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:

https://twitter.com/sam_amick/status/266963882201989120

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.