Kobe Bryant didn't look like one of the best players in the NBA in his return from a seven-game absence due to injury, and the Los Angeles Lakers didn't look much like title contenders in their 121-97 blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs Friday night.
I'm fairly certain Bryant can improve on his steady, if unspectacular performance of 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, but I'm not sure his improvement will be enough to offset the terrible coaching of Mike Brown.
In consecutive blowout losses to the Spurs, Brown has shown he is still very much an underling to San Antonio head coach Greg Poppovich, and Brown has also demonstrated that he has no hope of out-coaching Pop if the two teams should meet in the postseason.
Brown's failure to adjust to the Spurs' pick and roll, which mostly led to Tony's Parker's 29 points in the Lakers' earlier home loss, was perplexing, but approaching the next game with the same lame game plan is, well, just stupid.
And unfortunately, Brown's history as a coach has shown that things may only get worse from this point forward.
During Brown's final two years in Cleveland, his teams won more than 120 regular-season games but failed to reach the NBA finals in either season.
Much of the blame for the Cavaliers' failures were cast on former Cavalier LeBron James, but in truth, it was Brown's inability to adjust his strategy in end-game situations that were the root of the Cavaliers' problems.
James does deserve some criticism for his flameout against the Boston Celtics in 2010, but in 2009, his 38-point, eight-assist, eight-rebound average was one of the greatest stat lines in NBA history.
And in 2010, many of James' struggles with the Celtics were based on Brown's failure to adjust to Boston head coach Doc Rivers' defensive strategies against James.
Brown was thoroughly out-coached by Rivers in 2010 and by Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy in 2009, so what would make anyone think that Brown could possibly hang with Poppovich when it comes to postseason x's and o's. Or even Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, for that matter.
Even the theory that Brown is a defensive genius has been exposed recently, as the Lakers' porous defense has been hung out to dry since the All-Star break, and with the Thunder coming to town on Sunday afternoon, the Lakers will be tested once again.
Players like Bryant, center Andrew Bynum and forward Pau Gasol will give the Lakers a chance against either the Spurs or the Thunder in a seven-game series, but I'm not sure the Lakers could beat them even if Bryant shot 50 percent from the field.
The Lakers' issues run much deeper than Bryant's health or Bynum's maturity, and the fundamental nature of their flaws may be too great for their talent to overcome.
A healthy Bryant and focused Bynum can carry the Lakers to the brink against any team, but at some point, Brown's coaching ability will have to carry them over the threshold.
And so far, Brown has yet to prove he has the talent to do that.
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