Is Mike Brown already on the hot seat?
OCT 31, 2012 11:42p ET
We're just two games into the Los Angeles Lakers' much-hyped season and Mike Brown has landed squarely on the hot seat. Too early to go there? Downright unfair? Ridiculous for a head coach to be hearing chatter about his job security after an 0-2 start to an 82-game season?
Maybe, but this is an offshoot of the brave new world of super teams. Add Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a starting lineup already boasting Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace and the pressure's going to be on to such an extreme that you won't get even two days' worth of the benefit of the doubt.
That's particularly true for Brown, because if things go bad – and they have, early as it is, pretty quickly – the blame will fall to him.
He's Erik Spoelstra 2.0: a coach ready-made for the blame, whether it's his or not, but without the hope a LeBron James will ultimately take the brunt of criticism by shrinking when it counts. Kobe has earned his war stripes, and so far Howard – he had 33 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday night – has looked great in one game and not-so-great in the other. Even if he chalks up some blame, it'll pale compared to what Brown gets.
That's because the Lakers as a team look awful. Abysmal. Out of whack. And very, very badly coached.
In fact, even Nash's struggles can be chalked up to Brown's mismanagement. This is the head coach who, while not known for his offensive acumen, decided it would be a good idea to install a variation of the Princeton offense and effectively cut out Nash's pick-and-roll playmaking and Howard's perfect fit with it.
Not smart. If you take that away, Nash becomes a spot-up shooter and a defensive sieve, not the former MVP who was going to help make the Lakers starting rotation one of the greatest of all time.
So yeah, they're just 0-2. And yeah, almost no doubt, the Lakers will figure things out, come together and be the championship threat we all believe them to be. But the early signs are they'll do so despite Brown, not because of him.
Fact is, the Lakers coach didn't exactly come to Los Angeles with the pedigree of pulling the best out of the best. He didn't win a title with LeBron in Cleveland, didn't manage LeBron's massive talent and ego properly, and so far he's living up to the feeling that he is, well, just so-so at X's and O's and a great deal less at managing hall-of-fame talent.
You know who's not so-so? The following out-of-work former head coaches: Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Stan and Jeff Van Gundy and Mike D'Antoni, who certainly knows how to get the best of Nash.
The Mike-Brown-May-Not-Be-The-Guy chatter started after – check that, before – a depleted Dallas Mavericks ended up winning the opener at the Staples Center Tuesday night. Portland's 116-106 win Wednesday in its home opener will just add to the furor.
If nothing else, Brown has set the record for how quickly he can paint a bull's-eye on his back. Two games? Two? That's damn fast.
Two years ago, Spoelstra got that treatment and seemed to set the mark for speed of job-security talk in Miami. The Heat opened 9-8, the pressure mounted and then someone – read: LeBron – leaked to ESPN the "news" that Spo had to go.
That was right around Dec. 1, and at the time I attacked LeBron pretty viscously for his short-sightedness, his impatience and his ego.
Today is Nov. 1. A full month ahead of that schedule. If you start seeing similar reports out of L.A., it'll make the LeBron from two years ago look like the most patient superstar on Earth.
Let me be clear. While I like Spoelstra more as a coach, and while I'm not a big fan of Brown's coaching ability or his skill at managing massive egos and bigger talents, it is absolutely too early to call for his job.
Too soon to make too much of these struggles.
Too soon to float other job candidates or to start eying NBA websites for the first leaked reports some Lakers star wants him gone.
But that's the world we live in. That's the NBA Brown stepped atop when he took this job and ended up with Howard and Nash to bolster his already dangerous team.
Win or go home. Succeed or fail. Live up to the hype or get consumed by it.
That's as true for the Lakers now as it was for the Heat two years ago. Only this time, it's Mike Brown rather than LeBron James who's going to take the brunt of the criticism.
Mike Brown is no LeBron James. But he's on the verge of tasting what is was like to be the Chosen One when all that promised glory hit those 2010-11 speed bumps.
Of course, LeBron eventually learned this, too: Winning cures all things.
So win, Mike Brown, or get ready for an avalanche of trouble.
You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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