Mike Brown, Kobe Bryant embrace constructive criticism
One timeout. One honest postgame quote. Five pages of notes. An hour-long film session.
These instances provided all the evidence one needed to conclude that Lakers Coach Mike Brown has established the courage, credibility and trust with Kobe Bryant to openly criticize him.
Brown called timeout Monday during the Lakers' 114-95 exhibition loss to the Clippers after Bryant failed to close out on Chauncey Billups' successful three-point attempt midway through the third quarter. Brown unflinchingly called Bryant out in a postgame news conference when he said "defensively, Kobe was just as guilty as everybody else of not contesting shots."
The five pages of notes Brown prepared for the team after watching film of Monday's game revealed in part how Bryant spent most of the game playing in his center-field position, which involves playing off his man and reacting only when that man has the ball. The hour-long film session Tuesday entailed rewinding and dissecting for the team every defensive lapse, including Bryant's, and then discussing them.
"I look at it as coaching," Brown said with a shrug. "That's what Dr. [Jerry] Buss pays me to do. He pays me to coach this team. If I was afraid to coach this team, then I shouldn't be here. It's as simple as that."
Yet many, including yours truly, believed Brown would not be able to find the courage and earn enough respect from Bryant to do so. After all, Shaquille O'Neal recently asserted in his autobiography that Brown never critiqued LeBron James in film sessions. Consider Bryant among the many who felt skeptical about how Brown would coach.
"What I heard about him was he was a pushover, [that] he doesn't say what he's thinking" Bryant said about Brown. "I haven't seen that at all. He's been the complete opposite. He's been detail-oriented, up front, open and honest. Praises guys when they do well, jumps on them when they mess up right away. He does that with me. He does that with Pau [Gasol]. He does that with Devin [Ebanks]. It's no different."
But for Bryant, Brown's willingness to criticize is especially important. For all the credit Phil Jackson rightfully earned for managing star players, even he had trouble striking the balance between giving Bryant the superstar treatment and holding him accountable.
The Bryant-Brown dynamic could feature plenty of chapters. But the early chapter so far rings positive. Brown has assuaged Bryant's initial concerns by showing he shares a similar work ethic, with his meticulous practice notes, his unwavering enthusiasm and his willingness to construct a large staff so all players receive individual instruction when they want it. In turn, Bryant has publicly supported Brown, volunteered for drills and, in this latest case, accepted the criticism of his defense and vowed to change it.
"That's his job," Bryant said. "I'd be upset if he was letting me skate through things. If you make mistakes, it's the coach's responsibility to point those out. If he can't point that out to me, he has no chance in pointing that out to anybody else."
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