No Coach Can Solve Lakers' Problems Fast Enough to Be Title Threat

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No Coach Can Solve Lakers' Problems Fast Enough to Be Title Threat
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Holding your breath for the Los Angeles Lakers to engineer a quick turnaround after firing Mike Brown?

Be careful. You'll probably turn blue in the face before then.

If anything, bringing in a new head coach from outside the organization only figures to set back what's already been a slow-moving team-building process in L.A. 

This Lakers squad was always going to require time to jell.

Six new players, three new assistant coaches, a brand new, partially Princeton offensive system and a defensive structure that was still a work in progress practically guaranteed as much.

Especially when one of those players (Dwight Howard) was still on the mend from back surgery and another (Steve Nash) went down with a fractured fibula just a game-and-a-half into the new season. 

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A coaching change can't mask what the Lakers lack.

They don't have a coherent identity or the bodies on the perimeter to force turnovers, and their bench is too thin to give their aging stars comfortable reprieves from excessive playing time. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are still offensive savants, even at this stage of their respective careers, but neither is going to create steals and cause deflections with any regularity.

Much less keep opposing point guards and wings from attacking the basket.

Nor were the Lakers going to be particularly proficient at stopping the pick-and-roll, what with Nash, Steve Blake and Pau Gasol trying to contain and Howard still lacking the pep in his step he showed during his days with the Orlando Magic.

It would also take nothing short of a miracle to turn a second unit consisting of Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill and an aging Antawn Jamison into a passable group on which Kobe and his fellow starters could lean on. 

As for the Princeton offense (or what little of it the team ran), it may or may not have been the best idea, but it wasn't all the Lakers were doing on that end of the floor, nor was it necessarily failing. Kobe's scoring more efficiently than he ever has, and Howard, despite being less than 100 percent, has been plenty productive himself.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

But Pau's production has dropped off considerably, much like it did last year. Nash, a two-time MVP, looked lost before he succumbed to injury.

Realistically, though, Mike Brown was never the right man for the job.

Brown is a good coach. He took LeBron James and a bare-bones Cleveland Cavaliers squad to the NBA Finals, winning Coach of the Year honors along the way.

But as far as coaching styles are concerned, he was about as drastic a change as L.A. could've found. The Lakers went from the Zen Master's laid-back, trust-your-instincts approach to that of Brown.

Detail-oriented, always tinkering, teaching and (over)thinking.

And, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak wanted to replace Phil with Rick Adelman, not Mike Brown, who was executive vice president Jim Buss' first choice. The same Jim Buss who ultimately made the call to show Brown the door not even 24 hours after publicly showing his support for the embattled coach.

More like a vote of no confidence.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new coach can't change the fact that Jim Buss is the man in charge now. Buss has a sage voice in the front office who landed him two superstars this summer, but he seems to have ignored it on more than one occasion.

Mike D'Antoni has succeeded with Steve Nash in Phoenix and with Kobe Bryant at the Olympics, running an up-tempo offense that the Buss family would enjoy. But the man is hardly a defensive guru and is coming off a stint with the New York Knicks where he failed to manage egos. What's more, he can't even walk right now after undergoing knee replacement surgery.

Jerry Sloan knows a thing or two about the pick-and-roll—the bread and butter of both Nash and Howard—from his days with John Stockton and Karl Malone. But he's an old-school coach who was himself ousted by Deron Williams while with the Jazz.

Phil Jackson understands how to manage personalities, particularly Kobe's. But would he want to abandon the serenity of retirement in Montana for a third go-around with a turbulent team, especially after how the higher-ups treated him the last time they parted ways?

Does the Zen Master really want to be the Billy Martin of the NBA?

And would Brian Shaw, a former assistant under Jackson and a top choice to replace him after the 2010-11 season, want to leave his post with the Indiana Pacers after he too was rejected?

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Whoever comes in to pick up the pieces—whether it's interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff or someone not currently employed by the Purple and Gold—will be stuck behind the proverbial eight-ball. The clock is already ticking on a team with three stars attempting to evade Father Time and another (Dwight Howard) who will be a free agent at season's end.

The thought of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy shifts to the back burner for now, if not until next season at the earliest. The Lakers have won titles after early coaching changes before (see: Westhead, Paul; Riley, Pat), but never with an on-court situation as embryonic as this one.

Simply put, defense wins championships, and the Lakers weren't playing it well enough—on the perimeter, against pick-and-rolls and in transition—to post a winning record, much less justify preseason title expectations.

And if Mike Brown, a noted defensive guru, couldn't get the star-studded Lakers to buy in on that end of the floor, who can? And how soon?

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There's time to turn this thing around—77 games to be exact—but not a ton of it. 

This team will improve and win games; it's too talented not to. 

But the Oklahoma City Thunder will be there in the end. So will the San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Denver Nuggets and even the Clippers, who have looked like Jekyll and Hyde themselves so far. 

And while the Lakers fester in the West, the Miami Heat continue to fire on all cylinders in the East, making their title defense look like a sure thing.

There's no punting the championship chase into next season, but unless this whole situation settles down soon, the Lakers may have no choice but to recalibrate their expectations.

Assuming they haven't done so already.

 

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