Mike Brown, Lakers in Trouble

Coach Ron Meyer: Mike Brown, Lakers in Trouble

I think Mike Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers is a great defensive coach given the proper tools. The evidence is pretty clear that he's not a creative offensive coach. In LA's current series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brown may be in trouble on both sides of the ball because of personnel matchups.

Brown is saddled right now with a team that doesn't move very well...and they're facing a very athletic team in Oklahoma City. Yes, the big guys inside, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, are tough to shoot over at close range. Denver found that out in the last round...but almost stole the series as an underdog because they either beat those guys down the court...or they backed out in the halfcourt game and got themselves open jumpers. Kobe Bryant used to be a defensive stud. His legs aren't quite gone yet, but he's not at all what he used to be guarding his position.

Defensive stalwart Metta World Peace can't guard everybody! And, the bench players don't have a stopper they can trust...while facing a team where you need more than one stopper.

It's possible for the Lakers to play well defensively here if Oklahoma City gets stubborn about a game plan that has Russell Westbrook trying to drive and dunk over Bynum and Gasol. But, if the Thunder play smart, the Lakers don't have many workable defensive options for Coach Brown, no matter how great a defensive coordinator he's always been.

Teams have figured out that double-teaming Kobe will either lead to a bad forced up shot, or a floated pass somewhere that defenders have time to react to. Teams have also figured out that double-teaming Bynum will often lead to a turnover or a hurried shot on a kickout that goes up just as the shock clock is running out. If you double team either of those guys with the ball...then you're in position to completely shut down the Lakers.

Denver did a great job of this in the latter stages of their first round series with LA. That Game Seven loss for the Nuggets was largely because Steve Blake happened to get hot on jumpers out of the double teams. Anyone would be content to let Blake be the guy who beats them. Oklahoma City sure isn't afraid of him.

What can Brown do to streamline the offense? Possibly nothing! Kobe Bryant is going to overrule most changes because he wants to be the guy with the ball. Andrew Bynum is already pouting when he doesn't get the rock enough, and he's not looking to improve ball movement to teammates when he has it. You're going to trust Metta World Peace to make brainy plays on offense? Gasol is the only guy with a sense of the team game offensively, that's why he makes so many great passes at the rim to Bynum.

I just don't see much chess Brown can play on this side of the ball. His pieces have minds of their own, and get frustrated easily. That's part of why this team loses so many playoff blowouts. When things start to go South, the whole offense implodes.

I don't think Mike Brown would be fired if the Lakers lost this series, or even if they got swept. First year coaches have a longer leash than that, even if a team Vice President is also a TV announcer. And, the management of the Lakers knows how hard it is to deal with the egos on that team. The daughter of the owner is still dating the guy who took a coaching hiatus because he couldn't stand it any longer! But, I think it's going to be very hard for Brown to lead his team to victory in this series...and to lead his team back to "championship caliber" unless something is done to improve ball movement on offense. Kobe thinks of himself as the offensive coach...but he just wants to call his own number every possession.

I'll be watching the chess match on the court tonight very closely. If the Lakers are going to make adjustments that will save their hopes...it's TONIGHT. If they can't find solutions on both sides of the floor, it's just a matter of when they lose this series, not if. And, as we've seen the past few seasons...if the Lakers are losing, they're not covering spreads because they lose so emphatically.

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