Mike Brown handles Lakers' chaos with positive attitude
A pack of about 80 media members swarmed the Lakers' practice facility. They clicked pictures and zoomed in on the Lakers' practices. They chatted up Lakers officials about the ongoing saga surrounding the NBA nixing a trade that would've sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Lamar Odom to the Hornets. They wondered how the Lakers would address the 24 hours.
Suddenly, Lakers Coach Mike Brown walked into the fray Friday on the first day of training camp and provided a first glimpse of how he's going to handle the inevitable drama that seemingly surrounds the Lakers all the time. He maintained his positive attitude, in this case, by offering everyone a pack of Bazooka gum.
It wasn't exactly the same way Phil Jackson handled such controversies. He handled it with jokes, whether it was toward his players, the league, reporters, other teams, all for the sake of lightening the mood of a tension-filled situation. But as far as maintaining calmness throughout the fray, Brown appeared to carry the same approach.
He demonstrated that most notably with his gum offering. He revealed the letter from his former boss at Cleveland, Dan Gilbert, urging Stern to nix the deal. And most importantly, he accepted this as part of his job description.
“Hey, this is what it is and this is what happened,” said Brown. "I don’t know what else could happen or will happen. As a person you respect that. And we’ve all been through stuff.”
But not this kind of stuff.
Odom arrived about 90 minutes late to training camp before briefly talking with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Gasol showed up and didn't practice. Spokesman John Black cited a strained right quadriceps the Lakers' forward apparently suffered sometime last week. All accounts say Kupchak addressed the team in Odom's absence by maintaining a professional attitude, a discussion Lakers center Andrew Bynum admitted was "kind of awkward."
Through all this, Brown maintained a fine line toward showing empathy for Gasol and Odom feeling hurt about their standing on the team, while stressing the need to understand their job description. Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and yes, even Metta World Peace uttered similar refrains.
"You definitely feel bad. If you're a human and a good human being you feel bad for the people involved," Brown said. "But right now we're getting paid by the Lakers, so let's go do our job for the Lakers and the organization and the city and our families."
And, oh yeah, there was the basketball part. Brown quickly scrapped his plans on how to utilize Paul. He used D-league players to fill in for the Gasol and Odom absences. He fed the team enough information, mostly on the team's defensive scheme, to keep everyone at least temporarily distracted from everything else.
It remains to be seen how this plays out. But for now, it appears Brown's handling the circumstances as best as anyone could.
"I look at it as that's what a head coach does," Brown said. "He's got to be able to make adjustments whether it's off the floor or on the floor.
"If we had to we could have made the adjustment," Brown said. "But we didn't. We were prepared and we came in and practiced today."
-- Mark Medina
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