Thursday, May 26, 2011

How the Lakers are Reverse-Jon Gruden'ing Mike Brown

Before the Buccaneers acquired Jon Gruden in 2002, previous head coach Tony Dungy had established an organization so sure of success that Gruden could have have maintained a year long state of cognitive and physical inertia and the team's defense would still have led them to the Superbowl. Now the Lakers' hiring of Mike Brown presents the opposite scenario. Brown is replacing 11-time NBA champion and guru-coach Phil Jackson, who is retiring--for among other reasons--because the Lakers appear to be in their twilight.

Of course, it's not all June gloom in Los Angeles. The allure of the city and its opportunities in the entertainment industry present an incentive no other organization (even New York) can offer. Further, the roster has 5 all-stars--grant it, guys like Artest, Odom, and Bynum are more of the Wilson Chandler/ Trevor Ariza-is-our-second-best-player variety of All Star--and Derek Caracter, who doesn't practice gender discrimination w/r/t fighting IHOP cashiers. (In Derek's defense DBSF has to believe that Derek's waitress that night probably had the I've-worked-a-triple-since-9am and am not to be messed with look that suggests the opponent, i.e., the hypothetical waitress in this case, would be like religious-zealot dedicated to crushing a windpipe, which in the environs of a late night IHOP results in a very personal psychic crap-storm.)

Consider the situation Brown faces. Besides the fact that he's got an aging team, rumor has it that His Eminence Kobe preferred Brian Shaw to Brown. In the Lakers' organization, crossing Kobe is equivalent to offing Archduke Ferdinand. In other words, Derek Caracter's worse-case IHOP scenario becomes Sunday fellowship at your local Latter-day Saints convocation.

There's also evidence that Brown doesn't have the organization's full backing. His 4-year $18 million contact pails in comparison to Phil Jackson's last few contracts which ranged around $12 million per year. But, DBSF look at all of Phil's rings! True, but if nothing else it is symbolic that the former coach received an annual contract that approached the total contract of the current coach.

Then again rumor has it that super-human Dwight Howard will pick LA as his destination to win a title as the reality of perpetual 40 win seasons and first-round playoff exits with Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas becomes more clear. Of course acquiring Howard is dependent upon the Lakers' performance next season. If Kobe and Derek Fischer's age presents further problems and if Steve Blake doesn't transform into Russell Westbrook as everyone not surnamed "Blake" expects, Howard has to wonder who's going to get him the ball. (DBSF aside: According to Steve Blake's website he can be hired for personal appearances for motivational engagements, grand openings, golf tournaments and the like. The hyper-delusional vainglory of some NBA players rivals even that of Tori Spelling.)

In the end, Mike Brown is placed in a precarious position. If the Lakers don't advance in the playoffs, myopicism will lead the media and public to believe his playoff woes from the Cavs persist. (Ignoring, of course, that in his last two seasons in Cleveland he had the best regular season record in the NBA.) Most people assume the Cavs drastic decline this season was attributable to LeBron's absence, but elementary statistics warns us against potentially spurious relationships (i.e., What if the Cav's failures in 2010-11 reflect not only the departure of LeBron but Brown also?).

In truth much of the Cav's challenges over the past half-decade reflected an organization's decision to allow a teenager and early-twenty something play GM (e.g., LeBron's teammate demands included the likes of Wally Szczerbiak, Donyell Marshall, Drew Gooden . . . basically a list that merits its own blog post). Considering only the Heat averaged more points per game (ppg) than the Lakers among teams in the top-10 of opponents ppg allowed, if Brown can instill the defensive culture that made the Cavs the best defensive team in 08-09 and fifth best in 09-10, he might be able to convince Dwight Howard to come West, which could maintain the Lakers' perennial position at the top of the NBA's hierarchy. But, if they can't attract Howard then Brown will likely receive blame for the shortcomings of a team that became evident to the entire league in the 2011 playoffs.

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