In firing Mike Brown as quickly and suddenly as they did, the Los Angeles Lakers spoke in the most direct manner possible about what they thought of their short- and long-term prospects to win under his stewardship.
W e may never know what changed from the team giving him its support after a loss to the Utah Jazz to the point at which the Lakers pulled the trigger, but we do know that something did change.
For many, however, the writing on the wall was only becoming more defined and even easier to read. Mike Brown, though a fine coach, was not producing the way he needed to for this specific group of Lakers. He was coaching in a manner that didn't maximize the talent on his roster, wasn't using effective rotations and wasn't putting several players in positions to succeed.
Where this was very much true was on the offensive side of the ball. It's not that the Lakers haven't been a good offensive team up to this point. They were actually one of the more efficient groups in the league, ranking seventh in points per possession before Brown was let go.
No, it was more the complexities Brown instituted on the offensive side of the ball that seemingly did him in.
The Princeton offense was a noble experiment and had many virtues for this team. Kobe Bryant found ways to thrive within the design of the scheme. Dwight Howard also got countless opportunities to bruise opponents in the paint with power post-ups.
But what was missing was the clarity of purpose from the players. They often looked like they were still thinking on the court rather than simply playing basketball. And for players that talented, it impacted their games in ways that went beyond their basic offensive numbers. In some ways, it even seemed to affect their confidence, as they too often played from behind and didn't look like they believed they could come back to win games.
In the first game without Brown, there were already noticeable differences in these areas.
With the Princeton offense scrapped, the Lakers ran a simplified offense that led to a freer-looking team. And even though the efficiency numbers weren't up the standard the Lakers had shown in some of their other outings, the return to more basic concepts on offense seemed to aid them.
The Lakers ran more simple post-ups, especially for Kobe. Early in the game, he took his man to the low block and forced the defense to either give up makeable shots or come and double-team.
Often, the second defender did come, and that created open looks for his teammates. Those shots didn't get knocked down, but the creation of good looks is still quite important.
The Lakers also went to more pick-and-roll based actions to try to generate good looks and did so to good success. Kobe ran this action countless times with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, and it often created good shots for him or one of his teammates when the defense collapsed to take the dive man away.
Of course, there were still miscues, and more can be expected going forward. This is a Lakers team still learning to play together, and just as that was a key variable to contend with before the coaching change, it will be one after as well.
But, moving forward without Mike Brown, this team looks to be on the right track. At least for one night. How or if that changes when the new full-time coach is hired may end up being another story.
But that's a discussion for another day.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!