There are plenty of questions with Mike Brown on how he’ll run his first year with the Lakers. Despite the NBA lockout creeping closer to missing actual games, we now have a hint, thanks to this interview with Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.
Immediately, I saw Twitter react with jokes imagining Kobe Bryant dismissing this with ease. But thinking about this closer, it’s a smart move and essential for two reasons.
First, it takes advantage of the major mismatch the Lakers have. There is no frontcourt that can compete with Gasol and Bynum, and focusing on that is the team’s best bet to remain a contender in the West.
Gasol has much to prove from how the 2011 postseason ended. What better way to add pressure to him than say, “Okay, big man, we’re coming to you every game. You got something to prove next year, and we’ll give you a chance to regain your reputation.”
Bynum, on the other hand, showed last season why he spurred the Lakers’ second-half push and was arguably their best player against Dallas in the conference semifinals. It’s time for him to take a leap and be trusted to carry a bigger offensive load.
He showed a greater willingness to be tough, and unfortunately he took it too far with his hit on J.J. Barea. What better way to regain the good graces of the Lakers family who singled him out for his behavior than to work hard and show he can be a consistent offensive threat to match his defense?
All eyes should be on these two to see how the 2011-12 season goes. Mike Brown is smart to realize this, knowing how well two big men worked for him in San Antonio.
Second, it makes the game easier for Bryant. Last season showed that he can’t win games by himself as much as he could anymore. We’re seeing a Black Mamba who’s still one of the top 10 to 12 players in the NBA but knows Father Time is catching up to him like everybody else.
In Bryant’s two best scoring games in the 2011 postseason (Game 1 of both series), the Lakers lost. They didn’t lose in spite of Bryant, but in the past, he could will a team in spite of what everyone did around him.
Bryant’s best bet to extend his career and conserve energy is to find new ways to be productive. Brown’s new philosophy isn’t going to keep him from getting his numbers, but it can create new ways to score off screens instead of slashing and creating all the time.
He may not be receptive to it at first. It may remind him too much of what happened when the Lakers’ first option was Shaquille O’Neal. Yet like it or not, that arrangement allowed Bryant to create, thrive and grow into the superstar he is now.
Ultimately, though, Bryant is willing to do whatever it takes for ring No. 6. He’s smart enough to know he needs pressure off him, and what better way to thrive than going inside-out?
It may be a crazy idea, but Brown didn’t win Coach of the Year handing the ball to LeBron James and doing nothing. He’s been schooled by some of the best in the business. This idea might sound crazy, but the Lakers need a shakeup in order to stay relevant in a changing NBA landscape.
They lost in 2011 mainly because they aged quickly and lacked the all-around depth. The best way the Lakers can win in 2012 is with Bryant having more help, and Brown's plan is a good start.