Laker fans in various places.

    So, in a way, it’s hard for me to not look at some criticism as just being a product of that mindset of “there’s always something to complain about” and I just leave it at that. It doesn’t mean that some of the criticisms aren’t rooted in truth, but sometimes it’s taken beyond that for the sake of selling a viewpoint or sensationalizing.

  31. Darius

    Count me as one of the people who made comments AFTER we won championships. I wanted us to follow the diagram of the New England Patriots who finely retooled themselves after every Superbowl appearance. They kept themselves in line to compete the next year for the same prize. They did not rest on their laurels, they built themselves up to win it the follwing year and the years after that. This is the model I expect from my Lakers, but I did not see that happening.

    The Lakers did not address their areas of weakness last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. Pau came in and yes they picked up Blake, but is he the starting point guard they needed? No!!! Did they get a back up for Bynum in case he got injured? No!!! Did they get a scorer off the bench to give Kobe a breather? No!!! All these things you and everyone else says we need, I have been saying for three years.

    Don’t simply be happy to win one championship, try to win as many as you can because you never know we you’ll get another opportunity. Windows close on everyone.

  32. #33. Sounds like you need your own site. ;)

  33. No thanks, I’ll stick with comments and leave the heavy lifting to the masters like you, Aaron, and Chownoir.

    By the way, like you, I’m a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan and I HATE the Patriots.

  34. Great post. I do think Lazenby read too much into Kobe’s being overlooked in the hiring of Mike Brown. I would have thought Mamba would have been given a heads-up, but the fact that he wasn’t doesn’t indicate to me that the team is now Bynum’s. I would love to see Bynum have a more central role, and I do think that Jim Buss doesn’t have the velvet touch of his father, but I don’t see that his sometimes ham-handed handling of the franchise is a sure sign that the franchise is in downfall.

    That said, as with the Dodgers, I’ve always felt that if teams value their players and all the figures and the aspects of the franchise, that the teams will flourish. We see what has happened with the Dodgers now that that the franchise has been trashed and I don’t see, as a long-time Dodger fan, anything changing quickly there either. Perhaps it’s somewhat idealistic, but I believe that what goes around comes around. We Laker fans have been spoiled with such wise, generous leadership, for over 30 years now. I think we’re at a turning point and we will see whether Jim Buss is the steward of the team his father has shown himself repeatedly to be.