Brian Shaw vs. Mike Brown: Was It Time for the L.A. Lakers to Kill the Triangle?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer ISeptember 29, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  (L-R) Assistant coach Brian Shaw, head coach Phil Jackson and assistant coach Frank Hamblen of the Los Angeles Lakers sit on the bench in the second half against the Boston Celtics Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Some Los Angeles Lakers fans have embraced the surprise hiring of Mike Brown over Phil Jackson's assumed successor Brian Shaw, and a friend and fellow follower of the Lakers even compared it to going out on a blind date.

My friend said the anticipation of a fresh start and new direction creates an environment of excitement over the coming season, whenever that may be, which is similar to meeting a woman the first time.

The only issue I have with my friend's reasoning is there is nothing fresh or new in a courtship with Brown, and even though it may be a blind date for the Lakers, to use my friend's analogy, this girl has been around the block a few times.

Brown's previous coaching stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers provided Lakers fans a glimpse of what to expect when the games resume, which will mostly be a transition to an up-tempo offense and an aggressive, attacking defense.

The Lakers were already one of the NBA's top defensive and rebounding teams, but Brown will likely focus on creating more turnovers by assaulting the passing lanes and creating easy scoring opportunities in transition.

The slight change in defense will challenge the aging Lakers, but as a team, they are experienced and disciplined enough to adapt to the new atmosphere.

However, it may be a little more difficult for one of the NBA's oldest teams to adjust to an entirely new offensive philosophy.

Brown's dribble-drive motion offense has sent Tex Winter's creation and Jackson's innovation to the same fate as the dinosaurs, but I'm not sure the timing of the extinction was right.

EL SEGUNDO, CA - MAY 31:  Mike Brown, the new head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, speaks during his introductory news conference at the team's training facility on May 31, 2011 in El Segundo, California. Brown replaced Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who re
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Lakers team president Jim Buss' decision to hire Brown over Shaw was certainly a definitive move away from the Zen Master and all of his quirky tendencies, but it also may have ended any hopes of the Lakers reaching the 2012 NBA Finals.

It's a stretch to ask any team, even a veteran squad like the Lakers, to erase all vestiges of their previous selves, and for a team facing numerous issues, Brown's ascension to the head coaching position only magnifies the problem.

Success in Brown's motion offense is dependent on a point guard who is able to create scoring opportunities for himself and teammates with penetration off the dribble.

Poor point guard play has been a concern for the Lakers for several seasons, but I cringe at the thought of Derek Fisher or Steve Blake at the helm in Brown's scheme on either end of the court.

Neither Blake nor Fisher is quick enough, strong enough or big enough to contend with the NBA's top point guards as it is, but in Brown's up-tempo, aggressive scheme they will be utterly exposed.

What was a weakness in the triangle offense becomes a fatal flaw under Brown, and that's not the only thing to consider.

Brown did achieve great regular season success during his time with the Cavaliers, but the thing that lingers on my memory is the manner in which he was out-coached in the postseason when the games really mattered.

LeBron James received much of the blame for Cleveland's collapse in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, but Brown is equally responsible for his inability to adjust to situations and his deer-in-the-headlights approach in crunch time.

There is no guarantee that Shaw would have led the Lakers back to the NBA Finals in his rookie season as coach, but he did benefit from sitting beside the best sideline general in NBA history.

Shaw seems like a pretty bright guy, and I'm sure he would have run the triangle offense, but he would have added his own little wrinkles to the ever-evolving scheme.

The triangle was unique because it was actually more of an idea than a strategy, and the concept allowed the user to deviate and respond to almost any NBA defense.

In order for Brown's offense to work, there has to be dribble penetration from the perimeter, and his failures in the postseason with Cleveland are an example of what happens when opposing teams take away that option.

Come to think of it, Shaw probably fits my friend's blind date analogy better than Brown, because he could have breathed new life into an offensive theory that was proved on the strength of 11 NBA championships.

Buss has received plenty of scrutiny and criticism for hiring Brown, and justly so, but the fact that the Lakers' next NBA title seems so far away leaves room for much more, especially if Los Angeles becomes Cleveland-West.


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