Lakers Coach Mike Brown argues a call during the first half Wednesday night… (Steve Dykes / EPA )
PORTLAND, Ore. — Bad sign that Lakers Coach Mike Brown was already defending his Princeton-based offense.
It was only Day 2 of the regular season.
But a flurry of past and present NBA players questioned its effectiveness after the Lakers' 99-91 loss Tuesday against Dallas.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley said Brown needed to "nix that Princeton thing." Kenny Smith, also a TNT analyst, followed it up by saying, "Princeton never won an NCAA title."
Magic Johnson weighed in on Twitter, saying he was "a bit confused" by the Lakers' opener. He implored Lakers fans not to panic but said, "I do know one thing: the ball should be in Steve Nash's hands much more. How about some pick & roll?"
Even New Jersey power forward Kris Humphries had something to say on Twitter: "It's strange watching Steve Nash play off the ball so much."
The Lakers looked somewhat better on offense Wednesday against Portland, scoring 57 points in the first half of a 116-106 loss to the Trail Blazers.
Brown tried to laugh off the Princeton disapproval before the game, particularly the observations by Barkley and Smith.
"I've been criticized by those guys before," he said. "I think they're funny guys. I'm OK with it."
Then Brown got serious.
"Every time down the floor — and if they want to, they can call Steve Nash and ask him — Steve Nash has the right to play pick-and-roll if he wants to," Brown said. "He has said it himself that he doesn't feel like he's as burdened because he doesn't have to make every play for everybody all the time with what we're trying to do. He can give it up and still have a chance to get it back. He's said that he feels as fresh as he's ever felt in his career because he doesn't feel the pressure of making every single play."
Brown suggested that headaches created now by the offense would eventually disappear.
"We could spread the floor and play pick-and-roll all the time ... but it will make us one-dimensional," he said. "And when we're in seven-game playoff series, for sure the later we get into the playoffs, they'll be able to take us out of the offense because we'll be so one-dimensional. What we're trying to do, we're trying to eliminate that and be hard to guard because it's a read-based offense."
Barkley and Smith each had similar solutions for the Lakers' offense.
"Just push the ball," Barkley said. "The best thing Steve Nash does is push the ball."
Smith wanted the Lakers to stop being so deliberate.
"That style of play will keep every team in the game with you," he said. "Yes, Kobe [Bryant] and Steve Nash and [Pau] Gasol will make big shots in certain games and they will squeeze out [victories]. But they should beat certain teams by 19, 20 points. They will always be in close games when you're shooting the basketball with eight seconds left on the shot clock instead of 12 to 14."