Sometimes a new boss comes in and makes changes simply to make them, to show they're in charge and bring in a new guy that is fully loyal to them. Seems like some of that could be in play if news reports are true and Mike Brown is hired as new head coach by Laker executive Jimmy Buss, son of Laker owner Jerry Buss. Jim is assumed be taking a more active decision-making role on the team from his father now that Phil Jackson has retired.
Brown is best known as the defensive-minded former head coach of LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers. His 2008-09 and 2009-10 teams amassed top regular-season win totals, only to see disappointing early playoff exits. His Cleveland teams were most often criticized for their unimaginative offensive sets, many times it looked to be nothing more than giving LeBron the ball and spread the floor.
Brown never deserved the full blame for the ineffective way the Cavaliers played at the end of tight games because a lot of that has to fall upon LeBron. Let's face it, LeBron is a great player but never known to be clutch. He is known for freezing up and improperly involving teammates in crunch time. He also has never been a hard worker off the ball, not cutting or involving himself in plays once he had made a pass. LeBron also would routinely lock up under pressure in closely contested games while with the Cavaliers, something he has improved since joining the Heat.
However, the Lakers lead star is Kobe Bryant, as clutch a player as there is in the NBA. Kobe can absorb pressure, actively seeks out the ball and generally makes sound decisions in crunch time.
So under Brown, LeBron was a great floor leader the first 46 minutes, but the last two minutes of close games were a different story as LeBron would seize up, either trying to play 1-on-5 and forgetting he had teammates or passing off and not working to establish position to receive a pass back. Brown won't have that problem with Kobe, who comes alive and thrives when the pressure is at the max.
Kobe has also acted like a player-coach for the past several years. He now routinely directs players and designs plays on-the-go at the end of games. A lot of that was due to the triangle offense Jackson ran with the Lakers, which diminishes the need for a distributing point guard and instead allows players the freedom to choose where to pass rather than assigning specific X's and O's plays called by a coach on the sidelines. Like Michael Jordan before him, Kobe has flourished under the system—so running the offense at the end of close games won't be a problem with Kobe as opposed to LeBron.
Laker center Andrew Bynum might see his defensive effectiveness increase under Brown, who is known to be a defensive coach. Jackson was never known to stress defense, leaving those coaching duties to Kurt Rambis and later Chuck Person. Brown would be able to maximize their defensive presence. He would also satisfy Kobe's demand that the Lakers look for a defensive-minded coach.
It should be interesting to see if Brown is able to implement an offense in which Bynum gets increased touches. Former Cavalier center Zydrunas Ilgauskas played a more outside game than Bynum does, who is a traditional back-to-the-basket type center. Brown should be able to implement an inside-out system that would help spread the floor and set up open shots. Bryant too would benefit by having some set plays run for him so that he does not have to work for his shot quite as hard now that he's older.
The upcoming mega-television deal the Lakers agreed to probably had a lot to do with this signing. The other veteran coaches rumored to be looked at by the Lakers, Rick Adelman, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Dunleavy, might have been deemed not sexy enough. Brown is young, charismatic, and he's a more proven commodity than longtime Jackson assistant Brian Shaw. LeBron excelled under Brown, his problems closing games notwithstanding. Brown proved he could contain LeBron's ego—a necessary quality in the bright lights and big stage of Los Angeles.
I imagine that Shaw won't stick around. The position he had been groomed for years to get was given to another young coach; he was given endorsements by several prominent Laker players including Bryant. I'm sure he is disappointed in not landing the job he was being groomed to take. It would be a big loss to the organization to lose him given his close, long-term relationship with the players. Also unknown if Chuck Person remains as I'm sure Brown will be given the freedom to choose a staff. I'd imagine Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons are goners.
Having a head coach in place will enable the Lakers to formulate a game plan going forward as far as personnel moves. Clearly, they will need to address speed at the guard position. A more traditional offense probably means the Lakers would need to acquire a distributing point guard. A shooter must be high on Mitch Kupchak's list, too.
Perhaps Jerry West going to Golden State might mean the Lakers could have a chance of acquiring Stephen Curry? That's another story for another day. Today it looks like the Lakers have their post-Jackson coach, who has big shoes to fill and a lot of immediate expectations to meet. Let's hope Buss has made another great move, much like his selecting Bynum in the draft was.
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