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Mike Brown offers a solid first impression but can he sell his ideas?

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What I liked about Mike Brown's introductory press conference

1. He brought the right enthusiasm. It's a dicey balance, but Brown managed to provide the positive energy needed in tackling on this tough assignment as becoming the next Lakers' coach. He continuously smiled, made every effort to get to know reporters and enthusiastically answered every question. I'll have more on what this means, but with all the skepticism surrounding his hire, it was a good sign to see he had the right perspective in understanding the scrutiny, while making it clear he was going to work as hard as he can to overcome any transition period following the Phil Jackson era.

"I have great respect for Phil Jackson and all of his accomplishments," Brown said. "I'm not sure what size shoes he wears, but I'm not here to fill his shoes. I'm here to help this team and this organization carve our own path to success.

2. Brown specifically defined what philosophies he wants on offense and defense.  His three philosophies he wants the Lakers to hone in on defense entails what he calls "shrinking the floor," not allowing drives into the middle of the lane and always contesting shots. His three philosophies on offense entailed what he called "attacking the clock" "paint touches" and "spacing. Attacking the clock involves getting the ball to the frontcourt in the first three to four seconds on the shot clock so that there's more time to actually run the offense. The paint touches involves having ball reversal and making sure they play inside-out. And having the proper spacing entails making sure everyone's balanced on the floor. 

Brown also plans to use his offensive system when he was an assistant with San Antonio's championship team in 2003 that involved getting Tim Duncan and David Robinson looks in the post instead of on the block. That would give the likes of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum better looks inside and minimize double teams from coming up at the block. 

"We're not going to run the triangle offense," Brown said. "But we will have bits and pieces of it incorporated in it. It'll be basedo n the skillset and comfort level of our players. That will determine how much of it will be part of our offense."

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3. Brown sent a right message in holding players accountable while also giving the team ownership in the changes he wants to make. I'll have more below on whether he'll actually be able to pull this off. But for now, Brown offered in theory the perfect outline on how he's going to strike the balance between taking control of the team, while also respecting everyone's space because of their championship experience in talent level.

On accountability:  "If there's a missed assignment during a game, this way I'm probably different from Phil, especially early on, I may take a timeout. People may say, what is he wasting his timeout for? Well, I need to teach. I'm a new coach, new team, new system, so I may burn a timeout just to teach. Not only that, if somebody blows an assignment or something like that, I'm not trying to criticize them or make them look bad, but it will be up on the film."

"They'll see it the next day. If I have to sit a guy down, I'll sit a guy down. If I have to call the guy in my office, I'll do that. I feel like I'm a fair guy, a fair coach, a fair person and my door will always be open. I think the best way to get people to buy in is to be honest with them. Sometimes they may not like what you're saying, but if they're good people, which this team has, at the end of the day, they'll appreciate me looking them in the eye and tell them what I think and why I think it. Remember, whenever I do something, it will always be for the betterment of the team, not for any specific individual, nor for myself."

On allowing the team to take ownership: "Anytime you're in a position of authority and you're dealing with talented individuals, they will have their own view and opinion on things. I hope that every once in a while, Matt Barnes, Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol questions me. I welcome that. They're not going to like everything that comes out of my mouth 100%. When they do question me, there will be a time and place for it. As a coach, my job is to be the filter. At the end of the day, it stops with me. I have to make the decision on what's best for the team. I don't have a problem if anybody is upset or wants to question me or anything like that. Hey come on, my door is open. We can do it in frnt of the team. We're family here. I'll listen. But then like I said, I'm going to make the final decision on what's best for the team."

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What I didn't like about Brown's press conference

1. Matt Barnes was the only player to show up to the press conference. Barnes and team officials stressed that it's the offseason and that most players are on vacation, including Andrew Bynum (England), Pau Gasol (Spain), Kobe Bryant (somewhere in Europe), Derek Fisher (undisclosed). Steve Blake told me last week he's spending most of his offseason in Portland, Devin Ebanks is in New York, Derrick Caracter is in Florida and I learned Shannon Brown was out of town within the last week. But I find it hard to believe that only one player could make the press conference. Heck, Ron Artest has spent the past two Sundays playing sandball. I don't expect the entire team to show up and it's easy to overstate the underlying message behind this. But I don't buy the notion that it's difficult for at least some of them to alter vacation plans. 

"I was energized just coming to this press conference," Barnes said. "Even though we're a long way out, we got this feeling back it's time to go to work. Granted, we have a long time to go. But I have no question and no doubt everyone will come to training camp ready to roll."

2. Brown still hasn't convinced me he'll truly be able to sell his ideas. The Lakers wish they weren't under this circumstances, but Brown is going to have an easier time getting everyone to buy into his philosophy because of how they ended the season with a four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks. As Brown said, "Hopefully when we start training camp, I have 15 angry men I have to work with."

But what happens the moment the Lakers hit a rough patch, Bryant decides to break out of the offense or there's some sort of on-court distraction? Brown rightfully recognized that coaching, particularly with the Lakers, go beyond the X's and O's. But with Brown's constant dodging on what really transpired behind the scenes between him and LeBron James and his self-admission that he didn't see Bryant in person until Tuesday morning, I'm very skeptical on how he's going to apply his two philosophies with holding players accountable and giving the team ownership. Brown has since talked with Fisher, Gasol and Artest since getting hired and the revelation that he refused to allow management to keep a copy of his basketball DVD's following the interview provides an interesting nugget illustrating his willingness to stand up for himself.

But Brown's most important relationship in making his mark with the Lakers successful won't be with management. It will be with his players, most notably Bryant. It'll be interesting on how this all plays out, but by the sound of it, it seems like Brown simply deferring to Bryant.

"This is still his team. Kobe is Kobe," Brown said. "He has five titles. He's one of the greatest ever. His role will not change. We'll make sure he'll have the ball in the sweet spots he likes to have them in. A lot of this stuff is what we went over or I went over with Kobe. He has a great understanding of my vision and he's on board."

There's going to be more issues than simply making sure Bryant gets shots in his sweet spots. How will he handle the inevitable clash between Bynum wanting a larger offensive role and Bryant saying he needs to "fall in line?" How will he strike a balance between giving Bryant the space on offense, but holding him accountable when he's not utilizing his talent around him?

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers Coach Mike Brown takes a break between interviews during his introductory news conference in El Segundo on Tuesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2011.

Photo: Mike Brown speaks with reporters after being introduced as the Lakers' new coach at a news conference in El Segundo on Tuesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2011)

 
Comments () | Archives (17)

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Sidebar: Interesting to see Mavs finally start shooting like meer mortals. Granted, the Heat ran better D at them than the Lakers, but not much. Not enough difference for the huge change in shooting percentage the Lakers had to endure with out-of-this-world shot making by Mavs universally.

Oh well, them's the breaks! Go Mavs!

Art_Lakers,

re: Can we switch your question around a little bit?

Is it safe to say then, that you think Miami with Bynum in place of Bosh or Dallas with Bynum in place of Chandler that each of those teams would be worse than they are now?

my response:

1. if we had traded Bynum for Bosh, neither would be in Miami right now.
Bynum's not a free agent and Bosh would have signed an extension to
play for the Lakers.

2. Dallas would be worse with Bynum. Chandler is more athletic than Bynum,
meaning he runs faster, rotates faster, focuses more on defense. fwiw, my
dad used to watch him play in high school.

Art_Lakers,

re: Can we switch your question around a little bit?

Is it safe to say then, that you think Miami with Bynum in place of Bosh or Dallas with Bynum in place of Chandler that each of those teams would be worse than they are now?

my response:

1. if we had traded Bynum for Bosh, neither would be in Miami right now.
Bynum's not a free agent and Bosh would have signed an extension to
play for the Lakers.

2. Dallas would be worse with Bynum. Chandler is more athletic than Bynum,
meaning he runs faster, rotates faster, focuses more on defense. fwiw, my
dad used to watch him play in high school.

Good article! Barnes provides solid D. Did anyone see the funny story about the Laker's pick up game???

http://milkthebull.com/2011/05/09/lakers-self-destruct-in-pick-up-game/

"There's going to be more issues than simply making sure Bryant gets shots in his sweet spots."

---

Kobe's sweet spot is anywhere past the half court line...

Morning folks,

MM great thread, and what I loved most was this line right here..
2. Brown still hasn't convinced me he'll truly be able to sell his ideas.

so far all he has been saying is, I'm going to carve a path to success, but how exactly he will do that, its still a big mistery until training camp.
Its pretty sad though that no one besides Matt made it to the press conference for the new coach, I know they are on vacation, but if you put yourself in Mik's shoes, it'll look really bad, that only one player showed up...

so far so OK at this point!

Mark Medina -

"Still hasn't convinced me..." ?? Still ??? It was the guy's introductory presser.Did you expect him to say some magic words to erase practically all doubt in your mind ?? He couldn't possibly have laid out the details of what he has planned for the team.And convincing of any real value can only be done on the basketball floor.I don't think even words from the almighty himself would suffice if they don't translate into action later :) Give the guy a break and try being more meaningful with your skepticism.

Interesting points of view from the Cavs blog regarding MB hiring. These are insights from actual fans who have seen MB manage the the team in CLE:

http://www.fearthesword.com/2011/5/25/2189044/former-cavs-coach-mike-brown-to-coach-lakers#comments

the cleavland people arn't saying good things

Criticizing Brown for "deferring to Bryant"?

Isn't this a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, MM?

Look. Whoever follows Phil Jackson is always going to be a big step down. If Pat Riley followed Phil as coach, it would still be a step down. Popovich would be a step down.

I'm willing to give Mike Brown a chance.

Mike Brown was able to get a Cleveland team with less talent than this Lakers squad to the finals. So he's not a complete failure as a coach. In fact, I'd lay more blame there on his players not performing well in the playoffs.

There's a difference here. Other than Shaq (who was old and decrepit when he played in Cleveland), Brown didn't have a single player who had won a ring before. Now he has 8 of them (barring the Lakers trading away any core players). These players have the savvy of how to fight through adversity in the playoffs, and the experience to succeed when they GET back to the finals.

The true failure of the Lakers in the 2011 playoffs was their defense. Dallas shot 49% against the Lakers for the WHOLE SERIES! In the two championship years, they were holding teams to more like 40% to 42% for most series.

If Brown can re-energize their defensive play and get them back to the top 4 or 5 in the league in defense, they should be a viable championship contender once again.
Yes, there's a chance that they'll fail. A chance that they're too old. A chance that someone will get injured. A chance that some team has just completely passed them.

... and besides, Jerry West is working for the warriors. I've heard rumors that this is the first (and last) trade he has cooked up:

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=3ke9nw9

(you know... kind of like Kevin McHale's sleazy dealings)

So Mike, since you're continuing the LA sportswriter tradition of blasting a hire while saying enough positive things to be able to point to your endorsement of the decision if things work out for Brown, I think it would be fair to point out that everything you said would apply to any coach they hire. The exception, possibly, is the players' attendance, which maybe would have been higher if their choice BShaw had been selected, but is it a good thing to please the players who didn't show up for the playoffs and slepwalked through what Kobe called the "wasted season"? If Phil Jackson can't motivate these guys it's a player issue not a coaching issue. The fair and gutsy thing to do is to state who would have been a better choice than the Mike Brown and why? I honestly don't remember anyone ever saying in print that they wished the Lakers were coached by Rick Adelman or Jeff Van Gundy until Mike Brown got hired. It's not like the Lakers passed on Jackson, Riley, and Chuck Daly to pick Brown.

I think Mike Brown will do a good job but I think he's in a tough spot. I don't think Phil would have stepped down if he thought there was still a championship that could be squeezed out of the current roster.

pfunk - If you can, try to keep that amazing commentary and insight on the hush hush. Phil may be retired, but I'm still trying to get that exclusive with him when he releases his book where it blames everything on Kobe.

Sushant Sen - You have a point to a degree. He'll answer everything based on what happens on the floor. I just didn't think it was a good sign that Barnes was the only player to show up and that he seemed to beat around the bush regarding his conversation with Kobe.


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