Thoughts on Mike Brown, Lakers

27 05 2011

The NBA Takeover is in full effect. LeBron James and the Miami Heat are likely set to dominate the NBA for the next four or five years, although much of their future, as with every other team, hinges on what the next Collective Bargaining Agreement looks like. Let’s assume the Heat don’t have to break up the James-Wade-Bosh trio due to salary cap discrepancies. We now know that the Heat can overcome adversity to play for a championship. There have been few NBA franchises which have claimed to have a dynasty at any point in the league’s history – the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Spurs among the most notable. (Some might cite the Rockets or 76ers or Knicks or Pistons or even the old St. Louis Hawks, but let’s keep it to the franchises which won title after title.)

As the Heat near the eve of the first of likely multiple titles, the Lakers are clinging to their fading superstar. The end is near for Kobe Bryant, which are seven words I’ve dreaded hearing, reading or writing for years. It’s so hard to let go, especially when you’re a fan of a team with a player as transcendent and memorable as Bryant. Few like him come along in any sport; so few athletes mesh supreme physical talent with an unyielding work ethic. It’s amazing to watch but after all these seasons Kobe’s time atop the NBA landscape is nearly over – if it hasn’t already ended. Enter Mike Brown, who finds himself ready to coach Old Kobe Bryant after guiding Young LeBron into the early phase of his prime.

I don’t deplore Brown’s hiring. I have to stay optimistic as a Lakers fan. What concerns about Brown’s hiring is Jim Buss’ insistence on removing the Lakers as much as possible from the Phil Jackson Era a.k.a. a period of time which brought five titles in 11 seasons to L.A. Buss is the son of owner Jerry Buss, and like any underachieving, spoiled son of a self-made man, Buss is trying to stake a name for himself. I get it. He didn’t want Brian Shaw, who very well may have been as much overwhelmed by continuing to drive a ship that began with Jackson as much as he could have succeeded by maintaining a consistent environment within the Lakers franchise. Jeff Van Gundy would have been a perfect hire given the Lakers’ big yet slow collection of stars, as they could’ve played into Van Gundy’s half-court style of ball while improving their defense.

Yet Buss, who led the hiring process even over Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, wanted his own guy, not someone whom the fan base – and possibly the rest of Lakers management – might have preferred. So, in an irony that could seemingly be struck up only in a movie, Kobe Bryant will try to eke out at least one more title with the coach who formerly led the young star who is at the forefront  of that dynasty Kobe and the Lakers will attempt to resist. The NBA is all drama, all the time and next season will be no different.

I don’t know in what way the Lakers will change. Buss loves Andrew Bynum, his pet project, so much so that even Dwight Howard’s availability may not persuade Buss to allow a Bynum-for-Howard deal. (I’m for that swap, along with likely Odom, if Howard really is that available.) Kobe will definitely stay on the Lakers, Bynum likely will and I’m pretty sure Gasol will remain on the team. The Heat are certainly the dominant team in the NBA now and for next season – if there’s a next season – but the Lakers have enough ammo for at least one more charge. As a Lakers fan, I have no choice but to let go of the Jackson Era and support Brown. The Lakers can get Title No. 17, LeBron and the Heat be damned.

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