Mike Brown came into training camp as the nice guy, everyone’s buddy. He was the anti-Phil Jackson…making a point not to ruffle anybody’s feathers on the Los Angeles Lakers. On one occasion he even kissed Andrew Bynum on the head. He quickly gained the fondness of his players. Well, in late March, he has finally earned some respect…just in time for the playoffs.
When Kobe Bryant was benched late against Memphis, the ball was sticking. George Karl would’ve screamed, the offense was that stale. The last possession saw Bryant grinding in the post as the rest of the guys stood still…it was awkward to watch. It also caused an uncontested Memphis fastbreak dunk. The Mamba’s deep turnaround shot in the corner created poor spacing and all the other guys crashed the boards in unison. This lack of energy and cohesion on offense led to a lack of energy on defensive end…nobody got back. The Grizzlies didn’t have a head start, they just wanted it more. Brown responded by deciding to rest Kobe for a minute, but when he sent him back in there wasn’t a dead ball for a handful of possessions. The added time at the scorer’s table just added drama to the situation. The truth is, Kobe hadn’t rested all half and it was showing in his play.
Kobe’s comments afterward seemed to validate Brown’s authority. “It’s his decision to make,” Bryant told reporters after the game. “He makes the decision. He’s the coach. If you guys are looking for a story, I’m not going to give you one. I can’t sit here and criticize his decisions.”
Bryant’s comments reinforced Brown’s power as coach and sent a huge message long-term as to who’s truly running this team. But, in Mike’s words, he “just decided to make the substitution…that was it. Nothing else.”Alright, moving on…..
Andrew Bynum was taken out of the lineup the next game, up in Golden State, for a totally different reason. He took a bonehead shot just 3 minutes into the second half. ‘Drew’ sent a message by shooting that three: I deserve to take whatever shot I want. Brown sent a memo right back: have a seat big fella. To be fair, it wasn’t just the long jumper but also the lazy transition defense…David Lee outran everyone downcourt on the very next play as Drew yawned. Bynum sat out the rest of the 3rd quarter versus the Warriors. He came back to start the fourth, only to make a couple of heartless moves in the post. Then, he shot 2 free throws in obvious indifference. He dribbled once and flung it with no real follow through. That’s not his rhythm. If you watch Laker games you’ll know that he usually takes 4 or 5 slow dribbles. Mike saw this and pulled him for the rest of the game. The Lakers got the win with a small lineup…..message sent.
Bynum seemed surprised after the game. “I don’t know what was bench-worthy about the shot, to be honest with you. I made one (against Memphis), and I wanted to make another one. I swear. That’s it. I guess (Brown) took offense to it, so he put me on the bench.” Brown gave this cleaned up version of his thought process: “I brought him back for a little bit and then I took him out again and I just felt it was best to go with the group that we had out there.”
Does this stuff just follow the Lakers everywhere they go, or is it just bloggissists (like myself) putting them under a microscope? Whatever it is, you can’t deny that Mike Brown has just a bit more authority today than he did this time last week. We’ll see how that translates in the playoffs.
No matter how far this team goes in the postseason, Mike is doing things his way.
As he told reporters recently…..”I’m coaching this team how I see fit.”