Los Angeles Lakers: What Management and Mike Brown Need to Do to Achieve Success
To start off, I do not like the hiring of Mike Brown as Phil Jackson's replacement—I think it's a major step backwards in terms of overall coaching quality. I was really hoping that the Lakers would sign Rick Adelman.
After venting my frustrations, it's now time to look to the future. Regardless of whether you like it or not, Mike Brown is now the head coach of the Lakers and, as fans (or at least what true fans should do), we should try to be supportive of the new head coach.
Now, Mike Brown has a number of flaws as a coach, but even the greatest have their own faults. It's just a matter of finding a formula that works and covers up the flaws. With that in mind, here are a few things that management and Mike Brown need to do so that what happened against Dallas doesn't repeat itself next season.
Get More Shooters
Now, we all know that Mike Brown left John Kuester with a lot of freedom in creating the Cleveland offense. Regardless, Mike Brown was the head coach at the time and the team would not run anything that did not have his consent.
Assuming that Mike Brown will be implementing an offensive scheme similar to that, we have to look at what made that offense work. There are two reasons as to why that Cleveland offense worked:
1) Cleveland was absolutely laden with shooters
2) LeBron was willing to pass to the open shooter
How does this translate for the Lakers? Well, they obviously need shooters on their team. I know that FIsher, Artest, Blake, Brown and Barnes are all capable shooters, but they also enjoy driving to the basket—sometimes doing it more than actually shooting the three-point shot.
When you have behemoths underneath the basket, you need a number of shooters to offset the other team trying to clog the middle.
The Lakers need a player or two that really rely on the three-point shot/jumpers as their main source of offense. Players in that mold that come to mind are Eddie House, James Posey, JJ Redick, etc. Doing so keeps the middle a little less crowded, making it easier for players to slash and post up.
Now, many call Kobe a ball-hog, and granted he does play like one from time to time, however, I've noticed that Kobe really plays like that when his teammates aren't producing. Passing the ball to teammates is a sign of trust. I think we can all agree that if we were on the same level as Kobe in terms of basketball skills, we wouldn't pass the ball to someone who you know or can't trust to hit an open shot.
With all that, the Lakers need to find a player or two that can shoot the deep shot AND make it on a consistent basis. Remember, trust is earned. If things go that way, the offense will work itself out.
Get the Lakers to Take Charges
One reason why Cleveland was a very good defensive team, despite not having a real shot blocker, was because they drew offensive fouls. The Lakers might want to take that page out of the Mike Brown-led Cavs, seeing as management (or Phil... I forget) had to offer players an incentive for every charge they draw.
I understand that many people shy away from taking charges because drawing offensive fouls has become synonymous with flopping. That's a load of _____ (insert word there). Flopping and taking a charge are two different things entirely.
Flopping is a disgrace, especially when 250+ pound men attempt to flop after being "run over" by 190 pound guards. Drawing offensive fouls is about anticipation and good footwork—two things associated with good defense. Drawing charges are a better way than having your big men go up to swat shots all the time because:
1) Drawing charges guarantees a turnover, plus a foul on the opposing team
2) If a foul should be called on a defender, there is no chance of free throws, as blocking fouls generally occur outside the act of shooting
Now, with Odom, Bynum and Gasol, the Lakers have 20 feet and 10 inches of humanity in three players. This is a distinct advantage because these three players are tall and they are willing to patrol the paint. So if ever a foul isn't called, they still have big men ready to help on defense.
I'm not saying that the Lakers need to take charges every play. It's about knowing when and how to take a charge. It's a great tactic for defenders to use, especially help defenders. Mike Brown definitely needs his new team to start taking charges... not flops.
Mike Brown Must Get Andrew Bynum to Know His Role and Shut His Mouth
Couldn't resist throwing a Rock line there. Sorry.
Andrew Bynum ran his mouth about not having as many touches as he'd like and all that. Quite frankly, I liked the fact that Kobe decided to speak out and put Bynum in his place. Bynum is a third option on the Lakers—nothing more. While he has grown leaps and bounds in terms of his post play, the fact that Gasol and Bryant are better offensive players will keep them as options No. 2 and No. 1, respectively.
However, the role that Bynum has on the Lakers is all his own: defensive enforcer. Bynum is undoubtedly the defensive anchor of the Lakers. He is an intimidating presence in the middle, pulls down a good share of rebounds and he swats a fair amount of shots. He's the best at that on the Lakers and he should understand that.
Bynum should also understand that the Lakers resisted trading him for the likes of Jason Kidd and Carmelo Anthony. That alone should already flatter him. Besides, Kobe will eventually retire, Gasol will eventually deteriorate and the Lakers, being the playoff team that they are, won't be drafting a prodigy anytime soon.
Andrew is part of the long-term plans of the Lakers. His time to be the dominant center he dreams to be will come. The time where he becomes the No. 1 option on offense will come. The day where he will be the unquestioned leader of the Lakers will come. Unfortunately for him, that time isn't now.
Listen to His Assistant Coaches
There have been a lot of jabs at Mike Brown's inefficiency at making adjustments on the fly. And I will be the first to agree with the people saying that. Losing to Boston in the playoffs and to the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals clearly displays this.
Inheriting a coaching staff that have been under the tutelage of Phil Jackson for several years may be a blessing in disguise for Mike Brown. Being in the playoffs often and learning from one of the best coaches in the history of the NBA is are enormous advantages for Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons, and Chuck Person.
And the fact that Mike Brown is a head coach that isn't a totalitarian, there will be opportunities for them to provide valuable input. Also, Mike Brown's assistants know the Laker players more that the new Head Coach.
Basketball is a team sport, so in that regard, shouldn't coaching basketball have the same principles of teamwork?
Change His Offense
I will join the chorus and say that the offense Mike Brown ran in Cleveland won't work with the Lakers, primarily because the Lakers lack a couple of players that will help run that offense at peak efficiency.
With the Lakers being WAY over the salary cap, the best option would be to remake his offensive scheme. Mike Brown can keep his isolation offensive sets, but should only be used in certain situations, not as the primary offensive set.
Seeing as the Lakers have been running the triangle offense for over a decade, it would make the most sense to keep the triangle as the Lakers' main offense. Brian Shaw and the rest of the coaching staff can run the triangle offense for Mike Brown, leaving Brown to focus on his specialty, defense. And I don't think that Mike would mind. That was the setup in Cleveland anyway.
But for Mike Brown to really become a better coach, he needs to assume control of the offense as well. He can't leave the offense completely in the hands of his assistants. Mike Brown must add, not remake, to the offensive sets of the Lakers.
He needs to make adjustments and realize, "Ok. I don't have LeBron or a boatload of shooters on this team. I need to find an offensive pattern that will be able to complement Kobe and Gasol, not one that will live or die being completely dependent on their production."
Keep the Lakers Motivated Throughout the Year
It's easier said than done. That's what you get when a team is good and knows its good. Complacency is one of the biggest problems the Lakers face every season. Now, motivating Kobe Bryant is easy because he doesn't need anyone else to motivate him. The problem is getting the rest of the team to stay motivated.
After Kobe, no one just seems to have that passion-bordering-obsession for winning. Phil was able to get his players to focus on the task at hand when they won back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, and during the Shaq-Kobe era from 2000-2002.
The reason for both dynasties coming to an end can be pointed at, but should not be taken as the sole reason, the players simply getting used to Phil's motivation tactics. It's also possible that Phil's Zen approach doesn't work for certain players.
Mike Brown must find a way to keep the rest of the Lakers motivated and focused on regaining their championship swagger, and the championship itself. But like I said, keeping the Lakers motivated to play for an entire year is easier said than done.
What Do You Think?
I'm not endorsing that if the Lakers make these changes, they will win the championship next season. Quite frankly, I think we'll have to give Mike Brown and this version of the Lakers at least one season to gel.
Yes, I do not expect the Lakers to win the championship next year. But, what do I know? And last time I checked, more unexpected things happen as compared to the expected. Still, I'm a Laker fan through and through and I'll be rooting for the Lakers next season. Let's go Lakers!
I'm sure there are many more things I missed. Feel free to let me know.
On a side note: Wouldn't it be interesting if the Lakers won the championship next season with Mike Brown as Laker Head Coach after everyone in Cleveland said that they couldn't win a championship because Mike Brown was a bad coach?