Lakers Expert Critiques Mike Brown's Season

Fraternizing With The Enemy Goes Serial: 10 days of Spurs and Lakers - Day 7

After spending most of the season bemoaning the schedule-makers' decision to place all of the Spurs vs Lakers games into a tiny window during mid-April, I spoke with Chris of Silver Screen and Roll and we decided that instead of an epic series of posts leading up to the three games, we'd instead turn the 10 days themselves into an event.

Witness (with all due respect to Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack) the 10 days of SpurLakers. That's right, starting last week, every day through the final regular season meeting between San Antonio and Los Angeles on Friday the 20th, you'll be treated to another exchange between Chris and me.

Enjoy and act responsibly.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4-5

Part 6

Chris:

I don't know what you are talking about, hobo-based metaphors are never not palatable.


But I've deflected long enough (that is, long enough so that my target audience isn't the choir to whom I can preach) so it's time to go back to Mike Brown. Let's get one thing straight, right off the bat. I would not fire Mike Brown right now if I were in charge of the Lakers front office. I would not fire him at the end of the season, no matter whether the Lakers end up with a deep, successful postseason run, or a quick 1st or 2nd round exit. If I were in charge of the Lakers, Mike Brown would have at least one more full season to implement whatever it is that is his vision.

But if I were in charge, this whole theoretical situation would not exist, because Mike Brown would never have been hired in the first place. I was not a fan of the hire when it was announced, and nothing I've seen from him as a coach, and from the team in general, has changed that opinion. In fact, it's pretty much been 60 games of me thinking "I told you so" as I punch myself in the face.

When Brown was hired, reactions were mixed. Everybody knows the man's reputation: great defensive coach, mediocre offensive coach but willing to delegate. There's no questioning the fact that he wrung 60 wins out of LeBron James and the Island of Misfit Players two seasons running. Neither team performed all that well in the playoffs, but there's a lot of gray area involving an insane seven game series of three point shooting from Orlando one season and the beginning of the whole James as postseason flake in the 2nd season, so I can't fault Brown 100% for the discrepancy between his regular season record and postseason performance. And there were tons, TONS, of really smart people who, after some reflection, thought Brown was a strong hire. They said he was a good coach, and they said the Lakers biggest problems last season were on defense, and Brown could address that issue head on.

Well, Brown may be a good coach, and the Lakers may have needed more help on defense than offense last season, and the hire was still a huge mistake, because the SECOND Phil Jackson walked out that door and took his crazy geometrical offense with him, bringing in a head coach who could figure out how to take the Lakers roster and form a cohesive unit out of it needed to be priority 1Aα. The Triangle is an offense unlike just about anything else in the NBA, and it requires personnel that are different from just about any other offense to run. The Lakers roster fit the Triangle perfectly, which concordantly means it didn't fit the offensive scheme of most coaches around the league. I don't care if the Lakers ranked 30th in the league defensively last season (which they didn't, they were 6th), as soon as it was certain Phil Jackson was leaving as head coach, offense needed to be the focus of the next head coach. Mike Brown could be the best defensive coach ever, and it still would have been a bad hire.

Fast forward not to the present date, but to six weeks ago, just before the trade deadline. The Los Angeles Lakers, with a roster containing three of the most dynamic offensive players in the game, was a below average offensive unit. They had the NBA scoring leader, the best offensive big man in the game, and a guy who many considered to be the best offensive big in the game a couple seasons ago before he started losing possessions to his own teammate, and yet the Lakers couldn't produce points at a rate better than half the league's NBA franchises. Why? Because their point guards were terrible in non-Triangle sets, and their small forwards were just plain terrible (along with the entire bench).

But the trade deadline changed everything. In acquiring Ramon Sessions and jettisoning Derek Fisher, the Lakers finally had the right personnel to run a more traditional offensive scheme, and the results have been tremendous. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have had the best offense in the league (I don't have exact metrics, but it was true when I did the research a few weeks ago and nothing has changed). That's why, if you were to check the old basketball-reference.com today, you'd see the Lakers currently rank 8th in the league, even after spending 2/3s of the season in the wrong half of the table. So I guess you could say the decision not to bring in an offensive mind who could get the most out of a team of ill-fitting pieces makes more sense in the wake of swinging some deals to bring in pieces that make more sense. There's just one problem ... the Lakers aren't all that good at defense.

Mike Brown, defensive mastermind, has a roster with Andrew Bynum as a centerpiece, and Ron Artest as a starting wing, and the team is ranked 13th in the league defensively. There's plenty of reasons why (the previous point guards have lead feet, and Ramon Sessions isn't the strongest defensive guard either, Kobe has taken a laissez faire attitude towards defense, and Bynum has often done the same. And, Brown has had to deal with backup big men who are way below average defensively (and offensively for that matter). The bottom line is that there are plenty of reasons why the Lakers aren't that great defensively. But if your signature as a coach is strong defense, and you can't mold a team like the Lakers into a strong defensive unit, let's just say that doesn't bode well for the future.

I've already spent too long on this, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Brown's reputations. He's been incredibly erratic this year, playing all kinds of weird combinations of players at different points throughout the season, with very little success finding anything that works. A perfect recent example ... the Lakers starting shooting guard the past few games has been Devin Ebanks. Ebanks has done OK, scoring in double digits his first game as a starter, which is just a tad funny because HE HADN'T PLAYED MORE THAN 10 MINUTES A GAME SINCE JANUARY. Hell, he's only entered a game twice since January. Ebanks wasn't the backup shooting guard, he was buried so far down the Lakers bench that we were beginning to think he was drilling for oil. And he's the guy Brown turned to, for 20+ minutes a game, in Kobe's absence. Either its a really stupid choice, or sitting Ebanks all that time was the stupid choice, one or the other. Other issues with rotations include playing the stars way too big minute (prior to his injury, Kobe was on pace to be top 5 in minutes played on the season, as he is also top 5 in active minutes played in his career. That's just insane. And, Brown was very slow on the uptake in identifying the effect Sessions has with certain members of the bench unit, waiting a full 10 games to implement a rotation that I identified as a necessity after Sessions' first contest as a Laker. That rotation has paid pretty awesome dividends, by the way.

So yeah, a little frustrated with the Lakers coaching situation.

J.R. Wilco:

(I am both writing and posting these latest updates while on vacation in California and using nothing but my iPhone. So first that is an explanation of the random times of day I've been updating this series, and second it's a apology if the formatting is unusual.)

I'll take your word as far as the hobo-based humor goes, and also as far as the Mike Brown situation goes as well. While Brown did spend a good amount of time in San Antonio under Popovich, it's not as though I took that time to get to know him very well at all. And as far as his time in Cleveland is concerned, I think that's been covered fairly well enough already seeing as how wherever Mr. James goes, is suddenly transformed into the center of the known basketball universe as far as the Whirlwide Liter is concerned.

Turning back to Los Angeles and the situation with the Lakers' offense and defense reenacting Eddie Murphy's and Dan Aykroyd's roles in "Trading Places" -- I really must say that, not having kept up with the Lakers ongoing rankings, my head is spinning after this last reply from you. Early in the season when we first started e-mailing each other, the Lakers were winning because of their great defense. Now you tell me that since the All-Star break they've had the number one offense in the league even though Mike Brown doesn't really seem to coach offense all that well himself. Kobe was playing tons of minutes, something that we all knew to be the case, but I never really saw that are playing so much into Mike Brown's issues because didn't Kobe always play tons of minutes? And with the way Brown seemed to kowtow to Mr. James' every request back in the Cavalier days, I just figured that that was the established dynamic that he would have with whatever star he was coaching at the time.

Your last section was quite substantial, so I won't go on too long myself except to comment on the issue of reputation, since you brought Brown's up. When you criticized the way that he has used so many different lineups, my initial response was to think, "Well, so has Popovich." And I wonder just how much, especially in view of how successful both teams have been this year, it's the reputation of the coach that really determines the perceived efficacy of his actions. Pop has won championships before, and so of course his moves makes sense. Brown has fallen short and was dumped in Cleveland, and so it's easy to second guess his moves with impunity. No I'm not saying that the decisions of either coach have all been appropriate and correct this year; I'm just saying that it's hard to argue with the results so far. Which of course, sets things up nicely as an ending point for this bit and an intro to what ever chess match tonight's game might turn out to be. I just hope it turns out to be a bit more competitive than last week's game.

To be continued...
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