L.A. Lakers: Was Mike Brown's Hiring a Direct Shot at Kobe Bryant and Jackson?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMay 30, 2011

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 14:  Head coach Phil Jackson talks to Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during their game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 14, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Most fans of the Los Angeles Lakers knew there were some big changes on the horizon after the Lakers were embarrassingly swept out of the 2011 NBA Playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks.

But I'm willing to bet few people expected the first major change would be hiring former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown to replace the retiring Phil Jackson.

By all accounts, Jackson and star guard Kobe Bryant certainly didn't.

Jackson had been personally grooming assistant Brian Shaw to inherit the reins of the Lakers top coaching position, while Bryant very publicly threw his opinion into the fray with a very strong endorsement of Shaw as well.

It appears that Lakers management took Jackson and Bryant's concerns into consideration and then promptly decided to ignore both, which may not be a good sign for the future, depending on the perspective.

Many observers feel that the Lakers may have become too comfortable within the confines of Jackson's triangle offense, and the selection of Brown rather than Shaw could signal a strong intention to deviate away from that concept.

Jackson's non-chalant coaching style and seemingly indifferent sideline attitude was cited as one of the reasons the Lakers looked so lethargic against the Mavericks, and the mere scope of their collapse could have been enough to convince the Buss family that Jackson's time and system had passed.

Jackson's overall success as a head coach had granted him much more leeway than is usually found with head coaches around the NBA, and it's possible that Lakers management wanted to assert more control in his absence.

Shaw was the preferred choice among most of the players on the Lakers roster, but even though the team would have been writing his checks, there is a chance that Shaw's loyalties would still lie with Jackson rather than the Lakers.

Bryant was one of the Lakers who strongly endorsed Shaw to be his final professional coach, and his silence in the wake of Brown's hiring could be just as strong a statement.

Jackson and Bryant had some very public clashes during their time together in Los Angeles and Jackson even used his brief time away from the Lakers to throw a few jabs in Bryant's direction in his tell-all book.

But make no mistake, both Bryant and Jackson understood what one meant to the other in terms of team and individual success, and Bryant seemed to acknowledge this when endorsing the continuity of Jackson's system.

The Lakers decided not to consult Bryant when they made the decision to hire Brown, which is usually sound policy since players shouldn't hold much weight in management decisions.

The only thing is, Bryant is not your typical player.

When Bryant finally retires, it will likely be as the greatest player in Lakers history and one would think that esteemed title would grant him at least a little voice in how the final seasons of his long, illustrious career will play out.

But Bryant has been mostly silent during the whole Brown saga, and one can only guess if his silence is a quiet rebuke of the Lakers decision to hire Brown or just the silence of acceptance.

In Jackson's triangle offense, Bryant often found himself as the primary scoring option as the shot clock wound down, but in a more conventional system, Bryant could find himself at the mercy of his point guard.

And that could also be another reason that the Lakers decided to hire Brown rather than Shaw, because there is a possibility that management had grown tired of the team's hopes resting at the end of Bryant's fingertips.

I'm not sure how to take the hiring of Brown because it has become easy to trust in Jackson's principles and coaching philosophy considering all the success it has led to under his tenure.

But I must also admit that the Lakers had taken on a stale and stagnant look during the final days of Jackson's lame-duck season, and a breath of fresh air could be exactly what the franchise needs.

At any rate, the first of numerous potential changes to the Lakers structure has already been made with Brown's appointment and there are sure to be a few more in the future.

But I'm not sure if Brown's hiring is a silver lining in the clouds for Los Angeles or just an indication of a storm brewing on the horizon.