Lakers mailbag: Looking at what Mike Brown might bring as head coach
This is the first edition of Lakers mailbag where I'll answer questions Laker fans email me every week. Here's how the drill is going to work: Email me your question to the address marked at the bottom of the post with at least your full name and city of residency. If you're concerned with having your name being put out on the Web, that's fine. We'll go with the first name. But either way, send me your questions and I'll consider it for a mailbag every Friday. Hopefully this becomes a regular staple at the Lakers blog, but the success mostly hinges on your questions.
I'll also carry my pledge and engage more in the thread discussions, particularly since there won't be any practices or games to cover. So hopefully this is the first of many good mailbag posts. Without further ado, here are questions from this week's mailbag, all of them naturally pertaining to newly hired Lakers Coach Mike Brown.
1. Now that he’s in LA, with a whole squad of talent, what offense will [Brown] take? Will he keep the triangle or go for something else? What can we look forward to? -- Peter Chisom, Goleta, Calif.
It didn't take too long for that question to pop up in Brown's introductory press conference and he made it very clear the offense will look different. Though Brown said he'll still run "bits and pieces" of the triangle, it's going to look nothing like the sets Phil Jackson ran with the Lakers. Brown specifically mentioned three areas he wanted the Lakers to perfect, including "attacking the clock," "paint touches," and "spacing." Out of those three concepts, Brown wants the Lakers' offense to get the ball set in their offense in the first three or four seconds on the shot clock so there's more time to actually run the offense. He wants the Lakers to run constant ball reversals to throw the defense off balance and so that they fully utilize their inside-out game. And he wants the Lakers to have proper spacing so that there's floor balance.
Specifically regarding the inside game, Brown plans to draw from his experience as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs' 2003 championship team that featured getting the ball to David Robinson and Tim Duncan more in the post instead of the blocks and on more pick-and-roll action. Brown believes if the Lakers apply those concepts to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, it'll be harder for opponents to throw double teams at the frontline and push them out of the lane. Still, Brown made it clear regarding Kobe Bryant that "this is his team" and that his teammates need to find ways to make sure he has open looks in what he calls his "sweet spots." Brown's ideas all sound good in theory, but with Bynum's insistence on having a bigger role, Bryant immediately saying Bynum needs to "fall in line," and Gasol presumably having a better performance next season, the success of Brown's plan will hinge on how he gets everyone to buy into it.
2. To gain athleticism, speed, and youth, and consistency in the roster, at what positions do you see the biggest need for an upgrade? -- Gonz
As much as everyone would love to see the Lakers get Dwight Howard, it'd actually be better for them to see if they can land success in next year's free-agency class by acquiring Deron Williams or Chris Paul. But with the Lakers coming off a season that consisted of a $91-million payroll, there's really not much the Lakers can do unless they suddenly want to trade their core away. Lakers guard Shannon Brown remained adamant during his exit interview that he hasn't decided how he will exercise his $2.37-million option. But should he opt out, it's understandable if the Lakers don't feel as inclined to try to get him back as they did last year, considering his season-wide inconsistency. I'll leave the reporting aspect of free agency to my colleagues Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner, but the Daily News recently provided a good list of free-agent guards along with their 2010-2011 salary, including Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (1.81 million), Suns guard Aaron Brooks ($2.016 million), Utah's Ronnie Price ($1.38 million) and Minnesota's Sebastian Telfair ($2.7 million).
Whether or not the Lakers make any changes to their roster, it's indisputable that Derek Fisher's role will change since the Lakers are deviating from triangle. I believe his relationship with Bryant will prove more valuable because it's unclear how Brown will manage him, but there's no doubt his declining speed and athleticism will prove harder to compensate for in the new offense. That's why it's important Steve Blake provide the playmaking role he lacked last year, Brown provide more than just dunks should he return and Devin Ebanks learn the shooting guard position. The Lakers have a team option on Ebanks, but he indicated in his exit interview that he was told to work at that spot for next season.
I was wondering how the coaching change effects Lamar Odom's role? Does Brown have a history of going big? Is there a possibility that Lamar starts and Artest's minutes get reduced? Or moved to the two? Backing up Lamar or Kobe? -- Joseph
No one in the media asked Brown that question so it'd be unfair to speculate. But considering there was lots of ground to cover such as his overall coaching philosophy, who he's talked to on the team and history with Cleveland, that issue was understandably put on the back burner. I could see Artest's minutes get reduced, but only because Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks will be presumably more healthy next season. As enticing as it is to see a Triple Tower lineup featuring Bynum, Gasol and Odom, the Lakers' Game 3 performance showed that really exposed the Lakers on transition defense and closing out on the perimeter. Considering Brown has emphasized defense as his top priority, I'd highly doubt he'd have Artest, the team's best lockdown and perimeter, come off the bench.
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Photo: Lakers Coach Mike Brown has a big learning curve ahead of him if he wants to blend into the L.A. scene. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2011
Photo: Lakers Coach Mike Brown shares a laugh with some acquaintances following a news conference in El Segundo on Tuesday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2011