Celtics Coach Doc Rivers reacts to a call against one of his players in the… (Elsa / Getty Images )
Lakers Coach Mike Brown and Celtics Coach Doc Rivers face many of the same challenges this season.
Both are dealing with an aging veteran roster. Both are coaching a team that faces uncertainty whether their core lineup will be broken up before the March 15 trade deadline. Neither team is hardly dominating their respective conferences. The Lakers (24-16) are fourth in the Western Conference, while Boston (21-18) reamains seventh in the East.
But here's one difference: Rivers says he can't fathom having to handle what Brown's been dealt. The NBA rejected the Chris Paul deal that left the Lakers without an elite point guard, temporarily with an upset Lamar Odom, and with an emotional Pau Gasol. The Lakers front office then traded its best reserve in Odom and brought in free agents such as Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono that have hardly made a significant difference on the team.
Given the circumstances, Rivers expressed sympathy toward the challenges Brown has faced in his first season as the Lakers' coach.
"It made Mike's job almost impossible early on," Rivers said. "Walking in to coach a team, you've had your preseason talks with them and have them all bought in. Then a trade happens where three or four of them are involved with it and one of them gets rejected. It's tough to trust after [that]. It made it a very difficult job for Mike. I wouldn't want to be in that situation."
Rivers' assessment is a tad misleading. The Lakers made the initial trade for Paul a day before training camp, so the interaction between the coaching staff and players remained minimal. Only an actual handful attended voluntary workouts, and they weren't allowed to talk with the coaching staff. The Odom deal to the Dallas Mavericks happened prior to the third day of training camp. So it's not as if Brown had forged much of a relationship with his team at that point anyway.
Still, Brown entered the season in a dicey situation that made it hard to win over the players' trust when they remained upset with the front office. Brown's criticism on his shuffling rotations, how he allocates minutes, parcels out information and runs his offense remain valid. But Brown certainly deserves some grace period.
Even with the challenges the Lakers and Celtics face, Rivers expressed optimism that the postseason will be a different story.
"I guarantee the Lakers feel the same way," Rivers said. "We know there are favorites in the East and we know there are favorites in the West. There should be. We haven't deserved to be one. Neither have they yet. But it's 0-0 when the playoffs start. If both teams are healthy, you just never know."