Longtime observers of the NBA, know that certain teams, operate in a helter-skelter fashion; ignoring the long-term; while constantly altering their short-term goals. One year they will enter a campaign with a roster laden with veterans, only to come back the following season with a group of more athletic, but far less experienced players. They change coaches, almost as often are their players change their socks, thinking they have found the perfect bench boss, only to dismiss him at the end of a lackluster year.
While winds of change sweep through much of the Association; over the last few years, there are three teams lauded for their stability and keeping their eyes on the big picture, rather than to go to pieces over a small brush fire. Those three teams up until Friday were the San Antonio Spurs, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. It is most likely, that year in and year out; those franchises are always among the NBA elite, when all is said and done.
The Lakers were unhappy with their finishes in the Post Season, over the past couple of years and General Manager Mitch Kupchak, was extremely proactive during the off-season, giving the squad a rather radical makeover. Former All-Star center Andrew Bynum was traded to Philadelphia and the team signed future Hall Of Fame point guard Steve Nash to a Free Agent deal and acquired the premier center in the Association, Dwight Howard in a trade with the Orlando Magic.
With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and a suddenly re-energized Metta World Peace, Los Angeles appeared to be on track, to make their fourth visit in the last seven seasons to the NBA Finals next June. They stumbled coming out of the gate however, with a 1-4 record in their first fives games, seemingly losing the confidence, not only of the fans, but within the team itself.
If this were November of 2010, Lakers coach Phil Jackson would have spoken to the media with his “Zen-Like Logic,” soothing the nerves of the fans of the squad. Unfortunately, Jackson retired at the end of that campaign, replaced by former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown; whom for all his strengths as a bench boss, lacked that soothing persona, that Jackson projected. Not having that quality in his skill-set, may have cost him his job, as the “Los Angeles Times” has reported that the Lakers, truly shocked followers of the Association as they dismissed Brown as their head coach on Friday.
Kupchak told the media on Friday “Today we relieved Mike Brown of his head coaching duties. Mike’s a good man, very hard working, maybe one of the hardest-working coaches that I’ve ever been around. The bottom line is that the team was not winning at the pace that we expected this team to win and we didn’t see improvement. After five games, we just felt that we weren’t winning. We made a decision. Maybe it would have changed a month or three months down the road, but with this team we didn’t want to wait three months and then find out it wasn’t going to change.”
It is a move that would not have been a surprise, if made by their co-tenants at the Staples Center; the Clippers, however the other team from the “City Of Angels,” have gotten off to a strong start in the young campaign, leading the Pacific Division with a 4-2 mark. Perhaps, the vast improvement of the Clippers since before the beginning of last season, led to the panic move by the Lakers on Friday. Another factor could be the expanding role of Jim Buss, son the Team’s Owner, Jerry Buss.
Make no mistake about it; the firing of Brown on Friday; was a panic move; in every meaning of the phrase. The players and the fans wanted their pound of flesh and Kupchak sacrificed a good man and a strong head coach in Brown. He was a scape-goat; in no uncertain terms; truly the victim of a move being made just to make a move and pacify those whose backs were up. Brown ended up with a raw-deal in Cleveland, as Dan Gilbert fired him after having the best regular season record two-straight years, in a last-ditch effort to hold onto LeBron James. However, one could understand the motivation in the Cleveland episode, the same can not be said about his dismissal by the Lakers.
Bernie Bickerstaff will take on the short-term job of interim-coach, as the Lakers want to hire a permanent replacement as soon as they find the right fit. Jackson’s name came up and Kupchak told reporters that inquiries to the former coach would be forthcoming.