Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 11/16/12
LOS ANGELES -- "Brown is a good coach 314 regular-season wins don't lie. He actually has a full season this year to show it. Let him." I wrote that at the end of last week's "Three Thoughts"; I didn't know it was also going to be the end of Mike Brown. I still stand by what I wroteMike Brown is a good coach. He's just not the right coach for this Laker team. It wasn't the second round playoff beating by OKC in last year's second round or the 1-4 start to the season that doomed Brown. It was the fact that the Lakers had lost all eight exhibitions and 14 of the last 15 games--most of them in very ugly fashion. Except for the first win of the 2012-13 season over the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers under Brown couldn't put together a consistent, passionate 48-minute effort. The man who coached LeBron James and a Cleveland team certainly not loaded with talent into the 2007 NBA Finals, had lost his mojo with the Lakers. The players were getting tired of the long workouts and film sessionsincluding a nearly 3-hour shoot-around practice on the morning of an exhibition game in October. And a team that was pretty good defensively for most of last season, couldn't make any stops when it countedeven in practice games. Games when the opponent isn't playing to maximum capability, yet Brown couldn't pull a win out of his team in 14 of their last 15 games. For Brown, it was time to move on, maybe to a younger team with fewer immediate expectations. A group of young NBAers eager to learn the game and appreciate Brown's ability to teach. He is one of the hardest working men in the NBA, always showing up early to work and spending a long time at the complex looking for an edge, any edge, that might produce a win. Admirable with some organizations but the completely wrong approach for a team loaded with older players. Or some players dealing with injuries. Maybe a combination of both. Short, organized and crisply run practices are best for the Lakers, and that's what they'll get from new head coach Mike D'Antoni. Brown always talked about limiting Kobe Bryant's minutes, or Steve Nash's, Pau Gasol's or Dwight Howard's. It almost never happened. Even in exhibition games, Brown would often keep them in games far too long, risking fatigue and injuries in the worst possible situationsgames that mean absolutely nothing from a win-lose standpoint. One of the first matters addressed by D'Antoni at his Thursday news conference was him making a concerted effort to keep Kobe, Nash, etc. on the benchresting--whenever possible. He admitted that sometimes it just isn't possible when the score is going back and forth and the game is on the line. But he's cognizant of the problem and will address it seriously, unlike the tightly-wound Brown, who focus seemed to be mainly on the final score. Player use and minutes is only one of the many potential stumbling blocks for D'Antoni as he steps into a Laker Nation that's still boiling mad at ownership for not bringing back Phil Jackson as head coach. He has to change the entire basketball culture of a team that's been based around a slower type of offenses for the past 12 seasons--the triangle under Jackson, three-point bombing under Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblen and whatever offense Brown ran, including a variation of the Princeton offense this season. A change that certainly played a major role in Brown's firing. It's an offense that takes a long time to learn, can be confusing, and one that he and his staff were trying to implement in less than 30 days of training camp. It was a recipe for disaster with a team that starts a point guard in Nash who's used to moving the ball rapidly all over the court. A team put together to win immediatelywin a championship, that isand shouldn't be spending a lot of time trying to learn a new system. That's the beauty of D'Antoni's offense. It's not tremendously complicated and can be leaned in a couple of weeks instead of a couple of months. With dynamic offensive players like Nash, Bryant, Gasol and Howard getting the bulk of the minutes, and Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Darius Morris and Jordan Hill coming off the bench, once the Lakers get comfortable and consistent with the new system, they'll probably average well over 100 points per game. "If we don't, then we're not doing something right," D'Antoni said. Then there's the Lakers defense, which has either been invisible or inconsistent for a lot of the season so far. D'Antoni plans to funnel a lot of the action down low toward the dynamic Howard, and with his shot-blocking and shot-altering capabilities, it should make the Lakers a dangerous team to go against. Hill can also block shots, while Bryant and Metta World Peace have populated many All-Defensive squads. Just that small change makes the team significantly better. Maybe the main factor that arrives along with D'Antoni is a sense of just playing basketball again. It started under interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who gave the player the freedom to do some freelancing on offense and it paid off in two straight wins and nearly a third. D'Antoni's offense is brilliant in the fact that it has something for everybody. Nash passes the ball to Gasol 16 feet out. He likes the shot, he takes it. He doesn't like it, he kicks it out to Kobe. Same deal with him. There isn't the strain of always waiting for someone to get to a certain spot before the clock runs out. The pick-and-rolls will also be plentiful with Nash to Howard and Nash to Gasol. Fun is a word that been used around the Lakers a lot in the last four days. Winning, of course, is always fun. But just watching Laker basketball will be fun againand a regular laugh-riot if they win big, too. Who's Hot: Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak for having the foresight and guts to hire a coach who will breathe some life into a franchise that has done horribly in the playoffs the last two seasons. And turn it into a franchise that's fun to play with, so Howard decides to stick around for the next six or seven years........ Who's Not: The Laker bench should headline this category, but I'm going with the fans and the media who were merciless in spewing their venom and criticism toward Laker management when they chose D'Antoni over Jackson. It was ugly and uncalled for, especially toward a family that always keeps the interest of the fans as part of every decision they make. And especially Kupchak, who got Howard and Nash to change their minds and agree to come to L.A., yet now he's a bum because he's admitted he wanted D'Antoni all along. Geez........ Three Thoughts --Going from the sometimes overwhelmed Brown to the relaxed and assured D'Antoni should be a treat for the Laker players. While Brown seemingly had respect for everyone he encountered and was never rude or condescending toward the media, he always seemed to be one tense moment away from turning into salt. D'Antoni, on the other hand, is funny, self-deprecating with his humor, and definitely changes the feel of a team led previously by Brown and the often dour, pompous Jackson........ --Mike Brown is one of the more decent people I've ever met in the sports world. He always had a hello and a handshake when you saw him, and would spend a minute or an hour talking to you, depending on the situation. It's hard not to feel bad for the guy, considering he had no training camp last year, a shortened season, then all the injuries this year. He never had a full season to show what he could do with the Lakers. That said, firing him was the right move at the right time. Otherwise, you risked losing the whole season and something every bit as important--Dwight Howard....... --The Lakers' focus is always on winning World Championships, but there's something else they must give a significant amount of attention to: making Howard so happy that he signs back with the team when he becomes a free agent. The big man who forced his way out of Orlando last season, saying he needed something different in his life, has been completely non-committal about his future playing plans. Is that good or bad? Well, unless you're a Howard insider, you really don't know. He said from day one that the Lakers are his "dream team" to play for and that he loves the city, the fans and the organization. Is he giving his real feelings, or is he saying the right things after being burned so badlyhe claimsin Orlando? He and a few others know the real play, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of the points that got D'Antoni hired was his willingness to make Howard the future of the organizationwith the transition beginning now........ Quotes of the Week "If you don't believe that Kobe badly wanted D'Antoni to be the Lakers' coach and went to bat hard for him, you're pretty nave." --A source close to the negotiations who requested anonymity. "Maybe I'm not smart enough to know any different." --D'Antoni on why he seems so relaxed stepping into the lion's den that is Laker Nation. "The reason I haven't tweeted in 2 days is because I've been mourning Phil Jackson not being hired as the Lakers head coach. My mother always taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." "The decision's been made that D'Antoni is the coach so we must support him. I appreciate him reaching out to me & look forward to speaking." --Tweets from the ever-changing world of Laker great and Dodger co-owner Earvin "Magic" Johnson. News and Notes Nash is still about a week awayat leastfrom returning to action. He's still mending from a non-displace fracture in his left leg. Although they haven't said it, three of the happiest Lakers have to be Jamison, Meeks and Chris Duhon. D'Antoni isn't a punitive-punishment type coach, so none of them will be benched for a bad gameor a bad shot. If Meeks missed a few shots, Brown would bury him on the bench; same with Duhon. D'Antoni will probably leave them out on the floor, believing that they might hit ten in a row. Same applies to Jamison. D'Antoni met his wife, Laurel, while both were single Americans living in Milan, Italy. D'Antoni was on his way to becoming one of Europe's 50 greatest basketball players. Later, when he was coaching Benetton Treviso, Laurel D'Antoni ran business operations for the club. She also later worked on projects for NBA Europe........ What's Next? vs. Phoenix Friday...vs. Houston Sunday and vs. Brooklyn Tuesday, all at Staples Center. At Sacramento on Tuesday. Tower of Power? Should finally be on their way. But still not yet.
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