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T.J. SIMERS

What really matters is what Kobe Bryant thinks of new Lakers Coach Mike Brown

That will be the defining relationship and the key to whether the team finds success in Brown's reign. He says he can deal with egos, but detractors say he didn't deal with LeBron James too well.

May 31, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers Coach Mike Brown takes a break between interviews during his introductory news conference in El Segundo on Tuesday.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown takes a break between interviews during his introductory… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Mike Brown, down in Orange County to start the day schmoozing with Kobe Bryant, was now telling everyone in his afternoon news conference how excited he was to be the Lakers' new coach.

"The feeling in this town," I said, when given the chance to ask a question, "was you were the wrong choice, in part because there's a feeling you didn't handle LeBron all that well. What's your reaction?"

Oh, and welcome to L.A.

"First of all, I need to know if you were excited?" Brown replied.

"Actually, I'm probably in the minority here, and yes I was excited," I said.

"I like you," said Brown.

"That'll change," I quickly replied, and while everyone in the room laughed, his L.A. entrance exam continued.

"Did you handle LeBron well?" I asked, knowing he has now been assigned the task of coaching the Uncoachable.

"I feel like my time with LeBron was very productive; we did a lot of great things for the city and the organization in Cleveland. I don't know how or why people would think differently."

Uh-oh, the first red flag. If you have trouble believing someone on the no-brainers, what happens when the questions get tougher?

"They would think differently," I replied, "because you weren't invited back [to Cleveland] in the hopes LeBron would come back."

The only reason Brown was available to the Lakers was because the Cavaliers didn't think LeBron wanted anything to do with Brown anymore in Cleveland.

"I have no control over that; I can get deeper in that, which I won't, but things could have worked out where I could have stayed there," he said.

The double talk aside, it doesn't figure to work out here either unless Kobe buys into the Brown regime.

Wouldn't you agree, Mitch Kupchak?

"I think it's incredibly important to have a really solid relationship with your best player," he said.

Isn't this the single biggest issue facing Brown?

"This is still his team,'' Brown said of the Uncoachable, and I suspect he said the same thing to Kobe earlier in the day. "We'll make sure he'll have the ball in the sweet spots that he likes. He has a great understanding of my vision and is onboard."

Brown still looks like the best choice the Lakers could have made, with everyone facing the same hurdles. He was personable, filled with coaching clichés and enthusiasm.

He said the Lakers will go as far as their "determination, will and want" will take them, a little overkill but perfect to fire up fans accustomed to wondering whether Phil Jackson was awake.

He also told everyone at the news conference his strength is dealing with people and egos, and yet he apparently failed in dealing with LeBron and his ego.

"I had a great relationship with LeBron the whole time, even at the end," insisted Brown in defying the national perception of their relationship. "Let me ask you a question: Everything that everybody thinks of you — is it absolutely true?"

Does that include what Dwyre thinks?

"The same thing with me," said Brown when told one person out there might have the wrong idea about me.

It's a players' game, though, as Kobe and LeBron know so well, so it probably doesn't matter what most people think of Brown. It matters more what Kobe thinks of him.

Argue all you want how ridiculous it is to have the prima donnas in control, but that's pro basketball.

So what happens when Brown gets the Lakers' offer last week? He sends a text to Kobe. A text?

"Why didn't you call him?" I asked.

Brown said his phone calls pop up "private," and he didn't think Kobe would take his call. I'm guessing he was relieved "Mike Brown" didn't pop up on Kobe's phone, better not to know whether Kobe would've taken his call.

Why didn't Brown have Kupchak, Jim or Jerry Buss call Kobe and tell him the next "private" call he gets is going to be from the team's new coach?

If Kobe is miserable or unhappy, and we've all lived at times through that, what do you think Brown's chances for success will be? After the LeBron experience, no matter how he describes it, doesn't Brown do everything to get it right with Kobe?

Some reporters concluded Kobe wasn't in favor of Brown's hiring after Kobe declined to comment.

Brown and Kobe exchanged texts, talked on the phone and then resumed texting. It was like match.com, too soon to say if they will be going steady.

But Brown was smart enough to know he better meet face-to-face with Kobe on Tuesday before being introduced as the team's new coach and having to explain why they haven't met.

"I felt good about our meeting," Brown said, and what's the likelihood he would have said he felt badly had it gone that way?

Brown said Kobe was headed to Europe on vacation; apparently some waiter overseas would hear what he thinks of Brown before anyone here.

Kobe has three more years remaining on his contract, and the Lakers world is going to continue to revolve around him. The guy with 11 championship rings who preceded Brown learned to accept that.

It's a pretty safe wager Kobe is going to remain as Uncoachable as ever. Brown's job is to make that work so the Lakers can still win as a team.

"I'm not going to sit back here and say my time in L.A. is going to be defined by what my relationship with Kobe is going to be," Brown said, just like his time in Cleveland wasn't defined by LeBron.

But then of course it was.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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