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Mike Brown Benched Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant for Good of Los Angeles Lakers
COMMENTARY | It's a good thing Mike Brown doesn't mind drama, because his tenure as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers is sure to be full of it.
Case in point, Brown recently benched Andrew Bynum for taking an ill-advised three-pointer while displaying a lackluster effort on defense. When questioned about the move, which Bynum openly and publicly criticized, Brown stated, "I'm going to coach this team how I think I need to coach it. It's as simple as that."
That's all that needed to be said, and Brown should be applauded for standing his ground.
Considering as much grief as he has gotten as a first-year head coach in a city and organization with lofty expectations, he's done a tremendous job under the circumstances. Lakers fans are a demanding group, and it is the championship-or-bust mentality that has been cultivated over the course of the last decade that has been Brown's worst enemy.
The Lakers won five NBA titles under legendary head coach Phil Jackson in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, and 2010. After a disappointing end to the season in 2011 (a second round playoff exit via sweep by the Dallas Mavericks), a feeling of impatience has already settled over Los Angeles that's as widespread as the smog surrounding the L.A. Basin.
"You don't get this kind of attention (in other NBA cities)", said Pau Gasol.
Gasol was absolutely right in his assessment. No team has seen the drama of the Lakers come under the media's microscope like they have. Want context? Here are some recent highlights:
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant feuded for years during and after their "three-peat" over which superstar actually led the team, resulting in the eventual exit of O'Neal. Bryant allegedly aired Shaq's dirty laundry when questioned by investigators in his sexual assault case, further damaging their relationship. Incredibly, that's the abridged version.
Phil Jackson dated the owner's daughter while he was coaching. Because fraternization with your boss is never a bad idea.
The team decided there wasn't enough of a sideshow going on, so they brought in Ron Artest who actually helped them win a title in 2010. He then promptly remembered he was Ron Artest and demonstrated as much by selling his championship ring, promoting a new single, and changing his name to Metta World Peace. Makes sense, right?
Lamar Odom married a Kardashian (the tall one) and was on a reality show during the season and subsequently traded only to experience a sharp decline in production.
Are these scenarios dramatic enough? In proper context, the benching is not so bad, nor should it be.
Mike Brown is in the unique situation where he has to follow in the footsteps of an icon in Jackson with a franchise that is used to having success most teams can only dream of. Only one team can be happy at the end of the season, and in L.A. fans' eyes, if it isn't the Lakers that are left standing, it will be a failure.
Benching Bryant during the ugly loss against the Memphis Grizzlies was a bold move, but Brown did it anyway. Kobe was a dismal Bynum was the next superstar Brown needed to send a message to via benching. Though it may not have resonated, Brown established himself as the man in charge. Next time, when a player needs to be put in check, he'll have the ammunition to do so.
One thing that's important to remember when putting this all into perspective—the players that were taken out of the game deserved it. Kobe was having a terrible night from the floor and didn't have his legs underneath him. Bynum not only took a bad three-pointer, but he was lazy on defense, something he's admitted to being guilty of on prior occasions. When it's all said and done, the end result is the same: No competitor likes to be benched, and if they are honest, like Bynum and Bryant, they will let it be known.
Lakers fans need a scapegoat when things aren't perfect. Mike Brown is an easy target because he's the new guy. He knew what he was getting into when he signed his contract; and despite Kobe's tongue-in-cheek statement calling him 'young', he is an experienced coach who has dealt with superstar players before.
Does anyone remember that man named LeBron he once coached in Cleveland? I think he might be famous.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and as a southern California native closely follows all developments in drama-filled Laker-land.
Follow Michael on Twitter:@MikeJonesTweets
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