Mike Brown knows fans will call for his head if the Lakers aren't immediately… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers were 0-8 in exhibition play, but Coach Mike Brown insists it's only a matter of time before players adjust to one another and his new Princeton offense.
"Come January, in my opinion, I think this could be like a machine," he said.
They averaged 18.6 turnovers per game while Kobe Bryant battled shoulder and foot injuries and Dwight Howard tested his surgically repaired back, but Brown won't fret about those turnovers, at least initially.
"They're turnovers for the most part from guys trying to figure out the reads and hit guys that they think are open," he said. "Those turnovers, sooner or later, will be dunks, as opposed to turnovers."
Patience is a virtue. But for the Lakers, made over with the heralded additions of Howard and Steve Nash, patience is a precious commodity.
"The Lakers have got to win now," TNT analyst Charles Barkley said. "Kobe Bryant obviously is getting older. So there's a tremendous amount of pressure on Mike Brown. That's just the way it is when you coach the Los Angeles Lakers."
Magic Johnson also foresees a slow start for the Lakers. "It's not going to be like they're going to come out like gangbusters," he said. "I think they'll be hitting, for me, on all cylinders probably after the All-Star break and really have an understanding of each other and just what they can do and what they can't do."
While his team flailed during the preseason, Brown was, for the most part, an island of calm, as affable but hard-driving as ever.
"He's the most detail-oriented coach I've played for, especially defensively," Nash said.
He's so exacting that players last season nicknamed Brown "All day, every day" for his typically long shootarounds and practices. That hasn't changed. Brown, 42, knows fans will call for his head if the Lakers aren't immediately successful. His expectations are high too.
"Everybody does think that they understand and know the game of basketball because it's a sport you can play that costs no money," he said. "But to really know what we're doing and what we're going through, it's really tough for anybody outside of us to understand it and understand the complexity of the situation and how much time it's going to take. I think it's going to take time, but in the same breath, while it's taking time I think we're going to be competitive. And when it counts, I think we're going to have a really good chance at it. I'm excited about it."
Switching to the Princeton offense, which relies on smart passing, backdoor cuts and reading defenses quickly, occurred to Brown last season, but the hectic post-lockout schedule allowed no time to implement it. He made up his mind to try it this season moments after the Lakers' playoff run was ended by Oklahoma City and approached Bryant before Bryant left the locker room.
"He was like, 'That would be great. I'm all for it,'" Brown said. "The one thing that he said that kind of stuck with me is he said, 'The Princeton offense is good, it's good to add, but make it your own.'"
He consulted Eddie Jordan, who had run the Princeton offense while coaching the Washington Wizards, but Pete Carril — who invented it — declined because he has ties to the Sacramento Kings. Brown then sought out University of Denver Coach Joe Scott, who played for Carril and coaches the Princeton offense.
Brown worked on his plans with Jordan and Scott before showing Bryant what they had devised and getting his nod again. Brown designed it with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum as his big guys and Ramon Sessions as his pick-and-roll guard but got upgrades when the Lakers acquired Howard and Nash.
"Pete Carril's head is probably spinning when he watches us and people are calling it the Princeton offense, because there's parts of it, but it's not necessarily the Princeton," Brown said.
He estimated the system is about halfway installed, "so we still have a ways to go." He's determined to get there, undeterred by the team's preseason performance.
"As long as I can keep my team focused, I'll take as much criticism as I need to take and I'm OK with it," he said.
"And I'm going to stay the course."