The Los Angeles Lakers hit the panic button five games into the season. Sporting a 1-4 record, the Lakers tied the can to Mike Brown and relieved him of his duties as head coach. The move just demonstrated that the team was never comfortable with him as the coach and really didn’t trust him to lead the team in the future.
Five regular season games? Really? That’s it? If that doesn’t reek of panic, I don’t know what does.
Even with a winless preseason, the new "big three" have had very little time together. Dwight Howard missed part of the preseason due to recovery from back surgery and when he returned toward the end of the exhibition schedule, Kobe Bryant sat out the final few preseason tilts with a foot injury.
Finally, the regular season gets going and Steve Nash suffers an injury, having played a grand total of 25 minutes. That’s time to develop chemistry, right?
But that’s what happens when you are looking for instant gratification. Somebody please tell me, are they awarding the NBA championship and the Larry O’Brien trophy at U.S. Thanksgiving, or Christmas?
The twitter feed from ESPN Stats stated dismissing Brown after five games was akin to firing a baseball manger in the eighth inning of the season’s tenth game, or giving the golden handshake to a college football coach in the third quarter of the first game.
There was a fixation on the Lakers new offence, the Princeton offence, but as I wrote on Nov. 1, it wasn’t the only offence they were using and there was a reason to try and involve some of the other players.
For those shaking their heads at the Princeton offence, it did a pretty good job helping the New Jersey Nets win back-to-back Eastern Conference titles under Byron Scott and Eddie Jordan, who was hired by the Lakers this season.
And before you say they didn’t have Steve Nash, they had some guy, who was a pretty good decision maker, named Jason Kidd. But regardless of what they decided to run, it was eventually going to succeed, how could it not? They have two of the best players in the history of the game in Bryant and Nash.
However, the real issue with the Lakers was, and still, is their defence. At the time of the coaching change they were in the bottom half of the NBA in opponents scoring, and in the bottom third of the league in opponents field goal percentage. Yes, the offence was an issue as only two teams had turned the ball over on average per game more than the Lakers.
Egos were at work as well. When Phil Jackson rode off into the sunset, the Laker front office decided they would try and do it themselves. They probably should have put in a call to the Bulls because they also tried to win, starting in 1999, while moving away from the championship blueprint created during the Jackson era in Chicago. The Lakers had a potential head coach in Brian Shaw who not only knew and understood the Jackson system while being mentored by him, but he had the blessing of Kobe Bryant as well.
Time is of the essence in Lakerland, as this current trio was put together to win it all this season. Kobe has publicly hinted as seeing the finish line in his career, Nash is 38 years old and Howard has the option of walking away at the end of the season as a free agent. If the Lakers don’t win now, it may be difficult to pull rabbits out of the hat in the future the way they did this past summer to retool the team and stay in title contention.
So who replaces Brown?
There are plenty of NBA coaches on the sidelines that would love to coach a championship calibre team. Nate McMillan and Jerry Sloan are two names that come to mind. McMillan has worked with both Bryant and Howard on the Olympic squad while Sloan is a hard-nosed veteran coach who had John Stockton and Karl Malone and probably knows a thing or two about screen and roll basketball and disciplined play.
Mike D’Antoni’s name has come up as a coach who is creative offensively and had success coaching Nash, but his teams don’t exactly set the world on fire defensively. And the one name that would be at the top of my list is Jackson. Is he willing come back to the grind of the NBA season? It remains to be seen.
Regardless of who the Laker front office brings in to coach the team, there is too much talent for them not to succeed. They will eventually get it together, make the playoffs and Mike Brown’s tenure will be a distant memory while the new coach will garner the credit.
The pressure is on now. The panic button has been reset and the Laker front office is hoping not to have to use it again in the near future.