Dwight Howard Trade: Is Mike Brown Capable of Handling 4 L.A. Lakers Superstars?
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown took on a nearly impossible task when he took over the helm in 2011.
No, there's nothing impossible about coaching a team with this kind of talent. But, there's something undeniably impossible about filling Phil Jackson's shoes.
Jackson wasn't just a proven winner with 11 NBA titles to his coaching credit.
He was also one of the very few guys that commanded respect from superstars like Kobe Bryant. Something about coaching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen might have had something to do with that.
His success guiding Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal was equally impressive. Given the tension that eventually tore the Bryant-O'Neal relationship apart, the fact that Jackson was able to hold things together long enough for that chapter of the Lakers to win three championships is a testament to his ability to manage personalities.
Forget about his ability to manage the play-calling, which wasn't bad either.
Though it will be a long time before Brown even qualifies to own that kind of gravitas, it's not as if he's entirely fresh under the collar.
This is, after all, the man who led a young LeBron James to the NBA Finals back in 2007. If he could corral a star who'd been anointed the next big thing since he was a high-schooler, taking control of the veteran Lakers would prove a cakewalk.
Those veteran Lakers held a players-only meeting back in February, reportedly to address the persistent trade rumors that swarmed around the team right up until this summer's acquisition of Dwight Howard.
It wasn't necessarily a sign of disrespect that Brown was left out, but it was a reminder that Bryant was the one who ultimately wore the pants in this relationship.
Brown may now have a year's worth of familiarity under his belt, and yet things might not get any easier.
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It's hard to imagine the ever-classy and deferential Steve Nash causing problems. For his part, Kobe's approach to public comments is too passive-aggressive to spark an outright mutiny.
Nevertheless, there's a real concern that discontent could begin to snowball if this team doesn't hit its stride quickly enough. Fair or otherwise, Brown will be held responsible for the team's second-round ousting to the Thunder last season, and perhaps even the fact that a first-round series against the Denver Nuggets went seven games.
The combined weight of four disaffected superstars could lead to a premature exit for Brown, especially if those stars' roles are mishandled.
Or, if a transition to the Princeton offense goes poorly, pressure for such an exit could mount, and the organization could return to its wishlist of preferred candidates. Perhaps it could make another run at Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski.
Of course, it should go without saying that Brown probably wouldn't deserve the lion's share of the blame for a slow start.
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Star-studded though they may be, this roster has been rapidly cobbled together as if general manager Mitch Kupchak is drafting a fantasy team. It's certainly possible that the new pieces will instantly fall into place, but presuming that to be the case is unrealistically wishful thinking.
Developing chemistry takes time.
Just don't be surprised if a ring-less season paves the way for Brown's exit. Dwight Howard has ("reportedly") already gotten one coach fired, or at least pushed for it. Would anyone put it past the guy to quietly facilitate another ouster?
After all, the Lakers would be willing to do just about anything to ensure he re-signs for the long-term.
Brown won't be able to handle all these personalities like his predecessor might have, but he'll do a much better job than most might think.
Whether that means he ultimately keeps his job is, however, an altogether unresolved issue.
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