Mike Brown finds himself in an impossible situation: If the Los Angeles Lakers reach their full potential and win the NBA championship, their star-studded roster will get all of the praise. If they flame out, no one will feel the full force of the blame more than Mike Brown.
Having lost the season's first two games to the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trailblazers (neither one a particularly good team), Laker players, fans and media are a frustrated bunch. And the man in the eye of the storm is...well, you can probably guess.
The Lakers' season opener was a nationally televised affair, and TNT's "Inside the NBA" crew spent much of the evening ripping their style of play. Charles Barkley repeatedly called their adoption of the Princeton Offense "stupid." Despite Mike Brown shrugging off the criticism, it's fair to say that he's the coach facing the most pressure in the League this season.
Brown has built a strong reputation as a defensive-minded coach. This is juxtaposed against his equally strong reputation as an unimaginative offensive coach. Hence, the arrival of assistant Eddie Jordan, who was brought in to fix the Lakers' gong show of an offense.
Despite all of the talent on its roster, Los Angeles ranked 10th in Offensive Rating during the 2011-12 campaign, which is mind-boggling. The Lakers were one of the NBA's worst three-point shooting teams (32.6 percent), they failed to provide enough touches for their hyperefficient big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and, too often, they gave the ball to Kobe Bryant and hoped that he would save the day (which, too often, he couldn't).
Is Mike Brown the right man for the job?
Brown hopes that he won't have to count on Kobe to do as much this time around—in addition to taking the ball of out his hands and putting it into Steve Nash's, feeding Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, there has been talk of reducing Bryant's playing time. It should be noted that similar chatter was heard last season, only to witness Kobe's minutes and shot attempts increase dramatically.
Mike Brown, who has had trouble in the past dealing with superstars and their massive egos—LeBron James in Cleveland, where Brown was fired in 2010 despite guiding the Cavs to 61 wins; Kobe Bryant last season—must somehow get four future Hall of Famers to agree to play nice by sharing a single basketball. Oh, and did I mention that Brown needs his team to buy in to a new system that isn't exactly an NBA staple?
Despite the ugly 0-2 start, the season is quite obviously still very, very young. It's not unreasonable to expect the Lakers and their collection of superstar talent to eventually click on both ends of the court and contend for the title.
So far, though, things aren't looking great: the offense is slow and unsure, and Steve Nash has largely been reduced to a spectator. The defense is even worse—allowing 47 percent shooting to a rag-tag Dallas team playing on the road without Dirk Nowitzki, followed by the young Blazers tagging L.A. for 116 points. The Laker coaching staff's tired excuse of not having a full training camp during the lockout-shortened season no longer exists. The glare only promises to get harsher from this point forward.
Mike Brown is the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Whether he is the right man for the job is unclear at this point. He will have to answer the question quickly, and under a very large microscope.