May 25, 2011
Count me in as being more than a little shocked at the negative reaction to Mike Brown's hiring as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. I understand that everything could be set up to fail, here. And if you'll recall, nobody was harder on Brown's work with the Cleveland Cavaliers during his tenure there as I was. From the 2006 playoffs until his final days, I was beside myself at how terrible his offensive sets seemed to be, and save for one breath of fresh air during the regular season in 2008-09, it never really let up.
But it's the offseason for the Lakers, which is strange for them because it's still May. And the offseason is supposed to be full of optimism. Where every team is tied for first, even if four teams are still playing. And, really, why not go glass half-full with this? At least to start?
The thing that comes to mind when you think of Brown's time in Cleveland was the way that he let LeBron James(notes) seemingly run roughshod over his offensive sets, his locker room, and the whole Cavalier culture. The entourage was in the building, the ball was in LeBron's hands, and Brown was the first to go when things came crashing down way too early following playoff exits in 2009 and 2010. And all the leaks in the time since have shown Brown to be little more than someone who really wanted to keep his gig while currying favor with his best player, despite the 2008-09 Coach of the Year's formidable basketball smarts.
So, that wouldn't seem to be the sort of player you'd want to toss into the mix with the Los Angeles Lakers. A team featuring a player whose will and persona runs way stronger than LeBron's, which is made even worse by the fact Kobe Bryant(notes) isn't anywhere near the player James is these days (or next year), and complicated even further by the knowledge that Bryant wanted Brian Shaw to take over as the next Laker coach.
But hear me out. You too, Kobe.
You've never had a dork before. And I say this harboring the upmost respect for Mike Brown, a cool guy that could possibly beat me in arm wrestling (certainly this week, with my vertebrae in shambles), and a man who probably could not spend 35 minutes prattling on about Steely Dan demos while involving the works of E.B. White and Thoreau, as yours truly did to some poor soul last week.
Kobe's had, frankly, a bit of a dull sort in Del Harris. He's had an ex-player who was in over his head in Kurt Rambis, an ex-player who was in everyone's heads in Phil Jackson, an ex-player whose heart just wasn't in it in Rudy Tomjanovich, and a career assistant who knew that he wasn't long for the job in Frank Hamblen.
But he's never had a dork, before. This isn't to say that the fine men listed above didn't spend hours burrowing through game tape, but Brown is a younger guy that appreciates a good bit of Synergy in the same way that Phil Jackson appreciated "synergy situations." There is a relationship to be had, here.
Does Brown's hiring shove the triangle offense out of the picture, while rending someone like Derek Fisher(notes) useless? Well, Fish was pretty useless this year as it was, but that doesn't have to be the case. Nobody has abused the triangle more than Kobe, and his work in shattering its precepts this season and parts of last was akin to an art crime in my eyes.
But no NBA player, perhaps in history save for Scottie Pippen, understands the triangle better. And all Kobe did in 2004-05, with Phil Jackson gone, was lament its loss. And that's with Chris Mihm(notes) in the pivot. Not Andrew Bynum(notes) or Pau Gasol(notes).
So why can't Kobe, the player-coach if we ever saw one, run things offensively? Why can't he have the voice he's always wanted to have? Why can't those annoying sportswriter storylines come to life? "Away from Phil's shadow, Kobe Bryant grows up." Stuff like that. With, yes, the groundhog reference.
Geez, I'm such an appalling optimist sometimes.
Give it a whirl, Lakers fans. It's not like your team was listening to its last coach, anyway.