For Mike Brown, Lakers It’s a Matter of Degrees

Darius Soriano —  November 3, 2012

Mike Brown stands on the precipice.

His team, now 0-3, is underperforming not just relative to some of the more optimistic projections but even to those that warned this would take time; that patience would be needed for a team going through the process of implementing a complex offensive system while integrating high profile players.

This can’t be stressed enough — it’s not necessarily the record that matters here, it’s how they’ve looked in the process of racking up the losses.

The disorganization on offense can be excused to a certain extent but the defensive issues are tough to swallow. Even when accounting for the fact that Howard is clearly not yet his three time DPOY self and the fact that any struggles on offense will often fuel poor defense, the team is proving to be substandard on that end of the floor. And for a defensive coach like Brown, that has to be eating him up inside.

So, over the ledge he peers, acknowledging his team’s desperate need for a win. It’s been a while since the Lakers — these Lakers and not some summer outfit in Las Vegas — have felt that feeling. Players this good never forget how to perform the act, but they can certainly be in a position where they have to relearn it. This is where they are now.

The players and coaches will continue to talk in the tones of men that believe they are on the right path. This is the only way for them to be. Believe in yourself and what you’re doing or fall apart from doubt. It’s really that simple and is exemplified by this Kobe quote from last night (h/t to Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk):

“(Being patient) is particularly hard for me because I’m not the most patient individual in the world, but you have to be. You have to stay persistent, you have to stay committed to what you’re doing and just keep on trucking.”

On a variety of levels I agree with Kobe. But what’s becoming more and more clear as the Lakers slog through these games is that moving forward and progressing the way the team needs to will depend on the scale in which the team is trying to move forward. As I wrote in my season preview, there are no shortcuts in the process. But it’s a matter of degrees in how they try to inch their way forward.

I’m not of the mind the Lakers should abandon their offense. I’m not of the mind that Mike Brown should be fired (at least I’m not there right now). But I am of the mind that the Lakers need to simplify what they’re doing on both sides of the ball in order to maximize their results in the short term.

What this would translate to is open to interpretation.

Personally, regarding the offense, I’d take a page from what Chris Webber was talking about on TNT Thursday night. Webber spoke of his Kings teams looking to run out on every possession. That pushing the ball, establishing the post in early offense, and trying to get easy baskets was their philosophy on O. That the Princeton was an important part of their success but was also their fall back plan should their primary goal (running for easy baskets) not work. The Lakers could take a similar approach by reemphasizing rim runs from their big men and running more pick and rolls when in the half court.

On defense, the Lakers would also do well to simplify their schemes. On nearly every possession we’re seeing Lakers’ guards over helping by collapsing the paint, especially from the weak side. The Laker big men also seem hesitant on who should be helping whom when the ball is penetrated, especially in the P&R. I’m not in the coaching meetings and don’t break down the film with the team but they have to be seeing some of these same issues. Of course these aren’t the Lakers’ only problems on D but they are some of them.

I won’t pretend to know more than the head coach of this team. But from the outside looking in, this team looks to be a bit overwhelmed from what it means to be this team, in this moment, trying to do what they’re trying to do. It’s like a combination of expectations + information overload + the pressure of not winning games = a team that is no longer on the floor playing basketball but rather in a larger battle that is sapping them of their ability to perform up to standards well below where they should be at this stage, much less where they want to go.

Call it scaling back. Call it a simpler way. Call it anything you want. But for the Lakers to be successful, right now, it seems that they need to figure out a way to keep their big picture, long term goals in tact while reevaluating their short term goals to get better results. Mike Brown is seen by many as the problem but he can also be part of the solution. But it will take a reassessment of how much can be done now in order to preserve the future. We’ll see if he has it in him.

Darius Soriano

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16 responses to For Mike Brown, Lakers It’s a Matter of Degrees

  1. This was the last post on the other thread; it is quite long:

    I agree with most of what Robert says, and with several other people. My detailed take—(apologies for the length, but want to get this off my chest)

    COACHING:

    I was at the game last night, and me and my buddies listened to Brown’s presser in the car on the way out of Staples. Asked about the bench, he said that everyone has to stay ready, and he is going to keep searching. Asked about Duhon and Morris, he said that he gave Duhon a chance in Portalnd and wanted to give Morris a chance tonight.

    So, Brown essentially said that

    a) He is not going to stabilize the rotation.
    b) That he doesn’t understand that guys like Chris Duhon and Darius Morris aren’t very good, but your best chance to get something out of them is to give them small, stable roles. Phil sometimes took criticism for his rotation being set in stone, but that is far better than what Brown does. Unless Meeks was injured, his getting a DNPCD last night in the third game of the year while Kobe went 43 on the bad foot was inexcusable. If Brown does that again this week, I would fire him.

    As to the offense, it suits no one on the roster except for Kobe. He gets a lot of touches in motion, and it reduces his ball-stopping tendencies. That is great, but no one else on the roster fits the scheme, and that will continue to be the case even when they get the timing down better.

    PERSONNEL:

    MWP, weight loss or no, is done as a 35 MPG player. Either Ebanks needs to play about half the time, or as noted they need to pick up an athletic wing off the free talent heap that Brown will trust enough to play 20-25 MPG.

    As to PG, that is trickier, but there are guys in the free talent heap every year who are as good as Blake, Duhon, and Morris. If they are willing to spend the money, they should probably get a better backup for Blake, but leave Blake as the backup to Nash for now. But since it is certain that Nash will miss time and need rest, they could use a new 3rd-stringer.

    Howard is about 60-70%; at this point, Aaron appears to have been right. Howard does not have the explosion off the floor or the lateral quickness in space that he once did. For this team to work, he needs to be DWIGHT HOWARD and Nash needs to be STEVE NASH.

    As to the bench, Kupchak focused on shooting, which made sense, but they now have six rotation guys (Kobe, Pau, Metta, Nash, Blake and Jamison) who are slow and well over 30. That, combined with Brown’s defensive philosophy, means very few forced TOs and very few easy baskets. There were 4-5 times last night when the Clippers threw passes that probably should have picked off but weren’t. Having bench guys with the same weaknesses as your core guys is a structural issue.

    CONCLUSION:

    The problems are real. They will be ameliorated if Brown and Jordan allow Nash to be Nash more and Howard gets phyiscally back to being Howard. I am still on the 15-game clock, but after seeing the team in person last night, I think Brown is probably over his head and is a practice/camp/assistant coach–not a head coach for a veteran team.

  2. Things might have just went from bad to worse. Steve Nash suffered a small non-displaced fracture in the head of his fibula, an MRI revealed. He will be out at least a week.

  3. You know you’re old when you get kneed in the leg and break your fibula

  4. Can Gasol and Metta just come off the bench as 2nd unit?.. they are slow. Twin towers does not work -just like LA beat Duncan and the Admiral 4-0, during Duncan’s prime. Hill for Gasol and Meeks in the starter rotation shall be good.

  5. People are confusing slow, old, and pace of play. None of the Lakers big 4 suddenly became geriatric – instead, either by MB’s design or off confusion – they’re forced to walk up the ball and setup. Nash maybe old and kobe may have alot of mileage but none of them have ever been considered slow. They need to be getting up and down more – which means more easy baskets – which means more time to properly set up on D. All these guys can still play – but MB needs to take a cautionary look at Terry Porters half season in Phoenix and see how well that worked. If he states again after another loss, that the offense is working since they shot 50 percent – but only take 66 shots – while the other team takes 85+ and wins easily – well then you know he’s hopeless. This team has such great talent it shouldbe taking 90 shotsa game, and taking the pressure off its D while they get better and build chemistry and teamplay on theDside.

  6. And Nash’s injury is in noway related to age. If you played soccer w/o shin pads andsomeone kicked you,the same thing would happen regardless of age. This just happened to be lliards knee

  7. Brown is a smart basketball guy. He has a good staff. The question on Brown is is he a LEADER. A Pop. A Doc. A George Karl. It’s one thing to put a scheme on paper. It’s another to know how to get through to a team loaded with vets who have been THE MAN somewhere at some point in their career. Kobe. Nash. Dwight. Pau. Peace. Even Antwan. All these guys have to find a role on this new team in this new system.

    I am giving Brown a chance, but I suspect he may be too clever by half and not a real leader.

  8. Nash and Bryant (by nature) are not as slow as the others. But your starting Center is faster and more athletic than your starting 3? That is a problem. Ebanks should be starting. Meeks and Morris should be given a chance to get the backup minutes. Changes need to be made.
    The team is WAY TO SLOW TO SCORE OR DEFEND.

  9. Nash’s injury may not be directly related to age, but it does have something to do with him not being a little more careful with how he uses his body out there now. I’m surprised he wasn’t hurt in the Dallas game throwing the body block at Beaubois after he picked his pocket; moreover, it was him causing the contact with Lillard with that careless bump from behind in the Portland game. It’s great to be aggressive and everything, but at 38, you need to know your limits.

  10. I don’t think Brown is the person who can salvage this situation. I haven’t seen what imprint he’s left on this team or anything that’s been a positive constant since day 1.

    What was the Off. and Def. gameplan vs Dallas, Portland and Clippers? Obviously run the Princeton but focus on pounding a team inside or have Kobe do his thing. What was the gameplan vs Denver last playoffs? Or how about vs Okc? I don’t think anybody can answer these questions.

    Not to beat a dead horse but Windhorst (a guy who covered Brown his whole tenure in Cleveland was suprised and thought Brown wouldn’t work from day 1 speaks volumes to me. His inconsistency as a coach has filtered onto the floor.

  11. Wow, Darius. Your best post so far.

    Kudos, man. That’s what it is. You did great.

    There’s more specifics to the issue that we, the commenters, will take care of.

    Like, for ex., asking MB what are the benefits of the PO for a roster that has Steve Nash, Dwight and Kobe?

  12. This might sound bad but I really think Mike Brown’s basketball IQ (and maybe even his overall IQ) might be below average. I can almost guarantee that if you give this same Lakers squad to George Karl, Doc Rivers, Greg Popovich or even someone relatively newer like Byron Scott or even Brian Shaw, each of these coaches would have somehow figured out a way to get more out of these same players. It’s disturbing to see that your starting lineup has at least three players (Kobe, Nash & Gasol) who will easily be a better coach (at the very least in the area of hoops IQ & leadership) than your current head coach (Mr. Brown). Something needs to be done & done soon. I hope that the Lakers front office is taking notice.

  13. I agree with Magic Phil November 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm, that this was one of your most excellent post in recent memory. I liked the link to PBT, you should continue that, so we get the maximum basketball insight from you at the time. I think it is funny that my world was going to end if I could not watch every Lakers basketball game this season on my TV, so far it would not have mattered if I was not able to watch these underperforming games by the Lakers. I have always heard that money cannot buy everything, at 100m it does not seem to uy a great basketball team either.

  14. Come on RG. Mike Brown is an NBA head coach. The NBA is the best and most popular basketball league in the world. No way a man with a below average IQ even gets an assistant job in this league, let alone the lead gig for the league’s glamour team. Rip apart his coaching strategy all you want. But lets avoid the personal attacks. He’s still the coach of the Lakers. The rest of us are arm chair quarterbacks.

  15. Their offense isn’t bad at all. Their turnovers are terrible, but all their other offensive stats are great: they’re getting to the line, they’re shooting an amazing percentage from the floor, etc.

    It’s their defense that’s destroying them. They’re ranked second from the last in the league, and when Howard is on the court the team is -18 compared to off the court. They’re playing really bad with Howard, especially on defense. The key is letting Howard heal and recover so he can protect the basket. I don’t expect them to keep turning the ball over like this as they keep going into the season.

    More details here:
    http://ascreamingcomesacrossthecourt.blogspot.com/2012/11/lakers-season-start-whose-head-to-place.html