Archives For Mike Brown

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.