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Lakers need a tuneup, but are they tuning out Coach Mike Brown?

After ugly loss to West-leading Thunder and Saturday's ugly win over worst-in-West Hornets, it's fair to ask if Lakers, Andrew Bynum in particular, are listening to their coach. And some fans are asking.

March 31, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • The jury of Lakers fans still seems undecided about first-year Coach Mike Brown, wondering if he has control of the team.
The jury of Lakers fans still seems undecided about first-year Coach Mike… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

The Lakers didn't lose the snore-fest, but Coach Mike Brown lost me.

Why should I be any different than Andrew Bynum?

As embarrassing as the Lakers were in struggling to beat the worst team in the West — a New Orleans team playing without eight of its players — I was stunned to hear what Bynum had to say in the locker room.

We already know maturity is not one of his strengths, but how ominous is it to hear him show such little respect for his head coach?

Kobe Bryant missed his first 15 shots, and so a reporter asked Bynum what Kobe was like in the huddle during timeouts?

"I don't know," Bynum said with his characteristic cavalier attitude. "I don't take part in the huddles."

Another reporter reacted with disbelief, asking why not.

"I'm resting," Bynum said. "Getting my Zen on."

Maybe that's what happened before the game, Bynum trying to channel Phil Jackson. He certainly wanted no part of Brown.

Brown made a move to say something to Bynum just before the start of the game, but got Bynum's back.

Credit the coach with being determined. He tried again, but Bynum walked away. It took three attempts before Brown managed to get a second or two of Bynum's time.

How would it look if Mike the Bencher started the game with Bynum sitting beside him?

But then what does it say about the Lakers when one of their youngest players shows such a lack of respect for the coach?

"I saw everybody there all night [in the huddles]," Brown said when told of Bynum's remark.

But later he said, "In Golden State there was some stuff that went on [with Bynum] that I didn't see. There was some stuff said after the game and I don't read [the papers] so I didn't know. It was dealt with internally."

The Lakers appear to be leaning more and more on Bynum these days. But as weak emotionally as he has been at times, and erratic in behavior, can they count on him?

He took one shot and scored in the first half against New Orleans, which had nothing inside to stop him.

The jury of Lakers fans still seems undecided about Brown. Does he have control of this team? Where's the energy and fire, after some folks concluded the Lakers were championship-challenged after losing to Oklahoma City?

Are the Lakers so weak-minded that they cannot bring themselves to play hard against teams that are not any good?

Bryant said the game wouldn't have been close had he been on target. But he hasn't been on target for some time now.

The Lakers may have to depend even more on Bynum.

On this afternoon the Lakers were lucky winners. And yet Brown was talking afterward like the Lakers were the gutty little underdogs instead of kicking their collective butts.

"To me it was a great team performance in the sense it was not an easy game. It was a game that we had to fight for — for 48 minutes," Brown said.

Rubbish. They were home playing the Hornets. They should have been resting their starters by the start of the second half.

"We found a way to get it done," Brown said.

Then he started to congratulate his players one by one for their heroic efforts.

"A lot of good performances from our guys," Brown said. "We just found a way to win."

Now I understand why Bynum won't listen to the guy. I know I couldn't take it anymore.

"Wasn't this a disgrace?" I protested.

"No, no," Brown said. "I don't think it was a disgrace. They are an NBA team."

We spent the next minute or so arguing that point.

But then we seemed to differ on a number of things. Before the game a reporter was talking to Mike the Bencher about his interaction with fans.

According to Brown they all seem to like him.

No question he's likable, and after meeting his wife and sons, he's blessed with a terrific family. His youngest son, Cameron, is smart enough to say nothing with a reporter in the room.

But surely someone has told Brown, "You know, your bench stinks."

"Yeah, you [media] guys," he said, "but no, nobody has walked up to me and said that."

"Now isn't that stunning?" I said, because we all know the bench really does stink.

"The bench does not stink," Brown said.

If we can't agree on the obvious what's the point of going on?

But I tried, moving on to Steve Blake.

"Why is he such a hellacious disappointment?"

"He's not," Brown said, and here we go again in arguing the obvious.

He's missed 202 three-point shots the past two seasons, and he's here because he's supposed to make three-pointers. He's supposed to be the Lakers' version of John Paxson, Steve Kerr and Craig Hodges. If Michael Jordan had been stuck with Blake, how many titles would he have won?

"Has he played the best basketball that he's played in his entire career? No," Brown said.

"I'd call that a hellacious disappointment," I said.

"I'd call it a guy playing real hard," Brown said. "Who played better at the beginning of the year than he's playing now? Do I have confidence in him? Yes."

How about some accountability?

On Saturday it came from the fans, who demanded better. Blake entered the game and turned the ball over twice. A group of fans began to heckle him.

He obviously heard them, raised a hand to acknowledge as much and then just seconds later drilled a three-pointer. A minute later he hit another, and then a third. Amazingly they didn't stop the game and check the ball.

But what does it say about this team that it now takes the fans to get the best out of the Lakers?

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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