This fall the Lakers began training camp soaring like the smartest and coolest organization in the NBA.
Five regular-season games later, they have collapsed into a puddle of utter and senseless panic.
They have fired coach Mike Brown in a move that reeks of poor timing, poor vision and poor leadership in a front office that was once a bastion of continuity and calm.
First, if you were going to fire Brown only five games into his second season, why was he even allowed to begin his second season? Shouldn’t you have made this move after the Lakers collapsed against Oklahoma City in the playoffs last spring, giving a newcomer a full summer and training camp to install his system?
Second, if you were going to fire Mike Brown five games into a season in which his starting five have played together for only a game and a half, why did you hire him in the first place? The decision to pick Brown in the summer of 2011 over a more popular name-brand coach like Rick Adelman was made by the unsettled –- and unsettling –- new Laker boss Jim Buss. I ripped it when it happened. But once it happened, and once Brown’s hard work eventually gained the respect of Kobe Bryant, I wrote that the Brown regime needed a fair chance to succeed.
“I like Mike, I’m behind him 100%, he can make this work, I’m telling you,’’ Bryant told me last week.
Giving Brown until the All-Star break to mesh this new lineup together would have been a fair chance. Heck, just giving him another month or so until Christmas would be a fair chance. But to fire him now, even after the Lakers have gone 1-4? While the legions of angry Lakers fans will love this snapshot of an ownership group trying to win now, the Lakers' front office is paid to see the bigger picture, and they’re missing it here.
Steve Nash has barely played. Dwight Howard has not played healthy. Kobe Bryant has been hurting with every step. The offense was new, key players are new, and Buss knew all of this entering training camp. Yet only five games later he decides to blow it up?
There is a reasonable chance that if the Lakers did not make the NBA Finals this season, Brown was going to be fired. But he’s coached a team to the NBA Finals before, and once everyone was healthy, this team was good enough and smart enough to get there. Unless Phil Jackson comes walking through that door right now –- and here’s guessing he’s way too smart take over any team in the middle of a season while working for Jim Buss –- then Brown gave them their best chance.
After five bad games, you change the offense, you make a trade, you change the starting lineup and get more energy off the bench, but you don’t scrap the coach.
Many of those Lakers fans will think this switch will give the players energy. For now, I just think it will give them an excuse. It will give them an excuse to write off the season. It will give them an excuse to nurse their wounds and lower their expectations and take their time getting adjusted to a new culture that will be installed on the run.
And where is this new culture coming from anyway? Aside from Jackson, what other coach could walk in here with the credibility and cache to make these future Hall of Famers listen? Last I looked, Mike D’Antoni has never even been to the NBA Finals, Jeff Van Gundy would never want to coach Dwight Howard, Jerry Sloan is too danged tough for this bunch and Mike Krzyzewski isn’t leaving Duke.
It’s hard to imagine Buss being able to hire an established coach who could make an imprint without his own training camp. It’s hard to imagine that the established coach they had was canned after essentially one full game with his regular lineup.
It’s downright impossible to imagine an organization that was once the professional sports model of continuity and reason so completely losing its cool.