5 Ways the Los Angeles Lakers Will Evolve Under Mike Brown
In some corners, they are viewed as a group of geriatric has-beens who are well past their glory days. While in other corners, they are viewed as skilled vets who have a few more championship runs left in them.
Either way the 2011-2012 season will be one of expected strife or unanticipated success for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ultimately, new head coach Mike Brown will have to infest his style of basketball for this collection of players to succeed. With a championship or a strong playoff run being the only two ways this season will be viewed as a success Brown, has little room for error.
How can a coach who screams ordinary get a collection of exceptional egos to believe in simplicity? How will he convince this sushi-eating and reality television participating group to accept his meatloaf and “Whats Happenin'” way of life?
The only way is through meticulous hard work and preparation. Brown must not bring his proverbial lunch pail to work; he must never leave work. Brown will have to focus on every minuscule facet of this Lakers team.
He is going to need to know what Derek Fisher did against the Milwaukee Bucks on the tail end of a back-to-back in 2001, in order to gain this team’s trust.
Most Lakers fans are expecting Kobe Bryant to come back with everything he has once the 11-12 season commences, but what does he have left is the question every Lakers fan has. Even if they do not want to admit it, Purple and Gold nation are concerned that their celebrated villainous hero’s skills are rapidly declining.
The only way for Brown to combat this is preparing the other players on this roster, not the stars that align night in and night out.
He must provide these players with the required confidence to believe in themselves while everyone else in the arena does not. This will be monumental in getting this team to evolve from second-tier castaways to vital pieces of championship success.
Here are five ways the former Cavaliers’ head honcho can get his triangle peg to fit in a square hole.
5) Develop or Re-Develop Luke Walton
This is an unexpected start, but Luke Walton could give the Lakers 10 more wins this season. Think about how many games Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) did not show up for or how many times he passed up open shots for whatever reason.
How nice would it be to have a fundamentally sound player available who requires very little “maintenance”? Walton’s disappearance from the Lakers’ rotation the last two years has less to do with injuries and more to do with his lack of confidence. He has at times looked like a shell of the player who played so well in the 2007 and 2008 playoffs.
His passing, outside shooting and overall offensive efficiency would be a welcomed addition to a Lakers’ offense that many times became stagnant. His shooting from three-point land would open the middle up for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, while his passing would allow a more fluid offense to flourish.
Artest’s, shall we say, methodical pace slowed the Lakers down tremendously in their transition game. Frankly, Walton looks like a gazelle compared to Artest in the transition game.
The Lakers stand to gain a significant boost if Brown can help Walton regain his form, while the coach stands to gain some much-needed admiration from his pupils.
4) Establishing a Role for Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher can no longer play 25-plus minutes a night for the Lakers. Four straight years of starting 82 games each season have taken a toll on the Purple and Gold warrior. However, Derek Fisher is still a valuable cog in the Lakers machine.
Statistically, Fisher did not have a bad year, in fact, it was on par with his previous years. It was the eye test that showed Derek’s age. He looked weary at tip-offs and at times resembled Willie Mays in a Mets uniform.
Brown must find a way to utilize Fisher’s grit and experience. The coach needs to establish a role that allows the guard to play no more than 20 minutes a night and puts him in position to be successful.
This will be one of the more difficult things for Brown to do, but it will serve as the most rewarding. The coach can use Fisher as a reserve with Shannon Brown as the starter, and in big games, Fisher can play big minutes.
In the games against the Torontos of the world, Shannon Brown can play 35 plus. A definitive role that keeps Fisher part of the team but does not allow him to get exploited will benefit both the team and the coach.
3) Incorporating a Transition Offense
The Lakers ranked 23rd in forced turnovers last season and because of that were one of league’s worst transition teams. This team must find a way to get easy buckets.
It can start with defense, but they also must put a faster team on the floor: a unit highlighted by Shannon Brown.
Shannon is one of the few players on this roster who can get out and run, Walton being another. Coach Brown needs to incorporate some outlet passing into his offense.
He can take advantage of the Lakers’ height advantage on most nights and instill certain plays that will allow Brown, Walton or Kobe Bryant to leak out after missed shots.
2) Teach the Players to Trust Andrew Bynum
This point goes under the “duh” category, but needs to be enforced and harped on throughout training camp. Coach Brown has to find ways to get Andrew Bynum the ball.
A.B. must help his coach by developing a consistent 10- to 13-foot jump shot, a shot he can hit three to four times a half. This, combined with Bynum’s offensive rebounding, will give the Jersey native confidence and his teammates will be more inclined to believe in him.
Coach should have a list of things each player needs to improve on and on the top of Bynum’s list should be to develop a 12-foot jumps hot. It seems so simple because it is.
Tim Duncan is a horrific free-throw shooter, but he has a mid-range jay that is lethal, so Bynum can do it. The center not only can do it, but if he wants to be trusted by this group of players, he has got to do it.
1) Infect the Team with a “Me Against the World” Attitude
Every practice, the Lakers have to hear they are old. Every film session they need to hear how a younger player is better than them. This has to be the mantra for 2011-2012.
As the Dallas Mavericks were handing it to the Lakers, it was hard to figure out if this bunch was tired or old. Well, this season will confirm whether it was just a matter of fatigue or the inevitably of time catching up to them.
The Lakers were 52-35 in games that were played on one day’s rest and were 8-3 in the last month of the regular season. So age could not have been a factor in the debacle in Dallas.
Match-ups and desire were the Achilles’ heel all season and it came to a culmination against the Mavericks.
Now with a new coach, this group must find a way to sustain their excellence or the corner that believes they belong on ESPN Classic and not ESPN will be proven right, once again.