L.A., L.A.: Big City of Dreams

J.M. Poulard —  December 24, 2011

The Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA’s signature team and generate a plethora of interest given their elite status. In addition, with the franchise being located in one of the biggest markets in the country, it’s only natural that the team gets an incredible amount of media coverage.

Whether it’s a trade, a non-trade, a trade demand, a free agent signing, an exhibition game win or even a loss; the Lakers always dominate the headlines. There is no escaping that.

Indeed, when the trade that brought Chris Paul to the Lakers was essentially rescinded (or blocked, depending on the explanation du jour), journalists from around the country all had an opinion on the matter. The collateral damage of the failed transaction was Lamar Odom (the swap would have made Odom a Hornets player); who requested to be traded and got his wish and relocated to Dallas to play for the defending champions.

This prompted the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Ric Bucher to proclaim that Kobe Bryant was not only livid at Jim Buss and the organization, but that the mercurial guard would soon request to be traded. Once again, water under the bridge in Lakerland.

Head coach Mike Brown is now learning the added pressure that comes with coaching the Lakers. Indeed, after an exhibition game loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, Brown responded to a question about Kobe’s play. His statement:

“Kobe is going to be fine offensively. But defensively, Kobe was just as guilty as everybody else at not contesting shots and so he as well as the rest of the guys have to make sure that they focus in on that area of the floor.”

The statement in itself is quite harmless. Brown didn’t really call out his superstar; it was more so about a head coach sharing his insights on the play of the best player on the team. It may have caused some to raise their eyebrows because the former Cavs coach never really made such statements about LeBron James; but then again perhaps Brown now wants things done a little bit differently given his experiences in Cleveland.

Nonetheless, the statement flooded the airwaves and many were quick to direct their attention to Kobe just to observe his reaction. Bryant gave his head coach the vote of confidence and the issue pretty much died.

On this front, Brown hasn’t yet been through the fire much like Phil Jackson has; thus he is learning how things function in Los Angeles. Consequently, one would expect the head coach to perhaps choose his words a bit more carefully next time around to make sure he does not stir something up that’s not actually there.

For all the talks about small versus big markets, rarely is it mentioned that players and coaches that play for glamorous teams often get a huge amount of criticism thrown their way whereas small market teams can occasionally escape them (Exhibit A: no one ever blasts Manu Ginobili for his atrocious foul on Dirk Nowitzki in Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals. Exhibit B: Everyone remembers the Patrick Ewing finger roll).

Erik Spoelestra went through the inferno last season and may in fact be a better head coach for it when this season gets underway. The Heat head coach had to deal with questions about LeBron bumping into him, the team’s inability to defeat the top teams in the league and Crygate. Those situations had nothing to do with basketball per se and yet could have derailed Miami’s 2010-11 regular season.

Much like his counterpart in Miami, Brown will surely face other situations throughout the course of the upcoming campaign that may in fact threaten the chemistry in the Lakers’ locker room. Thus, Brown will have to evolve as a head coach during the season to ensure he is more than capable of handling whatever is sent his way.

Ultimately, the manner in which Brown handles the ever growing demands of being the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers will determine what type of unit he has by season’s end.

L.A. is where it’s at and Mike Brown is clearly not in Cleveland anymore.

J.M. Poulard