Archives For Mike Brown

Saturday Morning Espresso

Dave Murphy —  November 10, 2012

I was partway through writing the Friday links post when I heard about Mike Brown’s firing. I contacted Darius and we agreed to shelve the links – events were moving quickly and they continued to gather momentum. Mitch Kupchak’s carefully worded press conference suggested due diligence and an examination of the various replacement candidates out there. Instead, the growing realization that management might be willing to sing Kumbaya to Phil Jackson became the front and center story. By gametime last night, the crowd was chanting and afterward, players were offering endorsements. This isn’t to say that it’s a done deal. Mike D’Antoni is very much in the discussion and there’s always that which we simply don’t know yet. Regardless, it’s Saturday morning, there was a nice win last night, and it’s not a bad time to offer up some links to go with everyone’s coffee.

Over at ProBasketballTalk, our own Darius writes about the timing of the Mike Brown firing, asking if it was overreaction or a matter of inevitability.

Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk says that Steve Nash is still at least a week away from returning to the Lakers lineup. He also has this intriguing offering, about what it might take to bring the zen-master back.

Brian Pollakoff at ProBasketballTalk reports on Byron Scott’s non-interest in the Lakers job.

Sam Amick at USA Today writes about why Kobe wants Phil back.

Janice Carr at the OC Register also writes about Kobe wanting redemption for Phil.

Kevin Ding at the OC Register takes a look at the Jerry Buss imprint and decision time.

Arash Markazi for ESPN Lakers Report wrote about Mike’s picture and Phil’s chair last night.

Michael Wallace for ESPN GO relayed LeBron James’ feeling that the guy he once steamrolled didn’t get a fair shake.

Mark Travis at Silver Screen and Roll tells how the Lakers found their footing last night by dumbing down.

Mark Medina at the Daily News fills us in on a topic that managed to go by the side of the road, Devin Ebanks getting popped for a DUI.

Over at the LA Times, Mike Bresnahan points out an overlooked item – if the Lakers want Phil back they may have to give him his old office… currently occupied by one Jim Buss.

Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie wrote a nice piece about Kobe Bryant’s brilliance last night.

***

There are plenty more articles of course – they’re popping up as fast as I can hyperlink them and the old laptop is making its protests known. There will undoubtedly be more to report this weekend and we’ll all keep on it – just as we know you will. And last and certainly least, I was listening to the Who’s old anthem, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ yesterday and music sometimes gets the fingers tapping away as the shotgun sings the song.

The news came quickly and was unexpected to be sure. Mike Brown has been fired and his replacement will be found over the coming days, seemingly from outside the current coaching staff.

While I’m conflicted about making an in-season change, I do not think this is an overreaction. There have been circumstances that have limited Brown’s success, but this team was underperforming even when accounting for those issues. Brown has shown a rigidity in his lineup choices and has played his stars heavy minutes in the pursuit of wins. Those tactics haven’t born fruit and, as Mitch Kupchak said, judgement comes on wins and losses.

It’s more than the record, however. There simply hasn’t been progress with this team. A crushing win over the Pistons that was fueled by energy and clean execution reverted back to mistake riddled basketball in Utah just two nights later. His rotations moved towards bigger and slower when quicker and smaller are ruling the league. The players were starting to look like ones that lacked belief they could win games once they got behind and considering the talent on this roster that’s a bit shocking.

But, as I said, I’m conflicted with this move even if I understand it to be the correct one. In-season changes are always difficult and will only lead to more adjusting in what is already a topsy-turvy beginning to the campaign. It’s very likely this team sees several mini-peaks and valleys over the coming weeks as energy is poured into games only to have the uncertainty of change once again take hold. Once familiarity is established we should see better results but that was the same perspective from months ago.

Patience will again be key but with the season in full swing that will be harder than ever. We don’t yet even know who the replacement will be so we can’t even begin to speculate how long an adjustment period will be or how capable this group is to adapting to new schemes, personalities, and styles.

I do feel for Brown, however. Many speak of him as some awful coach but he’s been put into some of the most extreme coaching circumstances imaginable and been asked to thrive at the highest level.

Consider the following: he replaced Phil Jackson, had a major trade vetoed, had his best bench player traded, dealt with a lockout that cut training camp down to nothing and shortened time between games for practices, he had a major leader traded at the deadline last year, dealt with injuries to his best players, had a new roster built before his second season, had his brand new franchise player arrive injured and unable to play in games, had his prize point guard break a bone in his leg, and dealt with all of it through evolving offensive systems where continuity and chemistry matter more than in most systems.

Some of these things he brought on himself. Not all of them, however.

I often said that I don’t envy Brown and the issues he’s faced but that I also know that this is the job he signed up for. He took the Lakers’ coaching job and all the inherent drama and surplus of expectations that come with that. Sometimes it’s not fair but life isn’t, is it?

I do wish Brown luck down the road. His failings with the Lakers will surely further shape the perception of who he is as a head coach in this league. They’ll see the underperformance of his team, the lack of adjustments, the suspect offensive acumen and will judge him on them. Some of that is certainly fair. But some of that can not be separated from circumstances and it seems doubtful that’s the perspective people will take.

That said, what’s done is done. The Lakers are moving on and looking for the person they think can lead this team to where they want to go. Hopefully, this time they find him.

The reports are just starting to come in, but Sam Amick of USA Today is reporting that the Lakers have fired Mike Brown:

On the heels of receiving a vote of confidence from Jim Buss just two days ago, it seems there’s been a change of heart in the Lakers’ front office.

This move is pretty much unprecedented for a Laker franchise that has typically been cautious in making major moves of any kind, but especially one of this nature. However, it seems the team’s sluggish start to the season forced ownership’s hand.

Where the Lakers’ go from here is still unknown. We’ll have updates throughout the day as more information comes in. But for those that wanted change, here you have it.

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.

Return Of The Bench Mob?

Darius Soriano —  September 20, 2012

When the Lakers made their surprising run to the Finals in 2008 and won back to back championships in 2009 and 2010, a major key to their success was the play of their bench players.

In Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, and (to a lesser extent) Josh Powell, the Lakers had a nice mix of veterans and young players that changed the tempo of the game whenever they took the floor. Nicknamed the Bench Mob, this group loved to push the ball, break away from the Triangle offense, and play more frenetically to unnerve their opponents. They weren’t the most consistent bunch and they had their share of ups and downs, but overall they were mostly an asset to team that heavily relied on the methodical manners of their first unit.

However, in the past two seasons the bench’s play has suffered. Beyond Lamar Odom’s stellar 2011 campaign that earned him the Sixth Man of the Year award, the Lakers’ bench has under-produced. The young legs of Farmar, Sasha, and Brown were replaced by those of veterans like Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. Lamar Odom’s trade led to signings like Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy.

None of these moves really worked out and the only player remaining from that bunch going into the upcoming campaign is Steve Blake (who looks to regain the form that had the Lakers pursue him in the first place).

This off-season the Lakers have looked to remedy their bench issues in hopes of reestablishing a reserve unit that can impact the game when the starters leave the floor. They’ve brought back Jordan Hill to be an energy big, signed Antawn Jamison for his scoring punch, and picked up Jodie Meeks as a back up to Kobe who can space the floor and produce points in bunches.

In order to maximize this group of reservers, however, the Lakers must also determine an identity for them. But when looking at this group and their disparate skill sets, it may not be that easy. Consider the following:

  • Antawn Jamison is a scorer at heart that has been defensively challenged for most of his career.
  • Jordan Hill, meanwhile is a defensive minded big man who’s shown little on offense beyond his stellar work on the offensive glass and ability to convert shots at the rim via putbacks and spoon fed assists.
  • Jodie Meeks is a quality scoring threat but not a ball handler by nature nor someone that’s proven to be a shot creator for himself or teammates.
  • Devin Ebanks is a slasher with a limited jumper and ball skills. He’s a fine defender and rebounder but has shown he can be mistake prone in defensive transition as the last man back.
  • Steve Blake is mostly a spot up shooter who has good set up ability but not a lot of creative skill off the dribble to threaten the defense.

At first glance, these pieces do not really fit together as a cohesive unit and maximizing them when playing together will prove a bit difficult. Do you tell this team to push the ball to capitalize on the skills of Ebanks and Hill? Do you run more half court sets that can take advantage of the shooting Meeks and Jamison offer?

And what of the defensive issues? During the aforementioned period of the Bench Mob, the Lakers’ reserves were a ball pressure team that tried to disrupt the flow of the game via extended defenses. They’d pick up ball handlers full court, throw out a half court trap, and flash strong side zone principles to flood driving and passing lanes. The current group of Lakers’ reserves don’t possess a singular type of player to pull off a dedicated approach in that manner.

Much of these concerns can be mitigated through various lineup combinations and substitution pattern that Mike Brown decides on as his core rotation. However, there will still be times where up to four reserves will be on the floor together at the same time and there will need to be a plan in place to optimize their production when they’re not flanked by multiple starters.

In recent campaigns, the Lakers’ bench hasn’t had much direction beyond “lean on whatever key starter(s) they shared the floor with”, but to be successful next season that likely won’t be enough. And with the additions of Jamison and Meeks, the Lakers now have two players with starting experience who can be looked to as producers of offense more often than the players they’re replacing from last year. A group identity beyond ‘role players playing next to starters’ would certainly help, here.

While the Lakers have had as impressive an off-season in recent memory by adding star players and excellent assistant coaches, it’s looking more and more like this campaign will be shaped by some of Mike Brown’s smaller, yet still key decisions. And while we all look to the Princeton O or a revamped defense led by Dwight as the difference between a championship or an early exit, don’t forget how important a role the Lakers’ bench has played in the recent seasons when the team was most successful.

Mike Brown will need to remember this fact as well and plan accordingly.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  March 28, 2012

The Lakers needed a win last night to get rid of the taste of Sunday night’s debacle against Memphis. Needed, in the sense of moving past Coach Brown’s fourth quarter benching of his reigning superstar, Kobe Bryant. They got the win, but haven’t moved past a coach’s corrective actions. This time, Brown sat the team’s emerging superstar, Andrew Bynum – this after the low-post resident chucked up an ill-advised three-point attempt in the third quarter.

The win didn’t come easily. Credit the undersized Warriors for their effort – a team that’s not remotely superstar found a way back in after being down by double digits. On the Lakers side, Matt Barnes and World Peace played hard, Pau Gasol had 17 rebounds, and Kobe made a couple of clutch baskets at the end to seal the deal.

One of the key differences in the benching of Kobe on Sunday, and Andrew last night, is in their own reactions. Kobe accepted what happened and refused to fuel it as a story. Andrew’s not there yet. His truculent statement to reporters that he’s gonna keep taking threes, was no way to put out a fire. The links are largely Bynum-centric, because there is simply no way around it

Brian Kamenetzky from the Land O’Lakers has a rapid reaction to the games ups and downs.

Marc Spears at Yahoo Sports looks at Andrew Bynum’s immaturity, on a night when Kobe Bryant reached an important milestone.

Dave McMenamin from EPSN provides another look at the benching of Bynum, and his reaction to it.

Kevin Ding at the OC Register has news on Jordan Hill’s knee.

Tim Harvey for Lakers Nation has a nice piece about Kobe and Ramon, 24/7.

Andrew Lynch at Hardwood Paroxysm writes about basketball’s home stretch, 17 games in 31 days.

Dexter Fishmore at Silver Screen and Roll steers the conversation back to Bynum, on a night when Matt Barnes logged the best game of his season, against the team he once played for.

If anyone needs a feel-good post today, news of the Dodgers purchase by the Magic-led group came down last night. Dexter writes about this as well – it’s a terrific development for Dodgers fans, and for baseball in general.

***

Coaching the Los Angeles Lakers is no easy task. Mike Brown came into his job in a lockout year. He’s trying to instill a new system, meld new players together on the fly, and learn how to handle his big three. He’s trying, and was probably right in sitting Andrew down. On whole however, his leadership skills in Los Angeles have been middling. Bringing the boom down on both Kobe and Andrew, in a 48 hour span, heading into the crucial stretch drive, is at the least, curious. Next up, tomorrow night’s game against the best of the west, the Oklahoma City Thunder. And, the return of Derek Fisher –our former peacemaker.

– Dave Murphy

 

The Lakers are coming off a nice win over a young, hungry team. The game was hard fought as the Wolves made a furious comeback but the Lakers were able to hold on down the stretch and pull out the win. Considering the Lakers need every win they can get, in a conference where a couple of consecutive losses result in going from home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs to out of the second season entirely, I was happy with the result. Even it provided a few too many teaching moments.

The theme from last night was the Lakers’ big three having a big game, but for the second consecutive night another theme is a bit obscured: in getting the W, the Lakers’ trio of Kobe, Pau, and Bynum played 42, 42, and 36 minutes respectively. This allotment came on the heels of Kobe (42), Pau (39), and Bynum (36) playing heavy minutes just a night earlier. By any standard, this is too many minutes for Kobe and Pau, and even for Bynum it’s a stretch to put in that heavy a load on back to back nights.

And it’s not like Mike Brown doesn’t know it, either. Earlier this month, he spoke openly about the need to reduce Kobe’s minutes. From ESPN Los Angeles’ story on 1/18:

“I hope so,” said Brown on Tuesday at practice when asked about the possibility (of reducing Kobe’s minutes). “I was shooting for 35 minutes (against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday), but there are gonna be times, especially in games like that, that I think we’ll have a chance to win, where that 35 may go to 36, 37 and hopefully no more than that. I wanted to keep it at 35, but I didn’t do a good job with it. “But I do want to get it down, because he’s played a ton of minutes too early.”

After that story was published two weeks ago, the Lakers have played six games. Kobe’s minutes in those contests have been: 41, 44, 36, 39, 42, and 42. Funny, but those totals show movement in the opposite direction than I thought was wanted. It’s to the point that Kobe’s now 2nd in the league in minutes per game right behind Kevin Love and right ahead of Monta Ellis, Luol Deng, Marc Gasol, and LeBron James. As they say on Sesame Street, one of those things is not like the other with the 33 year old, forty thousand career minutes played player sticking out like a sore thumb.

This isn’t an issue that applies only to Kobe, though. Above I mentioned the top 6 players in minutes per game but the guy who’s sitting at 7th is none other than Pau Gasol. His last 6 games show a similar trend in minutes played: 37, 41, 36, 41, 39, and 42. Again, not the ideal trend for a guy who obviously wore down last season and has played a ton of basketball in the past 4 years. (Remember, even though the Lakers got an early vacation last season, Pau still wore his national colors in EuroBasket in leading Spain to a gold medal in that tourney. So even when he got extended rest, he still put in high level, on court work this summer.)

At some point, Mike Brown is going to have to figure out a way to reduce these players minutes. I know the Lakers are fighting for every win and the way the roster is constructed doesn’t provide easy answers in the form of capable alternatives. That said, what needs to be done, needs to be done.

Over at TrueHoop there’s a story about the Spurs falling to the Mavs last night in an overtime game in which neither Tony Parker nor Tim Duncan played in the last 20 minutes of the game. A key passage on Coach Popovich’s approach:

In a schedule-condensed season when fatigue built up over weeks is playing havoc with players all over the league (did you see how tired Blake Griffin got at the end of the Clippers’ win over the Nuggets?) Popovich didn’t play any starter more than 28 minutes. DeJuan Blair, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan … most of the Spurs’ regulars have long-term health concerns. This is one more night none of them got injured. It’s also a little like, say, being a diligent saver. Every time you put money in the bank, you seem like a bit of a spoilsport. People fixate on what you didn’t get to do with that money. But when that rainy day comes, and you’re sitting on all that cash, then you’re the most fun guy in town. The rainy day, for the Spurs, is the playoffs. 

The Lakers’ big guns are not a cell phone plan with with unlimited or roll-over minutes not used last year being applied to this one. Mike Brown needs to find a way to cut back. Because even if the Lakers get the playoff seed they seek, will it matter if they don’t have the legs to play those extra 20 games they’d need to in order to get where they actually want to go? This is the question Mike Brown needs to ask and answer for himself.

One of the ongoing topics of discussion this off-season has been what the Lakers offense will look like next year. The perception that Mike Brown isn’t the most creative tactician on that side of the ball has only fueled this discussion. Here at FB&G, we’ve discussed it from a variety of angles, others have broken down game tape, and Mike Brown himself has spoken on the issue.

Just today, in fact, Kevin Ding has a column from his sit down with Brown and again the new Lakers head man reiterated what his plans are on that side of the ball:

When talking about the contrasting offensive styles Brown will show from Cleveland to here, the new Lakers’ coach summarized the coming Lakers offense as feeding Gasol and Bynum inside, not being the Kobe show. “This team is completely different from what I had in Cleveland,” Brown said. “In Cleveland, I had a guy who liked to come off the top of the floor, liked to play in space and play pick-and-roll and make plays for others. Here, I’ve got two guys similar to what we had in San Antonio; you’re able to throw them the ball on the block.” It’s impossible to imagine Bryant not getting his, however, and if the baseline for Brown’s Lakers basketball is going to be the passion and work ethic, though, Brown and Bryant will get along just fine.

This is nothing new, and ultimately doens’t require much analysis. Brown understands that a major strength of this team is his big men and he wants to use them as such.

To which I say: great. I think we can all understand that and welcome the philosophy.

However, this isn’t anything different than what Phil Jackson preached last year (and the years before that during both his stints as Lakers’ coach). And we all saw how that worked out as Lakers’ guards highjacked possessions by either hoisting long jumpers without even sniffing a post entry pass or manipulated the motions of the triangle to get the ball into the hands of other players not named Gasol or Bynum.

And this is the real issue that will need to be tackled. Coaching philosophy is the first thing I look for when evaluating if a person is a good fit for a team. But it’s the ability to get through to the players; for the players to buy into what the coach is saying that ultimately matters most.

This isn’t a swipe against Kobe Bryant, necessarily. Yes he had a league high usage rate and that’s something that will need to be addressed. But if you put Lakers’ offensive possessions from last season under a microscope you’d see plenty of Shannon Brown dribbling between his legs before pulling up for a long two pointer or Derek Fisher barrelling down the lane to try a scoop shot against challenging big men. This is to say nothing of Ron Artest or Matt Barnes’ shot selection (both were sometimes too quick to fire up the open jumpers that were available to them).

My point being, there were many culprits who contributed to the disjointed sets the Lakers ran last year. And if Mike Brown is going to rework the offense into one that goes inside-out it’s not the X’s and O’s that matter as much as his ability to connect with the players to get them on board with what he’s saying.

Team success is the result of many factors coming together. Talent is obviously needed but unless that talent is on the same page and working together the chances of getting the most out of the roster diminishes. The Lakers have the talent part covered. Where they’ll need Mike Brown most is in putting it all together in order to get the most out of his guys.

I love that Mike Brown is enthusiastic, is going to work hard, will preach accountability, and that he’s got plans to run an offense through is big men. But I’ll love him most if he can get his guys to buy into everything he’s saying. Because ultimately, that’s where his success is going to come from.