Keeping Shannon Brown would be a good move for the Lakers
Throughout the free-agency period, it appeared Shannon Brown's future with the Lakers swung like a pendulum.
That wasn't because the Lakers had mixed feelings about what Brown could bring to the team. The organization equally has valued his athleticism, upside, attitude, and of course, dunks, and believe the aforementioned qualities trump the defensive lapses and inconsistency in offensive execution. It was just that Brown's future hinged on plenty of variables beyond his control, including whether Derek Fisher would return to the team and for how much, whether the Lakers could attract a free-agent guard and who else might leave the team..
Well, the picture appears a little bit clearer now. Fisher re-signed with the team, agreeing to a three-year deal worth about $10.5 million. The Lakers signed former Clipper guard Steve Blake to a four-year, $16-million deal, and he presumably will serve as Fisher's backup. The Lakers' efforts to acquire free-agent guard Raja Bell ended with Bell canceling a dinner meeting with Kobe Bryant. And Jordan Farmar left the Lakers and accepted a three-year, $12-million offer to play for the New Jersey Nets.
That doesn't mean Brown will definitely be on the 2010-2011 roster, but the offseason developments at least help his chances. The Times' Broderick Turner reported the Lakers and Brown are still in negotiations after he opted out of the final year of his contract that would've paid him $2.1 million. Brown's agent, Mark Bartelstein, told Turner that "hopefully in the next few days we'll get something done."
For both the sake of the Lakers and Brown, it would be in their interest that Brown remains on the team. Despite opting out of his contract, the move reflected Brown's hope to test the open market and reach a long-term deal after spending his first four seasons in the NBA with four different teams. I recently criticized Bell's decision to join the Jazz, and even some Lakers fans disagreed with my assessment that his option to go for a more expensive and longer deal seemed misguided because he has the best chance to win an NBA title with the Lakers. I don't have the same opinion toward Brown's decision simply because Brown is at the beginning of his career and it'd be unclear if one more year would significantly bolster his development enough to spur the Lakers into keeping him for the long term. Meanwhile, Bell is already developed and surely could've extended his stay a season or two with the Lakers if he helped the team to another title. Nonetheless, Brown made it clear during his exit interview that he'd love to stay with the Lakers because of the talent around him.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have seen Brown grow tremendously since acquiring him last season, along with Adam Morrison, from Charlotte for Vladimir Radmanovic. Since then, Brown has become a fan favorite for his acrobatic dunks, with the website LetShannonDunk.com documenting them, and impressing the Lakers enough to sign him to a two-year, $4.2-million contract before last season began. When Brown was selected for the NBA Dunk Contest, Bryant and Brown agreed that the honor points to the hard work he's put in since joining the team.Still, as much as Brown reveled in the attention his serious hang time generates, he's never wanted to be pigeonholed as a dunker. One needs to look no further than how his disappointing performance in the dunk contest preceded a dip in numbers after the All-Star break. After 10 points per game on 40.2% shooting in February, Brown's numbers went down to 7.3 points per game on a 38.5% clip before rebounding to an 11.3 points per game average in April. Nonetheless, Brown's averages in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons (3.2 points in 7.6 minutes per game, 8.1 points in 20.7 minutes per game) clearly show that Brown's on the right track.
Even though Brown hasn't completely mastered the offense and frequently gets beat on defensive rotations, those lapses point more to his development than any effort problems. And thanks to Brown's willingness to put in the work needed to fix those problems, the Lakers' decision to keep him would serve as a logical choice to help their long-term future.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Shannon Brown. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Brown soon became a fan favorite because of his high-flying dunks. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times