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Mike Brown

What went wrong with the 2012-2013 Los Angeles lakers … coaches?

(“What went wrong this season?” is the question we get the most from fans at Silver Screen & Roll. The 2012-2013 team had championship expectations, but a convergence of worst case scenarios kicked down LA to the the fringes of playoff contention. In this post series, we’ll be taking a look at just what went wrong with each part of the Los Angeles Lakers this year, how it affected the organization and if this could be a problem going forward. Check out our examinations of the guards and big men from this past week.)
 
Mike Brown: 1-4 record (0-8 preseason)
 
Bernie Bickerstaff: 4-1 record
 
Mike D’Antoni: 40-32 (0-4 postseason)
 
What went wrong with the coaching?
 
The style of the coaches mismatched the personnel not once–but twice. Mike Brown, a dubious choice to continue his coaching tenure in this season, couldn’t get his team to believe in his system or play hard for him.
 
What was unarguably one of the worst seasons in franchise history was strangely bookended by the same beginning and ending: a winless season proceeded by an winless postseason. There’s no question that injuries are the primary cause here–when Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard miss a combined 149 games, there’s no team that can remain a contender through that type of storm
 
However, the problem is that even when healthy, the personnel never quite synched up with the coaching style of the team’s two skippers.
 
Mike Brown’s tenure felt doomed even before the season began. The 2010 Coach of the Year was already under fire for a problem that never stopped dogging him from his time with the Cavaliers: a lack of an offensive system. Most times, the floor would be dotted with 3 shooters with a big man in the paint, with LeBron James acting as a single pivot to essentially create scoring chances all by himself. Either the defenses would crash leaving an open shooter, or oftentimes James would have to make something out of nothing using his superior passing and ability to penetrate the interior. The Cavs were a plodding, methodical bunch, finishing 25th in pace for Brown’s last three seasons in Cleveland, despite having the league’s most explosive fast break player. Still, a lot of the criticism on Mike seemed unfounded, as the Cavs finished in the top 6 of offensive efficiency for those same three years.
 
In LA, the 2011-2012 season saw a lot of the same, simplistic and sometimes non-existent offensive schemes. In a move that seemed almost defiant in its construction, Brown hired former Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to implement a Princeton-style offense. The idea was that the system would create scoring opportunities more easily for players without the ability to create offense on their own. This complex scheme of backdoor screens, cuts and cross court movement was lost on the Lakers personnel, and seemed to marginalize the one-on-one excellence of Kobe Bryant, the pick and roll brilliance of PnR virtuoso Steve Nash and the dominant post-up play of Pau Gasol. The Lakers didn’t warm to the idea of the Princeton all throughout training camp, with players giving lukewarm reviews to a plan that seemed needlessly complicated considering all the natural offensive talent on the floor.
 
(Peep the rest after the break)

 

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Instant Trade Reaction: Mike Brown to the Unemployment Office

Los Angeles Lakers get: A new coach (TBD)

Mike Brown gets: A pink slip

In what’s been the seventh or eighth shocking announcement from El Segundo in the past twelve months, the Los Angeles Lakers dismissed head coach Mike Brown this morning, just five games into the NBA season. After a 1-4 record, a winless preseason and a gentlemen’s sweep at the end of the 2012 season at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the front office decided that Brown simply wasn’t up to the challenge of making the Lakers into a title contender.

Ultimately, the main question stemming out of this is: was this the right decision, or a hasty panic move?

Sadly for Brown, this was the right move. I’ve written time and time again that the Lakers’ now former head coach needed time to implement his offense and ultimately gain the team’s trust. What I overlooked was that perhaps he never had his team’s respect in the first place.

Most of the reasons I’ve preached patience is because nearly every step of the way is because Brown’s had the odds stacked up against him ever since he took the job almost a year and a half ago. The list includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • A lockout that restricted contact with players the entire 2011 summer and into November, when the season was reinstated
  • The Veto, which stunted the chemistry of the team, Pau Gasol’s early performance and ultimately sent Lamar Odom packing
  • A two-week shortened training camp
  • A compacted regular season, that gave his team only a handful of practices for most of the season
  • Midseason trades for Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill, while exporting veteran Derek Fisher
  • Integrating in two superstars in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and several new role players
  • Coaching a new offense in a training camp that largely featured a limited Howard and an injured Kobe Bryant 
  • Losing Steve Nash to injury just two games into the season

The truth is, we never got to see what Mike Brown could truly do with a stacked deck, which is exactly what he had on two 60+ win teams in Cleveland. I inference I always made, was that the Lakers believed that with his tough defensive acumen and a team where he finally had more than one star, the coach would be able to gain the respect of his skeptical team. I still contend that the Princeton offense, while complicated, was a good tool to be used within the context of an offensively limited bench, especially seeing as Nash would be kept to around 30 minute a night. Given more time, I believe that an intelligent team would have picked up the nuances of Brown and assistant coach Eddie Jordan’s scoring attack, and used it to full efficiency. I still put forth that the Lakers could have succeeded with Mike Brown as head coach, and that he could have eventually won over his players’ confidence. Had they stayed the course, LA could have been the 2012-2013 NBA Champions. I really believe that.

But probabilities and percentage chances aren’t how the Lakers operate. As GM Mitch Kupchak admitted in his afternoon press conference, “Going back to the two main reasons we made a change: it was the win-loss record and the fact that we didn’t see improvement. I guess we didn’t see a consistent performance because there was a game or two where we did pretty good offensively.” Essentially, the front office didn’t feel that there was a good enough chance that the Lakers would be able to seriously compete for a championship this year with Brown at the helm, or at the very least, instill confidence in the players that even in the ev… Read more...

In Defense of Mike Brown: What’s Wrong with the Early-Season Los Angeles Lakers

(MAMBINO piece on the superb Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll. Check it!)

”I don’t know if they will grasp it all,” Jackson said the other day. ”Everything takes time and everything is instinctual. A lot of what you do you can’t emulate or copy. You can’t put it back in the same order you did it before. I may not introduce any of the usual stuff to the team until it’s the right time. And it may not be the right time for four or five months.”–The New York Times, October 31st, 1999

Before the seven more NBA Finals appearances and five more gold trophies adorning Dr. Jerry Buss’ office space, Chicago Bulls maestro Phil Jackson came into Los Angeles charged with the task of making a talented, but underachieving Lakers team into a champion. He would install Tex Winters’ vaunted triangle offense into L.A.’s offensive schemes, a conceptual scoring attack that even now (after 11 titles) some people regard as a form of smoke and mirrors witchcraft (one of Jackson’s assistants on the Lakers, Brian Shaw, recounted last year to SI.com’s Ian Thompsen “When I go out on head-coaching interviews and if I mention the word ‘triangle,’ it makes general managers and owners cringe. They don’t want to hear about the triangle offense, they don’t want to hear about Phil Jackson”).

Ever undeterred, Jackson preached patience, and that’s what he got. The 1999-2000 Lakers justified this attitude, and shot out of the gate, going 15-5 in November and along with his extraordinary past success in Chicago, captured the confidence of the city and Lakers Nation.

Mike Brown doesn’t have Phil Jackson’s record of success. The most the two have in common is coaching a 60-win team, appearing in the NBA Finals and their one Coach of the Year trophy apiece. What they do share is the journey of getting a team of underachieving superstars to buy into an intricate new system. For Jackson, it was the aforementioned triangle offense and relying on the team not to adhere to a certain set of plays, but rather to collectively grow within themselves a set of instincts that would get them open shots. For Brown, he’s asking a team of veterans to buy not only into a complex Princeton offense, but also a tough defensive scheme that he only spoke of in theory, not in actual practice last season. Patience, as with Phil Jackson, has been preached by not just the coaching staff, but also by the team. 

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State of Laker Nation: Can we all lay off Pau?

“Pau needs to shoot the ball more”

“Pau needs to establish deeper position in the paint”

“Pau needs to finish when fouled”

“Pau is too soft”

It seems that no matter what the statistics say, the accolades he’s received or the titles he’s been pivotal in winning, the labels always stay the same with Pau. I feel like he’s Donny in the Big Lebowski. No matter what he does, or how innocuous his play is, people are (figuratively) telling him to shut the eff up and that he’s out of his element.

Now keep in mind, that any player that wins a title with the Show will always have a longer leash with me. Win two titles, and your leash turns into a long rope. Win 5 titles, and your rope turns into a bomb shelter…made of rope. Regardless, I think that most of the knocks on Pau most seasons, but especially this one, are unwarranted. Let’s look at the tale of the tape though, shall we?

2012: 16 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.4 bpg, 51.8% shooting on 12.9 shots per game
2010-2011: 18.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.6 bpg, 52.9% shooting on 13.7 shots per game
2009-2010: 18.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.7 bpg, 53.6% shooting on 13 shots per game
2008-2009: 18.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.0 bpg, 56.7% shooting on 12.9 shots per game

The problems are relatively obvious here: he’s not scoring as much, his shooting percentage has fallen every year and he’s taking almost a full shot less than he did in 2011. His rebounding is down a board and while his turnovers have remained relatively static, his assists are down as well.

The most prevalent complaint I hear about Pau is his inconsistency on the offensive end. Fans rail Pau on not being able to score more effectively and deeper in the paint. They often say that he’s easily pushed around in the lane and in the post, and that his moves to the rack are not nearly aggressive enough. They complain about his persistent whining to the refs, and that he too often lingers on the calls at the cost of his performance. I’ve heard that his defense ranges from substandard to downright poor. I’ve heard that he isn’t getting enough touches because he isn’t demanding the ball enough, especially in light of the fact that key subs Lamar Odom is now in Dallas and Shannon Brown is in Phoenix, and in their place are Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono. In essence, I’ve heard that Pau is a huge, whiny wuss, who is too easily pushed around.

The truth is that they’re partially right. He does whine a lot and sometimes lingers on non-calls for too long, allowing himself to be distracted from the game at hand. Sometimes on single coverage he gets pushed around far more than a 7 foot, 260 pounder should. A guy with his skill set of post moves and shooting acumen should be scoring more than 16 points a game, regardless of if his teammates are named Kobe and Drew or even if they were named Jerry and Wilt.

However, there’s a lot of reasons that we’re all being too hard on Pau. Yes, his play has degraded from his 2011 All-NBA 2nd Team honored season. But I’m not sure he can be held fully accountable. Why? Check this out:

1) New team, new coaching staff, new system, zero practice time and a billion games

The Lakers, with the a brief 4 month layoff in 2004-2005, have been under a singular offensive and defensive system since 1999. They’ve lived and breathed Phil Jackson’s (and his disciples) mantras since before Y2K.

With the Zen Master gone, Mike Brown has introduced a new offense and completely different defensive schemes. The … Read more...