Lakers showing cracks in flimsy foundation
Several of his players joked about Mike Brown's famously long practices. But in due time, Brown's nickname, "All Day, Every Day," could evoke more frustration than laughter.
Brown admits his bench currently lacks an identity, causing him to shuffle various combinations in hopes something will work. His approach very well could just involve a rearranging of chairs without any resolution.
Kobe Bryant has remained supportive of Brown for his work ethic and attention to detail. Yet even the consummate student of the game openly wondered after the Lakers' 98-87 loss Thursday to the Miami Heat why Brown is throwing out new plays when the team has yet to grasp the original ones.
Brown has admitted some mistakes. He's conducted too many long practices. Bryant, who played 41 minutes in a blowout to Miami, has averaged 37.9 minutes this season when Brown has hoped to play him between 33 and 35. Brown has tried out too many different rosters. It's all part of a genuine effort in hopes of maximizing the Lakers' aging roster. But the Lakers' loss to Miami may mark a turning point in whether the players truly buy into what Brown is selling.
The Lakers have embraced his defensive principles, his welcome personality and his passion for the job. But their loss to Miami shows he's been trying too hard to a fault.
He played his starters for most of the fourth quarter during a blowout in hopes it could compensate for lost practice time because of a compacted schedule. Instead, it just reduced the margin of defeat, added fatigue to an energy-sapped team and worsened the Lakers' preparation for its game Friday against Orlando.
Many of Brown's practices conclude with hour-long shooting sessions in hopes the repetition will improve outside shooting. Yet the Lakers remain last in the league with a 25.4% clip.
Brown has clearly outlined that the Lakers' offense rests on Bryant finding shots on the elbows and baseline, while Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum work the post. But his conflicting messages on Bryant's shooting volume and the balance he wants on offense adds little clarity to an offense already without structure.
Some might argue that the Lakers' quest to continually tweak and fix things eventually will work out. The grinding mentality may at least ensure some wins no matter how ugly. And the Lakers' hope to land Dwight Howard or Deron Williams before the trade deadline could make these concerns mute.
But it's also easy to see how this could mark the beginning of the Lakers' flimsy foundation falling apart. In most cases, the Lakers at least embrace the intent behind the long practices. They remain patient with the shuffling lineups. And they're eager to learn all the new information thrown their way.
It won't take long, however, for that enthusiasm to wane. Performances such as the Lakers' loss to Miami will only accelerate that frustration even more.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Pau Gasol drives for the basket Thursday in the Lakers' loss to the Miami Heat. Credit: Rhona Wise / European Pressphoto Agency.