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With Mike Brown Gone, Where To Now For The Lakers?

Following the news on Saturday that the LA Lakers had fired head coach Mike Brown, there has been an influx of speculation about how the team will cope with the change, who would take on the challenge as an interim coach and ultimately, who would replace Brown. We’ve seen a very vulnerable Lakers team so far this season and yes, there are some excuses. Dwight Howard’s back, Steve Nash’s Leg, Kobe Bryant’s foot as well as others but the biggest concern amongst many fans was that Mike Brown was still holding his position as head coach.

After the worst start to a season since 1993/94, the Lakers had been very close to pushing the panic button with many people beginning to believe this may be a reincarnation of the much over-hyped team of 2004/05 and not in fact as scary as most thought they would be. Including the preseason, this Lakers team of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace went 1-12. One single win in 13 games over 5 odd months. This team of superstars found themselves alone at the stone cold bottom of the Western Conference. Granted, it’s early days but fans in LA don’t want to wait. They want to win. Now.

As is usually the case, the Coach is the first to be put in the hot seat and boy was Mike Brown in trouble. Following the Lakers hideous loss to the Utah Jazz on Thursday, fans were again calling for his head. Surprisingly, owner Jim Buss came to Brown’s side to defend the man he personally selected to coach the Lakers following the departure of Champion coach Phil Jackson 2 years ago. Buss stood firm on Brown’s ability to turn the Lakers’ fortunes around and showed faith and trust in his coach, but in the end this wasn’t the truth at all and Brown’s firing came but 48 hours later.

So is it right that this storied franchise abandoned all hope that Brown could relight a fire underneath it and move on, or should they have given him more time to steady the ship? It’s hard to tell until the Lakers either start winning, or continue losing. All we can do is speculate as to how it could fail, and how it could work.

Mike Brown’s tenure as coach in Cleveland garnered him the title of coach of the year in 2009 after taking the Cavaliers to a 66-16 record and a Conference Semi Finals birth but the disappointment that followed saw him fired in May of 2010 and join ESPN as an analyst. In 2011, he was hired by the Lakers following their exit in the Conference Semi’s to Dallas and Phil Jackson’s retirement. The shortened, 66-game season was a disappointment for the Lakers who slumped and were again eliminated in the conference semi finals by a red hot Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes, this was an aging Lakers team with no point guard and little bench power, but as always more was expected of them and blame fell directly on Brown’s shoulders.

The Lakers management then had one of the most active off season’s in some time, trading for superstars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash whilst also gaining the services of bench utilities Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. The new season suddenly became the Lakers to lose, and the thought process was that this was the team to beat in the West, and maybe the league in it’s entirety. But then came the preseason, and the infiltration of a new style of offense known as the Princeton. Likened to Phil Jackson’s triangle, this new approach was designed to create more open space for players and encourage easy buckets. But it didn’t work. Many questioned the use of the Princeton with players such as Howard, Gasol and especially Nash being such experts in the pick and roll which the Princeton doesn’t utilize at all. Assistant coach Eddie Jordan was the man responsible for the Princeton and unfortunately for LA it didn’t all go to plan. They are third in the league for turnovers averaging a whopping 18 per game, most of which have led to opposition transition points.

But the offense wasn’t the main reason behind the emphatic collapse of this super power. The Lakers defense over the past month has been nothing short of disgraceful, a fact that sees the Lakers leading the league in opposition second chance points and a big fat head ache. How do we limit turnovers, start scoring, utilize our guys and defend like we have a 3-time defensive player of the year on our team? The Lakers believed that the first step in answering these questions was firing Mike Brown. So on Saturday morning at approximately 7AM (Aus), that’s exactly what they did.

Was it too soon? Maybe. Was Brown the right coach for this group? Probably not. It’s widely known he was disliked by the fans, and more recently it was suggested he and Kobe Bryant had had a falling out, but the players continued to stick by their coach and the way he led the team. In the end though, it simply wasn’t enough. Brown’s inconsistent coaching style, and strange rotations continued to cause grief and there really was only one thing to be done. With cries of Jackson, D’Antoni and Sloan ringing around the media, it became more and more apparent that Mike Brown’s time in Los Angeles had come to an end. And so it was. There were reasons to keep this defensively minded coach, and it may have been a little too early, but with names floating around like the aforementioned it seemed as though it was the right decision.

Since coming on board as interim coach, Bernie Bickerstaff has overseen wins against Golden State and Sacramento and the players seem to have found an energy they lacked under Coach Brown. Granted, wins against two underachieving sides is nothing to write home about, but it’s worthy of a good old cheer for many Lakers fans who have suffered over the past few months at the hands of their struggling heroes. But, it now seems as though there is a spark there that many thought would never show itself.

Where to now however? Well, it seems as though the Lakers don’t want to muck around. As mentioned earlier, there have been names thrown around that might be suitable to fill the position, those being former Knicks (and Steve Nash) coach Mike D’Antoni, former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson. All have their qualities, and all would benefit the club for different reasons, but all reports point to Jackson once again taking the reigns of the team he left not two years ago. Jackson being back on board would surely be a step in the right direction for the team. His ability to not only get the best out of his players but also to keep the bigger egos and locker room etiquette under control will be huge for this team in the coming months.

Reports suggest the Lakers met with Jackson yesterday and offered him a 2 year deal worth $10 Million and according to sources at ESPN, is a 95% chance to sign on for his third tenure as coach of the Lakers. Two issues facing him are his health and the rigorous travel schedule, and the hiring of his assistants Kurt Rambis and Scottie Pippen (yeah, I was surprised as well). As long as these hurdles are crossed, don’t be surprised if you see Phil Jackson back on the sidelines by the next time the Lakers take the court against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday (AU).

What do you think? Did the Lakers do the right thing by firing their coach, or is it too early to call? Let us know via Twitter @NBANationOZ or in the comments below!

Nick C.

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