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GUTS

I keep watching the replay of Derrick Rose’s basket to beat the New York Knicks, in Rose’s first home game in over a year, and all I can think about is this.

Michael Rand of the Star Tribune spotted similar, end-of-game plays from Derrick Rose and LeBron James last season.  Each player was double teamed off a pick.  LeBron dropped a pass off to Udonis Haslem for a wide open, more than justified shot.  Rose attacked the double, drove left, beat both defenders, then took a wild shot over a third help defender.

Haslem missed.  Rose didn’t.

I remember the hubbub online.  Some people attacked LeBron, others defended him for making the “right basketball play.”

It all misses the point.  Derrick Rose wanted to decide the game.  He wanted it all on him.  There’s a fine line between your leader putting the game on his shoulders, and playing with blinders on, but both take guts.  And Derrick Rose has guts.

Now, watch the shot above.  Rose doesn’t lose Raymond Felton.  Raymond Felton is right there.  Matter of fact, that is the best defense Raymond Felton has ever played.  And the other guy is Tyson Chandler, the 7’1”, former Defensive Player of the Year.  That is, by most accounts, an awful shot, but I don’t care.  And neither does Rose.

Simply put: Derrick Rose genuinely believes, with the game on the line, he is Chicago’s best option to win.  Whether he’s right or wrong, that’s fearlessness.

I think that’s at the heart of why I love Derrick Rose, of why anyone loves Derrick Rose.  It’s the reason we were all sad when he went down, and the reason we cheered his return.  Derrick Rose is fearless, and isn’t that what we all want to be?

THE PERFECT PLAYER

Chris Paul isn’t perfect.  He’s short.  That’s about it though.  That’s his only weakness. 

He can score like Isiah.  He can dish like Stockton.  He organizes a team and offense like Magic.  He leads like Bird.  He defends like Mookie.

This might be my favorite highlight of the young NBA season so far.  Chris Paul turns a 4-on-2 break for the Warriors into a slam dunk for himself on the other end.  I saw this live and thought, "What did he see?"  I’ve watched this GIF a couple thousand times in a row, and I still can’t quite figure it out.

Paul was running back full speed on defense, then halved the distance of his last stride, slowing his momentum, and letting him change direction, seemingly before Draymond Green had taken his last dribble.  He’s breaking on the ball before it’s passed.

You can measure height and weight, strength, speed, and points per game, but there’s no way to gauge intuition.

You either have it, or you don’t.

#GotEmCoach

REBRANDING OKC

If you follow me on twitter, you know two things:  1.) I hate your favorite team  2.) I hate Oklahoma City’s jerseys.  One of my goals in creating the site has become to harness our collective disgust, fuel a global fervor, and force OKC management to pull the trigger on a sweeping change.  The other is to eat pizza slices with Kobe.

(As an aside, no one should hate OKC’s aesthetic more than Kevin Durant, who has likely lost an incalculable amount of money on his own personal brand.  NIKE too.  Part of Michael Jordan’s mystique, and a tremendous amount of his Jumpman brand was built on that black and red, that ice-cold bull logo.  Durant has the game, the personality, and the charisma.  His jerseys and sneakers would fly off the shelves if they didn’t look like hot garbage because of those corny colors.)

I hate the Thunder’s jerseys so much, I started thinking to myself, “Do other people hate them too?”  I hopped over to Google.com, and typed in the phrase "Oklahoma City Thunder rebrand."Turns out not only do people hate them like me, there are actually folks who’ve spent hours and hours of their own free time to create real options for the team.  That speaks volumes.  The best of those are below, with my thoughts.

= = = = =

TOP:  Made by BunnyDojo - I like the idea of Thor’s Hammer.  God of Thunder.  Makes a lot of sense.  That’s exactly why the OKC doesn’t use it.  Too sensible.  Based in too much reason.

Blue, yellow and white?  Eh.  But the guy’s at the Dojo have lots of colorways online.

= = = = =

2nd ROW, LEFT:  Made by Preston Grubbs and Asha Pollard -  Love the idea of Western/Southwestern motif of the Eagle, but not sure it works for a basketball team.  That said, the tickets and the bus look fly.  Love the diamond/rhombus pattern, but again, not on the uniforms.

2nd ROW, MIDDLE:  Made by Tim O’Brien - Love bison concept, not in love with the look of said bison.  I REALLY like what he’s done with the jerseys though.

He didn’t overhaul everything.  Simple font change.  Simplified color scheme (the blue/white colorways would sell like Oklahoman hotcakes).  I am in LOVE with the grey version.  They look cool, and would really feature a nice pair of sneakers. 

2nd ROW, RIGHT:  Made by Chris Giorgio - The eagle, feathers, and slight font change all speak to the region.  The Thunder’s current design has nothing.  No feeling.  Zilch. Nada.

= = = = =

3rd ROW, LEFT:  Made by Matt Lehman - This is clearly fly.

Did you know Oklahoma City management was considering “Outlaws” as their team name?  It’s true.  I mean, what happened?!?  The Oklahoma City Outlaws would’ve been one of the raddest team names in the league.

"Oh no!  We gotta play the Outlaws tonight…"  Everybody’s afraid of outlaws!  They’re dangerous, yet cool.  Deadly.  Admirable.  Huge mistake, OKC.  Huge.

I’m in on the masked bandit logo.  Both of his OKC letter logos are great, but I prefer the interlocked version.  That’s made for a hat.  The retro logo is out of sight.  It is fantastic.  I’m not in LOVE with the color scheme, but it’s a billion times better than what OKC has now.  The poster is radical, and necessary.

Oklahomans should riot until the Thunder become the Outlaws.

3rd ROW, MIDDLE:  Made by David Raney Design - These are my favorite logos that don’t include the word “Outlaws.”

I like the Supersonic homage of the top version (although the fine people of Seattle have every reason to hate it), and I think the bison looks more sports logoish on the bottom.  Black, orange and grey is something I could get behind.

3rd ROW, RIGHT:  Made by Anthony Pollock - Font is better.  Also, every font ever in the world is better than OKC’s current font.  These colors are too close to the actual scheme, which I loathe with a fiery passion, but the reason I posted this was to prove a point: OKC could literally do ANYTHING ELSE and still improve.

= = = = =

4th ROW, LEFT:  Made by Ian Bakar - That’s a strong bison, and I like both alternate logos.  Either would look great on shorts.  Blue and brown is an interesting combo.  Wish I could see uniforms in this look.

4th ROW, MIDDLE:  Made by Jason Nessa - A little too 2000’s Golden State Warriors for me, but again, far more simple and clean than the current monstrosity.

4th ROW, RIGHT:  Made by Elliott Strauss Creative - Why is their no team with a black and yellow scheme?  Those were the colors of my middle school team, and we looked great.  Specifically, I looked great.

= = = = =

The Internet tells no lies.  The people have spoken.  Oklahoma City needs to rebrand.  Choose any of the options provided, call every advertising agency on the planet, or just make that s**t with Microsoft Paint.  We don’t care.

Just change it.

Sincerely,
#GotEmCoach

YOUR 2012-2013 LOS ANGELES LAKERS:
Personally, this is the most exciting Lakers season since 1996 (Shaq and Kobe’s first year).  LA starts four future Hall-of-Famers, and these guys fit together beautifully.  They fit together, I know they fit together, you know they fit together, and the NBA knows they fit together. 
Here are my thoughts on the Lakers’ season, in handy-dandy list form:
1.) The Steve Nash Predicament:  The Lakers instituted the Princeton offense, only LA’s new point guard has spent his entire career running the Steve Nash offense (and to much success).  So where do I stand?  I think the Princeton is a good thing (at least until I panic in a couple weeks).  It’s easier to integrate stars into a system (see Triangle, circa 1992-2010), and I think Kobe and Pau are their best when bound to specific roles. 
It helps that Mike Brown’s a complete and total offensive pushover.  When Nash (the best pick and roll PG) decides it’s time to run a pick and roll with Dwight Howard (the best pick and roll big man), Brown won’t have the guts to disagree.  If Nash can run the Nash offense when he wants, and the Princeton when he needs to, LA will be in good shape.  So far, according to Brown, Nash has that freedom.
As much as people seem to be interested in Nash running the offense, it’s his shooting that will unlock doors for LA.  For the past two seasons, the Lakers have had 2 of the top 5 post players in the league, and no hardware to show for it.  That’s because the Lakers had no shooters to space the floor.  If Nash does nothing but shoot well, LA will be a tough out.
What to Watch For:  I promise you, during one game, Nash will shoot 7-9 from the floor, and 5-6 from 3PT, the Lakers will win by 25+ points, and it will be clear Los Angeles will be a buzzsaw every time Nash gets the chance to shoot and shoot well.
Also, keep your eye on end of game situations.  Trust Nash to get himself, or someone else a good shot in close games.  If Kobe’s dribbling 30 feet away, and firing fadeaway jumpers with two men draped on him…well, lets just say that’s sub-optimal for Nash and the team.
2.) Head Coach, Mike Brown:  Anything short of an NBA title, and I think Mike Brown gets fired.  The past two years, it was sort of understood that the Lakers window was closing, so Mike Brown avoided the glare.  No longer.
WTWF:  Watch LA huddles during timeouts.  When you start seeing LA assistant Eddie Jordan, Kobe and Steve Nash dominating huddles in January, you can be sure the inmates are in control of the asylum.
3.) Who Shot Antawn Jamison?:  Antawn Jamison looks shot.  Done.  Cooked.  If he’s supposed to save the Lakers’ bench, get f***ing ready, Lakers fans.  I’ve only seen a handful of preseason games, and preseason games admittedly mean nothing, but I know what I saw.  Antawn Jamison is cooked.
WTWF: If I could pray to the basketball gods that Jamison be allowed to do one thing this season, I’d pray for his 3PT shot.  If he shoots 38% or better from long distance, all of a sudden I’d stop yelling at him through my television.
4.) Where for art thou, Goudelock?:  I probably just have a soft spot for the guy, but how can a guy who does this not earn a spot on a team that desperately needs good, quality outside shooting.
WTWF: If you couldn’t tell, the Lakers offense hangs on their outside shooting. Nash will be Nash, Kobe will be Kobe, Pau will be Pau, and Dwight will be Dwight.  But if the Lakers shoot well, tell the rest of the league to buckle up.  Jodie Meeks is clearly the candidate to do so.
5.) Best Buddies: I promise you by Christmas time, the Dwight Howard/Pau Gasol bromance will be in full swing.  I can think of no better current player for Dwight to learn post moves from, but more than that, get ready for the Gasol lobs to D12.
WTWF:  The Andrew Bynum meltdown in Philly.  It’s coming.  The hair’s long, the knees are bone bruised, and the guy’s already told everyone, and then proved, that basketball isn’t his life.  I’m really rooting for him.  I’m also a little worried.
6.) Enjoy Morris and Ebanks:  …because they’ll be gone next year.  I can’t see futures for either of them.  I mean, with Ebanks, I’m positive.  He has no discernible strength.  Rumors out of the Summer say Darius Morris improved his jumpshot.  He’ll certainly have a great teacher in Nash, but I just don’t see it.  At best he could carve out another year or so as a low-wage back-up that the Lakers won’t get rid of because they don’t want to pay the luxury tax.
WTWF:  When Nash gets injured, Morris will get some burn, and I fully expect it to be car wreck bad.  Vacillating between Princeton and the P&R offense is a job for professionals.
7.) 50/50: Half of this season is on Dwight and half of it is on Kobe.  You’re all sleeping on how good, how truly transformative Dwight Howard is in the game of basketball.  His offensive game is incredibly explosive, doesn’t require set looks (which is good, because Kobe likes to shoot), and meshes perfectly with Steve Nash.
Don’t worry about the beauty of his post moves (which he’s working hard on), or his free throws (which assistant Chuck Person may have helped considerably).  Just watch this man on the defensive end.  He’s the closest thing to Bill Russell we’ve seen in the NBA since Bill Russell (I know that’s sacrilegious to Celtics fans, but I hate the Celtics anyways).  In his first preseason game dressed in Laker gold, Howard blocked four shots, and altered no fewer than 4 more, resulting in misses.  That’s eight extra possessions for the Lakers.  When basketball games sometimes come down to one play, it’s good to know a guy like Howard can possibly get you eight more.
For basketball gods’ sake, the guy made Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick an elite defensive team.  The Lakers will be good on defense this year solely because of Dwight, and the Lakers haven’t been good on defense in years.  When healthy, Howard is, by far and away the 3rd best player in the NBA, and making a run at second place.
The only problem is, asking Dwight to take care of the defense by his lonesome is asking a lot.  It’d be nice to reward the “big fella.”  A major tenet in basketball is “keep the big man happy.”  That means give him some help on offense.  Keep him engaged in the season.  Let him have fun.
All of that rests in the hands of Kobe Bryant. 
If Bryant relents, and cedes some of his power to the rest of his teammates, the sky’s the limit for these Lakers.  No one in the history of NBA has ever been in a better position to right his own career wrongs. 
Kobe’s a gunner.  We all know it.  That’s sort of what makes him great. 
But Kobe has the chance to do what Shaquille O’Neal never did for Bryant - give the child prodigy room to shine.  Kobe knows he left titles on the table when Shaq left.  Now, it’s time to get those back.
What’s more, the Legend of Kobe Bryant will only swell more if he does.  Right now, Kobe’s known for shooting at will, telling reporters this is “his team,” and for never ever thinking he’s wrong.  If Bryant lets Dwight dominate basketball games, compliments him in a few post-game interviews, and truly gives Howard the keys to the Lakers’ car this season, Kobe can re-write his own history.
Lakers fans, and the media, would remember him for his benevolence.  Kobe Bryant has the unique opportunity to go from “Ruthless Warrior” to the “Wise King.” 
He has the ability.  His game can adapt (see the 2001 NBA Playoffs).  It will be his desire and maturity. 
I think he can do it.
WTWF:  Chemistry is about the little things. Is Kobe running on the floor to high five Dwight in timeouts?  Is he lauding him in interviews?  If he does those things, it will mean a lot to Dwight and this team.
8.) Health:  Remember when Shaq used to come to camp overweight, and play himself into shape by the end of winter?  Remember when the Lakers didn’t care about the regular season, and thought they’d “flip the switch” in the Playoffs?  Ahhh, the good ‘ol days.
And it’s good to be back.
This whole season is all about the Playoffs.  Nothing else matters.  These Lakers are built to win NBA Championships in a very small window of two years.  There’s an expiration date on this team.  As a Lakers fan, I don’t care how many games they win, how many times Blake Griffin or LeBron James dunk on them, or which game I totally lose my cool and start shouting things like, “I hate this team!!!  They’ll never win the title!!!”
If these Los Angeles Lakers are healthy in the Spring, they’ve got a good chance.  And that’s all you can ask for.
#GotEmCoach High-res

YOUR 2012-2013 LOS ANGELES LAKERS:

Personally, this is the most exciting Lakers season since 1996 (Shaq and Kobe’s first year).  LA starts four future Hall-of-Famers, and these guys fit together beautifully.  They fit together, I know they fit together, you know they fit together, and the NBA knows they fit together. 

Here are my thoughts on the Lakers’ season, in handy-dandy list form:

1.) The Steve Nash Predicament:  The Lakers instituted the Princeton offense, only LA’s new point guard has spent his entire career running the Steve Nash offense (and to much success).  So where do I stand?  I think the Princeton is a good thing (at least until I panic in a couple weeks).  It’s easier to integrate stars into a system (see Triangle, circa 1992-2010), and I think Kobe and Pau are their best when bound to specific roles. 

It helps that Mike Brown’s a complete and total offensive pushover.  When Nash (the best pick and roll PG) decides it’s time to run a pick and roll with Dwight Howard (the best pick and roll big man), Brown won’t have the guts to disagree.  If Nash can run the Nash offense when he wants, and the Princeton when he needs to, LA will be in good shape.  So far, according to Brown, Nash has that freedom.

As much as people seem to be interested in Nash running the offense, it’s his shooting that will unlock doors for LA.  For the past two seasons, the Lakers have had 2 of the top 5 post players in the league, and no hardware to show for it.  That’s because the Lakers had no shooters to space the floor.  If Nash does nothing but shoot well, LA will be a tough out.

What to Watch For:  I promise you, during one game, Nash will shoot 7-9 from the floor, and 5-6 from 3PT, the Lakers will win by 25+ points, and it will be clear Los Angeles will be a buzzsaw every time Nash gets the chance to shoot and shoot well.

Also, keep your eye on end of game situations.  Trust Nash to get himself, or someone else a good shot in close games.  If Kobe’s dribbling 30 feet away, and firing fadeaway jumpers with two men draped on him…well, lets just say that’s sub-optimal for Nash and the team.

2.) Head Coach, Mike Brown:  Anything short of an NBA title, and I think Mike Brown gets fired.  The past two years, it was sort of understood that the Lakers window was closing, so Mike Brown avoided the glare.  No longer.

WTWF:  Watch LA huddles during timeouts.  When you start seeing LA assistant Eddie Jordan, Kobe and Steve Nash dominating huddles in January, you can be sure the inmates are in control of the asylum.

3.) Who Shot Antawn Jamison?:  Antawn Jamison looks shot.  Done.  Cooked.  If he’s supposed to save the Lakers’ bench, get f***ing ready, Lakers fans.  I’ve only seen a handful of preseason games, and preseason games admittedly mean nothing, but I know what I saw.  Antawn Jamison is cooked.

WTWF: If I could pray to the basketball gods that Jamison be allowed to do one thing this season, I’d pray for his 3PT shot.  If he shoots 38% or better from long distance, all of a sudden I’d stop yelling at him through my television.

4.) Where for art thou, Goudelock?:  I probably just have a soft spot for the guy, but how can a guy who does this not earn a spot on a team that desperately needs good, quality outside shooting.

WTWF: If you couldn’t tell, the Lakers offense hangs on their outside shooting. Nash will be Nash, Kobe will be Kobe, Pau will be Pau, and Dwight will be Dwight.  But if the Lakers shoot well, tell the rest of the league to buckle up.  Jodie Meeks is clearly the candidate to do so.

5.) Best Buddies: I promise you by Christmas time, the Dwight Howard/Pau Gasol bromance will be in full swing.  I can think of no better current player for Dwight to learn post moves from, but more than that, get ready for the Gasol lobs to D12.

WTWF:  The Andrew Bynum meltdown in Philly.  It’s coming.  The hair’s long, the knees are bone bruised, and the guy’s already told everyone, and then proved, that basketball isn’t his life.  I’m really rooting for him.  I’m also a little worried.

6.) Enjoy Morris and Ebanks:  …because they’ll be gone next year.  I can’t see futures for either of them.  I mean, with Ebanks, I’m positive.  He has no discernible strength.  Rumors out of the Summer say Darius Morris improved his jumpshot.  He’ll certainly have a great teacher in Nash, but I just don’t see it.  At best he could carve out another year or so as a low-wage back-up that the Lakers won’t get rid of because they don’t want to pay the luxury tax.

WTWF:  When Nash gets injured, Morris will get some burn, and I fully expect it to be car wreck bad.  Vacillating between Princeton and the P&R offense is a job for professionals.

7.) 50/50: Half of this season is on Dwight and half of it is on Kobe.  You’re all sleeping on how good, how truly transformative Dwight Howard is in the game of basketball.  His offensive game is incredibly explosive, doesn’t require set looks (which is good, because Kobe likes to shoot), and meshes perfectly with Steve Nash.

Don’t worry about the beauty of his post moves (which he’s working hard on), or his free throws (which assistant Chuck Person may have helped considerably).  Just watch this man on the defensive end.  He’s the closest thing to Bill Russell we’ve seen in the NBA since Bill Russell (I know that’s sacrilegious to Celtics fans, but I hate the Celtics anyways).  In his first preseason game dressed in Laker gold, Howard blocked four shots, and altered no fewer than 4 more, resulting in misses.  That’s eight extra possessions for the Lakers.  When basketball games sometimes come down to one play, it’s good to know a guy like Howard can possibly get you eight more.

For basketball gods’ sake, the guy made Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick an elite defensive team.  The Lakers will be good on defense this year solely because of Dwight, and the Lakers haven’t been good on defense in years.  When healthy, Howard is, by far and away the 3rd best player in the NBA, and making a run at second place.

The only problem is, asking Dwight to take care of the defense by his lonesome is asking a lot.  It’d be nice to reward the “big fella.”  A major tenet in basketball is “keep the big man happy.”  That means give him some help on offense.  Keep him engaged in the season.  Let him have fun.

All of that rests in the hands of Kobe Bryant. 

If Bryant relents, and cedes some of his power to the rest of his teammates, the sky’s the limit for these Lakers.  No one in the history of NBA has ever been in a better position to right his own career wrongs. 

Kobe’s a gunner.  We all know it.  That’s sort of what makes him great. 

But Kobe has the chance to do what Shaquille O’Neal never did for Bryant - give the child prodigy room to shine.  Kobe knows he left titles on the table when Shaq left.  Now, it’s time to get those back.

What’s more, the Legend of Kobe Bryant will only swell more if he does.  Right now, Kobe’s known for shooting at will, telling reporters this is “his team,” and for never ever thinking he’s wrong.  If Bryant lets Dwight dominate basketball games, compliments him in a few post-game interviews, and truly gives Howard the keys to the Lakers’ car this season, Kobe can re-write his own history.

Lakers fans, and the media, would remember him for his benevolence.  Kobe Bryant has the unique opportunity to go from “Ruthless Warrior” to the “Wise King.” 

He has the ability.  His game can adapt (see the 2001 NBA Playoffs).  It will be his desire and maturity. 

I think he can do it.

WTWF:  Chemistry is about the little things. Is Kobe running on the floor to high five Dwight in timeouts?  Is he lauding him in interviews?  If he does those things, it will mean a lot to Dwight and this team.

8.) Health:  Remember when Shaq used to come to camp overweight, and play himself into shape by the end of winter?  Remember when the Lakers didn’t care about the regular season, and thought they’d “flip the switch” in the Playoffs?  Ahhh, the good ‘ol days.

And it’s good to be back.

This whole season is all about the Playoffs.  Nothing else matters.  These Lakers are built to win NBA Championships in a very small window of two years.  There’s an expiration date on this team.  As a Lakers fan, I don’t care how many games they win, how many times Blake Griffin or LeBron James dunk on them, or which game I totally lose my cool and start shouting things like, “I hate this team!!!  They’ll never win the title!!!”

If these Los Angeles Lakers are healthy in the Spring, they’ve got a good chance.  And that’s all you can ask for.

#GotEmCoach

The Lakers got worked in Game 1, and the slaughter has just begun (try to remember the good times, fellow Laker fans).  Despite having strengths where the Thunder have weaknesses (inside, half-court offense), this series is a bad match-up for LA because they simply cannot defend Durant, Westbrook or James Harden.
And when all three are in the game?  Power vomit.  There’s nothing LA can do.
The Lakers’ troubles this season have almost always come on the defensive end.  It’s easy to see.  During a regular season game, in a regularly paced season, a good NBA basketball team should reasonably expect to score 90-100 points.  In the Playoffs, because we’re dealing with the best, scores might fluctuate up a few points, but just as likely, down a few, as team defenses give more effort.
Simply put, it’s pretty difficult to beat a team that scores in the upper ‘90’s or above, especially in a accelerated season like this one.
The NBA has made it easier to prognosticate outcomes by partitioning games into 4 quarters of play.  Fancy!  If Team A is scoring 23-25 points in any given quarter, they’re on pace for that 90-100 point goal, and Team B’s defense isn’t getting the job done.
In Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers gave up 113 points.  Denver had 30 in the first quarter, 24 in the second.  That’s a 108 point pace, except the Nuggets had a whopping 36 in the third, and another 23 in the fourth.  That’s mucho bad.  It didn’t even matter that LA scored 96 of their own.  In Game 1 against the Thunder, the Lakers gave up 119, including 30 in first, 29 in the second, a soul-crushing 39 in the third, and a “lowly” 21 in the fourth, when OKC clearly relented, and rested their starters.
Can I pull some sort of alarm?
Mike Brown was hired to coach the Lakers, in part, because he was supposed to bring his tough, hard-nosed defense to Los Angeles.  He was going to change the culture.  It hasn’t happened. 
Brown’s reputation as a defensive specialist is not without merit.  In ‘06-‘07, the Cavaliers finished 4th in the league in defensive efficiency, 5th in points allowed, 5th in opponent’s true shooting percentage, 2nd in defensive rebounding rate, 1st in opponent’s 3PT%, and lost in the NBA Finals.  That team played Damon Jones, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavolvic major minutes.
In ‘08-‘09, the Cavs were tied for 2nd in defensive efficiency, gave up the least points in the league, were tied for 1st in opponent FG%, were 5th in blocks, and won 66 games, all behind the defensive stylings of Boobie Gibson and noted stopper, Mo Williams.
In ‘09-‘10, Brown’s Cavs were Top 7 in all of those important defensive categories, and again had the best record in the league.  His defense is no joke.  To boot, the Lakers have three All-Stars, a former Defensive Player of the Year, and Matt Barnes (if that still means something).  Something’s clearly wrong.  So should Mike Brown be fired for his failure this season?  Let’s examine.
From the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding:

Why, almost after almost six months of hearing his voice, are the Lakers still so unable to adhere to one of the three defensive tenets Mike Brown declared the day he was hired: Make multiple efforts on defense, the last effort being that someone must always contest whatever shot goes up.

Ding says Brown’s messages are failing to get through to his players.  Is that Brown’s fault?  The players?  Both?  Other media members, and most fans, point to the team’s lack of effort, which at times, is clearly suspect.  But before we render a verdict, let me present an alternate line of thought:  What if the Lakers aren’t good enough to play good defense?
Brown espouses the belief that “anyone can be taught to defend.”  Technically, that’s true.  All people do have brains that can take in and process information.  Problem is, we all have bodies too.  Making our bodies do the things our brain knows ain’t that easy.
Mike Brown can teach me defense, and I can learn how to play it, but that won’t mean I’ll be any good at it.  The old maxim, “There’s no excuse for lack of effort,” is indisputably true, but there is an excuse for the Lakers’ defensive trouble:  “They’re not good at defense.”
The Lakers just don’t have the personnel.  Some players in the league can’t shoot. Maybe LA can’t defend?  Kobe, Ron, Barnes were excellent defenders, who have clearly lost a step. Pau struggles with activity and strength in the post.  Bynum has never had much lateral quickness, his leaping ability is minimal, and his ability to jump a second time is laughable.  Steve Blake is average on his best day, and Ramon Sessions will never have a best day defensively.
Should Mike Brown be fired if his team isn’t good enough to play his defense?  Whther my theory holds water or not, there are enough questions surrounding the Lakers’ players, and enough miles on their legs, that I believe it’s unfair to fire Mike Brown based on LA’s performance this season.
Oh, but don’t get me wrong, he will be fired.  Likely sometime relatively soon.  And here’s why.  From Kevin Ding, again:

Maybe it’s too much to expect the Lakers to be connected to a first-year coach nearly as well as the Thunder to Scott Brooks or the Spurs to Gregg Popovich, and Brown will tell you with regularity how there’s no shame in finished third in the West to clubs whose systems have been in place for years.

Hey, Mike Brown, save your breath.  Don’t ever tell me there’s “no shame in finishing third in the West” to anybody.  I don’t care what your reasons are.  Stick all of your excuses in a paper bag, along with your rotten suits, and set it on fire.
Lakers fans, the Lakers’ organization, and the Los Angeles Lakers expect Championships.  Nothing less.
That’s it.
#GotEmCoach High-res

The Lakers got worked in Game 1, and the slaughter has just begun (try to remember the good times, fellow Laker fans).  Despite having strengths where the Thunder have weaknesses (inside, half-court offense), this series is a bad match-up for LA because they simply cannot defend Durant, Westbrook or James Harden.

And when all three are in the game?  Power vomit.  There’s nothing LA can do.

The Lakers’ troubles this season have almost always come on the defensive end.  It’s easy to see.  During a regular season game, in a regularly paced season, a good NBA basketball team should reasonably expect to score 90-100 points.  In the Playoffs, because we’re dealing with the best, scores might fluctuate up a few points, but just as likely, down a few, as team defenses give more effort.

Simply put, it’s pretty difficult to beat a team that scores in the upper ‘90’s or above, especially in a accelerated season like this one.

The NBA has made it easier to prognosticate outcomes by partitioning games into 4 quarters of play.  Fancy!  If Team A is scoring 23-25 points in any given quarter, they’re on pace for that 90-100 point goal, and Team B’s defense isn’t getting the job done.

In Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers gave up 113 points.  Denver had 30 in the first quarter, 24 in the second.  That’s a 108 point pace, except the Nuggets had a whopping 36 in the third, and another 23 in the fourth.  That’s mucho bad.  It didn’t even matter that LA scored 96 of their own.  In Game 1 against the Thunder, the Lakers gave up 119, including 30 in first, 29 in the second, a soul-crushing 39 in the third, and a “lowly” 21 in the fourth, when OKC clearly relented, and rested their starters.

Can I pull some sort of alarm?

Mike Brown was hired to coach the Lakers, in part, because he was supposed to bring his tough, hard-nosed defense to Los Angeles.  He was going to change the culture.  It hasn’t happened. 

Brown’s reputation as a defensive specialist is not without merit.  In ‘06-‘07, the Cavaliers finished 4th in the league in defensive efficiency, 5th in points allowed, 5th in opponent’s true shooting percentage, 2nd in defensive rebounding rate, 1st in opponent’s 3PT%, and lost in the NBA Finals.  That team played Damon Jones, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavolvic major minutes.

In ‘08-‘09, the Cavs were tied for 2nd in defensive efficiency, gave up the least points in the league, were tied for 1st in opponent FG%, were 5th in blocks, and won 66 games, all behind the defensive stylings of Boobie Gibson and noted stopper, Mo Williams.

In ‘09-‘10, Brown’s Cavs were Top 7 in all of those important defensive categories, and again had the best record in the league.  His defense is no joke.  To boot, the Lakers have three All-Stars, a former Defensive Player of the Year, and Matt Barnes (if that still means something).  Something’s clearly wrong.  So should Mike Brown be fired for his failure this season?  Let’s examine.

From the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding:

Why, almost after almost six months of hearing his voice, are the Lakers still so unable to adhere to one of the three defensive tenets Mike Brown declared the day he was hired: Make multiple efforts on defense, the last effort being that someone must always contest whatever shot goes up.

Ding says Brown’s messages are failing to get through to his players.  Is that Brown’s fault?  The players?  Both?  Other media members, and most fans, point to the team’s lack of effort, which at times, is clearly suspect.  But before we render a verdict, let me present an alternate line of thought:  What if the Lakers aren’t good enough to play good defense?

Brown espouses the belief that “anyone can be taught to defend.”  Technically, that’s true.  All people do have brains that can take in and process information.  Problem is, we all have bodies too.  Making our bodies do the things our brain knows ain’t that easy.

Mike Brown can teach me defense, and I can learn how to play it, but that won’t mean I’ll be any good at it.  The old maxim, “There’s no excuse for lack of effort,” is indisputably true, but there is an excuse for the Lakers’ defensive trouble:  “They’re not good at defense.”

The Lakers just don’t have the personnel.  Some players in the league can’t shoot. Maybe LA can’t defend?  Kobe, Ron, Barnes were excellent defenders, who have clearly lost a step. Pau struggles with activity and strength in the post.  Bynum has never had much lateral quickness, his leaping ability is minimal, and his ability to jump a second time is laughable.  Steve Blake is average on his best day, and Ramon Sessions will never have a best day defensively.

Should Mike Brown be fired if his team isn’t good enough to play his defense?  Whther my theory holds water or not, there are enough questions surrounding the Lakers’ players, and enough miles on their legs, that I believe it’s unfair to fire Mike Brown based on LA’s performance this season.

Oh, but don’t get me wrong, he will be fired.  Likely sometime relatively soon.  And here’s why.  From Kevin Ding, again:

Maybe it’s too much to expect the Lakers to be connected to a first-year coach nearly as well as the Thunder to Scott Brooks or the Spurs to Gregg Popovich, and Brown will tell you with regularity how there’s no shame in finished third in the West to clubs whose systems have been in place for years.

Hey, Mike Brown, save your breath.  Don’t ever tell me there’s “no shame in finishing third in the West” to anybody.  I don’t care what your reasons are.  Stick all of your excuses in a paper bag, along with your rotten suits, and set it on fire.

Lakers fans, the Lakers’ organization, and the Los Angeles Lakers expect Championships.  Nothing less.

That’s it.

#GotEmCoach

LEBRON JAMES: THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
I love a good story. 
In the Summer of 2004, one of my favorite stories was the Curse of the Bambino, and the New York Yankees utter historical domination of the sport and rivalry with the Boston Red Sox.  I know fans of small market teams hate the “Evil Empire,” but I submit sports and sports fans need the Yanks because the Yankees make a good story great.  The Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t just win the World Series in 2001.  They beat the Yankees.  Boston is far from a small market team, but the yarn they spun in 2004 is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sports stories of all-time precisely because the Yankees were a part of it.
While most people celebrated the Red Sox victory, or at least recognized its incredible narrative, I mourned.  Because the story was over.  Boston won.  The Curse was dead.  Winning your first championship in 85 years is phenomenal, but do you know what’s better than that?  Winning your first championship in 185 years.  Now THAT’S a story.  The Red Sox could have lost for another 100 years, and I would’ve appreciated every second of it (well, I’d be dead, but still). 
The best story in basketball, bar none, is LeBron James.  His reads like Greek mythology.  A titan, gifted with the preternatural ability to do anything and everything on the basketball court, is cast out of the heavens, sent to Earth as a man to display the might of the gods.  But LeBron has one fatal flaw: in his tremendous, other-worldly success, he never learned to deal with adversity, cannot perform under pressure, and wilts when the lights shine the brightest.
I’m not saying that’s word-for-word what’s happening with LeBron James in the NBA, but that is a pretty damn great story, no?
LeBron James is truly mighty.  His speed and power, elegance and feel for the game, are unmatched.  He is ferocious, yet incredibly deft.  He is finesse and raw power.  He is regal.
He is Achilles.
No one knows why LeBron James, the person who can play basketball the best, is not the undisputed best basketball player ever, and multiple world champion.  I just don’t want the story to ever stop.  Ever never.
I get a lot of flack for being a “LeBron James Hater,” but the truth is, I love watching him play, in part, because I love this story.  Every year, we get the story of a winner, in every sport.  It’s all sort of rote.  The trophies are literally handed out at the end of each and every season.  But the story of the tragic loser is rare, meaningful, poignant, and full of humanity and heart.
During the Miami Heat’s Game 4 loss to the New York Knicks, LeBron James was slowly, but methodically chopping away at the foundation of his own epic storyline.  The Knicks’ Mike Bibby buried a 3-pointer to put his team up 84-81, forcing Miami to take a timeout.  Undaunted, James hit his own clutch 3-pointer with 75 seconds left in the game, only to watch Carmelo Anthony answer right back with another three.  When Anthony went to the line, up three, shooting three more free throws, it looked like the Knicks were a lock to extend the series.
But Carmelo only made one.  The lead was four, not an insurmountable lead with 25 seconds left, but certainly a gap difficult to bridge for a normal player.  Something felt different.  LeBron felt ready.  He was carrying himself differently.  It was, strangely, no surprise to me when LeBron drove on the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, took the foul, and made a wild, left-handed layup in the process.  The free throw would follow, and all of a sudden, Miami was within one.
Seven seconds later, with 13 seconds remaining, and down two points, Miami had the opportunity to tie or win the game, as well as their first round series, on their way back to the Finals.  The hot hand clearly belonged to LeBron, who was in the process of rewriting his “clutch” storyline.
The dominoes were set perfectly.  What better game to let LeBron excise these demons?  He was in a safe environment, supported by his team’s dominant 3-0 lead, virtually guaranteed of moving on in the Playoffs.  If James misses, and loses, Miami likely claims victory in a forthcoming game, and LeBron learns the crucial lesson that mistakes, in basketball games, aren’t too costly, and certainly not the end of the world, or his future.
However, if LeBron put his teammates on his shoulders, and wins the game, his confidence would soar, and the Heat would likely be unstoppable.  The corner wouldn’t just be turned, it would be razed by the King himself.  The fourth quarter jokes would go away.  No more haranguing tweets.  No more commentators dissecting his psyche.  Just the gleam of the Larry O’Brien trophy reflected in his bright eyes.  A true win-win.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra called the play for Dwyane Wade.  LeBron stood in the assigned corner he’s oft been relegated to late in games, and watched.  Wade missed.  The Knicks won.  Opportunity lost. 
And frankly, I couldn’t have be more happy about it. 
I don’t wish LeBron James failure.  I just want this great story to have no end.
@GotEm_Coach High-res

LEBRON JAMES: THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD

I love a good story. 

In the Summer of 2004, one of my favorite stories was the Curse of the Bambino, and the New York Yankees utter historical domination of the sport and rivalry with the Boston Red Sox.  I know fans of small market teams hate the “Evil Empire,” but I submit sports and sports fans need the Yanks because the Yankees make a good story great.  The Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t just win the World Series in 2001.  They beat the Yankees.  Boston is far from a small market team, but the yarn they spun in 2004 is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sports stories of all-time precisely because the Yankees were a part of it.

While most people celebrated the Red Sox victory, or at least recognized its incredible narrative, I mourned.  Because the story was over.  Boston won.  The Curse was dead.  Winning your first championship in 85 years is phenomenal, but do you know what’s better than that?  Winning your first championship in 185 years.  Now THAT’S a story.  The Red Sox could have lost for another 100 years, and I would’ve appreciated every second of it (well, I’d be dead, but still). 

The best story in basketball, bar none, is LeBron James.  His reads like Greek mythology.  A titan, gifted with the preternatural ability to do anything and everything on the basketball court, is cast out of the heavens, sent to Earth as a man to display the might of the gods.  But LeBron has one fatal flaw: in his tremendous, other-worldly success, he never learned to deal with adversity, cannot perform under pressure, and wilts when the lights shine the brightest.

I’m not saying that’s word-for-word what’s happening with LeBron James in the NBA, but that is a pretty damn great story, no?

LeBron James is truly mighty.  His speed and power, elegance and feel for the game, are unmatched.  He is ferocious, yet incredibly deft.  He is finesse and raw power.  He is regal.

He is Achilles.

No one knows why LeBron James, the person who can play basketball the best, is not the undisputed best basketball player ever, and multiple world champion.  I just don’t want the story to ever stop.  Ever never.

I get a lot of flack for being a “LeBron James Hater,” but the truth is, I love watching him play, in part, because I love this story.  Every year, we get the story of a winner, in every sport.  It’s all sort of rote.  The trophies are literally handed out at the end of each and every season.  But the story of the tragic loser is rare, meaningful, poignant, and full of humanity and heart.

During the Miami Heat’s Game 4 loss to the New York Knicks, LeBron James was slowly, but methodically chopping away at the foundation of his own epic storyline.  The Knicks’ Mike Bibby buried a 3-pointer to put his team up 84-81, forcing Miami to take a timeout.  Undaunted, James hit his own clutch 3-pointer with 75 seconds left in the game, only to watch Carmelo Anthony answer right back with another three.  When Anthony went to the line, up three, shooting three more free throws, it looked like the Knicks were a lock to extend the series.

But Carmelo only made one.  The lead was four, not an insurmountable lead with 25 seconds left, but certainly a gap difficult to bridge for a normal player.  Something felt different.  LeBron felt ready.  He was carrying himself differently.  It was, strangely, no surprise to me when LeBron drove on the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, took the foul, and made a wild, left-handed layup in the process.  The free throw would follow, and all of a sudden, Miami was within one.

Seven seconds later, with 13 seconds remaining, and down two points, Miami had the opportunity to tie or win the game, as well as their first round series, on their way back to the Finals.  The hot hand clearly belonged to LeBron, who was in the process of rewriting his “clutch” storyline.

The dominoes were set perfectly.  What better game to let LeBron excise these demons?  He was in a safe environment, supported by his team’s dominant 3-0 lead, virtually guaranteed of moving on in the Playoffs.  If James misses, and loses, Miami likely claims victory in a forthcoming game, and LeBron learns the crucial lesson that mistakes, in basketball games, aren’t too costly, and certainly not the end of the world, or his future.

However, if LeBron put his teammates on his shoulders, and wins the game, his confidence would soar, and the Heat would likely be unstoppable.  The corner wouldn’t just be turned, it would be razed by the King himself.  The fourth quarter jokes would go away.  No more haranguing tweets.  No more commentators dissecting his psyche.  Just the gleam of the Larry O’Brien trophy reflected in his bright eyes.  A true win-win.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra called the play for Dwyane Wade.  LeBron stood in the assigned corner he’s oft been relegated to late in games, and watched.  Wade missed.  The Knicks won.  Opportunity lost. 

And frankly, I couldn’t have be more happy about it. 

I don’t wish LeBron James failure.  I just want this great story to have no end.

@GotEm_Coach

The Unstoppable Bulls, and the Immovable Schedule

The writing was on the wall.  When the NBA announced it’s 66-game schedule, it was quite clear some team’s season, some player’s year, would be lost.  I put the following tweets on an Internet site called "twitter.

A few days later…

In January, on this site, I wrote a column called Quit Playing, Chicago:

The Chicago Bulls management is idling.  They’re too comfortable.  They’re assuming, because the team is young, and because they have Derrick Rose, the Bulls will be good for a while into the future.  But window’s close.  Sometimes they slam shut.  Ask the Portland Trail Blazers, or the Sacramento Kings.  Ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, or the Orlando Magic.

The time is now, Chicago.  Don’t waste this.  Quit playing.

In March, again on tumblr

Derrick Rose is being held captive by shortsightedly optimistic management.  Ray Allen is available!!!  What are you doing, Chicago?!?!?  Make a move!!!  With his size, and style of play, Rose will be injury prone!!!  Your window could close at any minute!!!  Don’t pass up a chance at a title with LeBron looming and possibly figuring out how to win!!!

In April, back on twitter…

To a fellow basketball fan…

Two days later, Rose tears his ACL and is lost for a year.  I wish I’d been wrong.  Unfortunately, not all of my tweets were accurate predictions…

Not even two minutes into the 3rd quarter of last night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, with 16 seconds left on the shot clock and a 6-point lead, Los Angeles Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum walked up the court and shot a 3-pointer from the top of the key.  If you’re into this sort of thing, the video is available to watch here.
He missed.
I wouldn’t say he missed terribly.  The shot had a nice touch, but fell right of center.  The Warriors rebounded, but couldn’t even get the ball past half court before Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown ventured down to the end of his bench to substitute Josh McRoberts for the still 24-year old Bynum.  Andrew would not see action the rest of the quarter, and only a scant few minutes in the fourth, as LA struggled to maintain it’s lead over the undersized Warriors team.
Spanning his 7-year NBA career, Andrew Bynum has taken 7 threes, making one (two nights ago, in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies).
It is not against the rules for a center to take a 3-point shot.  Off the top of my head, Mehmet Okur takes them, Andrea Bargnani takes them, Spencer Hawes takes them.  Manute Bol took them.  Pau Gasol of the Lakers, who plays the center position each and every game for the same Los Angeles Lakers, has taken 19 of them this season alone.  So why would first-year coach Mike Brown punish Bynum after launching his own?
Because he missed? If that shot had gone in, would Brown have pulled him?
I’m certainly not lobbying for Bynum to start taking more shots from deep.  I clearly see the error in him launching basketballs from 24 feet away.  If I had my druthers, Bynum wouldn’t move from directly underneath the rim on both ends, he would never put his arms down, and he would have his entire skeleton fortified with the indestructible metal alloy, adamantium.
Andrew Bynum shouldn’t take 3-point shots because he is simply not effective at making them.  However, by the numbers, a lot of Lakers, in a lot of different positions, are not effective either.
The Lakers 3PT% during the 2012 NBA season:

Andrew Bynum: 25% (1-4)Pau Gasol: 26% (5-19)Metta World Peace: 26% (33-125)Kobe Bryant: 28% (73-254)

If Mike Brown wants to punish someone for taking and missing a bad 3-point shot, he can stand in the middle of a huddle, put on a blind fold, point his finger, spin himself in a circle, and bench the player he stops on.  There are only two teams worse at making 3’s in the NBA, and one of them is the Charlotte Bobcats, which is, as we all know, a franchise that should be put on a rocket ship and blasted into the sun.
When asked about the very public censure (the Lakers played on NBATV’s Fan Night), Brown said, 

"That’s something that I felt could have taken us  out of rhythm, and so that’s why I took him out of the game."

Ohhhhh!  I get it.  It’s not that Bynum took the shot, it’s that it was taken outside the flow of the offense?  Mike Brown, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant…
I’m not defending Bynum or his errant shot (Kevin Ding did that far more beautifully than I ever could).  My issue is with Mike Brown.  Brown needs to be consistent with his actions, his coaching.  If you’re going to punish someone for hurting the offense, you better punish everyone who does the same.  Different sets of rules for different players will breed contempt.  Pau Gasol, like Bynum, is a seven footer who should be operating predominantly from the post, yet Gasol’s taken multiple ill-advised three point attempts with impunity.  Pau spoke to the press about Bynum,

"That’s not his game. Hopefully it’s just one bad game, it’s out of the way.  We’ll be fine. Andrew understands."

I’m sure Bynum appreciates the lecture.  Let’s take a look at the first 135 seconds of the Lakers loss to the Grizzlies 3 days ago:

10:52 - Pau Gasol misses 16-foot jumper10:33 - Pau Gasol misses 19-foot jumper10:15 - Pau Gasol misses 17-foot jumper09:45 - Pau Gasol misses 17-foot jumper

Please, Pau Gasol, tell me more about who should be taking what shots.
So what does Brown do after Gasol misses the Lakers’ fourth shot in a row to start the game?  Nothing.  He didn’t bench Gasol for playing outside his strength.  He didn’t bench Gasol for repeatedly making the same mistake over and over.  Yet, two days later, Brown does punish Bynum, and Gasol decides to be didactic?

"I guess, ‘Don’t take 3’s is the message, but I’m going to take another one and I’m going to take some more, so I just hope it’s not the same result."
- Andrew Bynum

You know what kind of people hate inconsistent treatment, and public emasculation?  24-year old kids like Andrew Bynum.  He’s been watching Kobe Bryant jack shots for 7 straight years, doing exactly what’s been asked of him without complaint, to the tune of back-to-back championship titles.  He’s been underestimated, relegated to third wheel status behind Gasol, and sometimes fourth behind Odom, injured and understandably frustrated with his career to this point.  Now he’s finally healthy, coming into his own during a wild, unpredictable season, while learning a new system on both ends of the court, still adjusting to play with a ball-dominant Kobe Bryant, and waiting in the paint for the rebound off Pau Gasol’s missed 3-point shot, and you’re wondering why he’s lashing out?
Tip of the iceberg for Mike Brown.  Earlier this week, the head coach publicly benched Bryant, only with ESPN cameras this time, for playing exactly the way Kobe’s played his entire career.  Brown’s explanation? 

"I felt I wanted to make a sub at the time."  

Here’s an idea, Coach Brown: instead of punishing both men in front of the cameras, talk to each behind them.  Give those players the respect a man, and multi-million dollar, championship athlete deserves.  And when you get frustrated again, Coach Brown, please remember: these Lakers’ go as far as Bryant and Bynum drag them.
This road will never be easy for the new coach.  Brown is replacing Phil Jackson, a man who is not only world-famous for dealing with team strife, but could earn the respect of his players simply by flashing his golden knuckles.  On the other hand, Brown’s résumé shows a history of weakness.  In his only other head coaching job in the NBA, Brown let LeBron James ran roughshod over Cleveland.  Could Mike now be over-compensating to avoid the same criticism?
This NBA season is different than any before it, with compressed schedules, accelerated travel, and no practice time, now more than ever head coaches need to be pillars of support and models of consistency for their players.  The only thing Mike Brown has done consistently is tinker with his lineups.  Two weeks ago, Josh McRoberts couldn’t get off the bench, and rookie shooting guard Andrew Goudelock was playing 15-20 minutes per game.  Now, it’s completely reversed.  A certain level of experimentation is expected for a new coaching staff and new offensive and defensive systems, but somebody remind the head coach there are only 16 games left.  NBA teams like to find a groove just before the Playoffs.  The Lakers will be lucky to have a locked rotation.This core has won titles together, and it’s clear Mike Brown does not have their respect.  Bynum said he’d shoot more from distance.  Bryant called the coaching staff’s “experience” into question.  Steve Blake was the starter “for the remainder of the season,” but Brown has changed course, and is still searching for the right mix off the bench.  To top it off, are the players now worried if they make a mistake they’ll be punished on cable television?  
Cats and dogs, living together…  All in a day’s work for Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown.
Think Derek Fisher could have helped with this mess?
@gotem_coach High-res

Not even two minutes into the 3rd quarter of last night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, with 16 seconds left on the shot clock and a 6-point lead, Los Angeles Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum walked up the court and shot a 3-pointer from the top of the key.  If you’re into this sort of thing, the video is available to watch here.

He missed.

I wouldn’t say he missed terribly.  The shot had a nice touch, but fell right of center.  The Warriors rebounded, but couldn’t even get the ball past half court before Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown ventured down to the end of his bench to substitute Josh McRoberts for the still 24-year old Bynum.  Andrew would not see action the rest of the quarter, and only a scant few minutes in the fourth, as LA struggled to maintain it’s lead over the undersized Warriors team.

Spanning his 7-year NBA career, Andrew Bynum has taken 7 threes, making one (two nights ago, in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies).

It is not against the rules for a center to take a 3-point shot.  Off the top of my head, Mehmet Okur takes them, Andrea Bargnani takes them, Spencer Hawes takes them.  Manute Bol took them.  Pau Gasol of the Lakers, who plays the center position each and every game for the same Los Angeles Lakers, has taken 19 of them this season alone.  So why would first-year coach Mike Brown punish Bynum after launching his own?

Because he missed? If that shot had gone in, would Brown have pulled him?

I’m certainly not lobbying for Bynum to start taking more shots from deep.  I clearly see the error in him launching basketballs from 24 feet away.  If I had my druthers, Bynum wouldn’t move from directly underneath the rim on both ends, he would never put his arms down, and he would have his entire skeleton fortified with the indestructible metal alloy, adamantium.

Andrew Bynum shouldn’t take 3-point shots because he is simply not effective at making them.  However, by the numbers, a lot of Lakers, in a lot of different positions, are not effective either.

The Lakers 3PT% during the 2012 NBA season:

Andrew Bynum: 25% (1-4)
Pau Gasol: 26% (5-19)
Metta World Peace: 26% (33-125)
Kobe Bryant: 28% (73-254)

If Mike Brown wants to punish someone for taking and missing a bad 3-point shot, he can stand in the middle of a huddle, put on a blind fold, point his finger, spin himself in a circle, and bench the player he stops on.  There are only two teams worse at making 3’s in the NBA, and one of them is the Charlotte Bobcats, which is, as we all know, a franchise that should be put on a rocket ship and blasted into the sun.

When asked about the very public censure (the Lakers played on NBATV’s Fan Night), Brown said, 

"That’s something that I felt could have taken us  out of rhythm, and so that’s why I took him out of the game."

Ohhhhh!  I get it.  It’s not that Bynum took the shot, it’s that it was taken outside the flow of the offense?  Mike Brown, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant…

I’m not defending Bynum or his errant shot (Kevin Ding did that far more beautifully than I ever could).  My issue is with Mike Brown.  Brown needs to be consistent with his actions, his coaching.  If you’re going to punish someone for hurting the offense, you better punish everyone who does the same.  Different sets of rules for different players will breed contempt.  Pau Gasol, like Bynum, is a seven footer who should be operating predominantly from the post, yet Gasol’s taken multiple ill-advised three point attempts with impunity.  Pau spoke to the press about Bynum,

"That’s not his game. Hopefully it’s just one bad game, it’s out of the way.  We’ll be fine. Andrew understands."

I’m sure Bynum appreciates the lecture.  Let’s take a look at the first 135 seconds of the Lakers loss to the Grizzlies 3 days ago:

10:52 - Pau Gasol misses 16-foot jumper
10:33 - Pau Gasol misses 19-foot jumper
10:15 - Pau Gasol misses 17-foot jumper
09:45 - Pau Gasol misses 17-foot jumper

Please, Pau Gasol, tell me more about who should be taking what shots.

So what does Brown do after Gasol misses the Lakers’ fourth shot in a row to start the game?  Nothing.  He didn’t bench Gasol for playing outside his strength.  He didn’t bench Gasol for repeatedly making the same mistake over and over.  Yet, two days later, Brown does punish Bynum, and Gasol decides to be didactic?

"I guess, ‘Don’t take 3’s is the message, but I’m going to take another one and I’m going to take some more, so I just hope it’s not the same result."

- Andrew Bynum

You know what kind of people hate inconsistent treatment, and public emasculation?  24-year old kids like Andrew Bynum.  He’s been watching Kobe Bryant jack shots for 7 straight years, doing exactly what’s been asked of him without complaint, to the tune of back-to-back championship titles.  He’s been underestimated, relegated to third wheel status behind Gasol, and sometimes fourth behind Odom, injured and understandably frustrated with his career to this point.  Now he’s finally healthy, coming into his own during a wild, unpredictable season, while learning a new system on both ends of the court, still adjusting to play with a ball-dominant Kobe Bryant, and waiting in the paint for the rebound off Pau Gasol’s missed 3-point shot, and you’re wondering why he’s lashing out?

Tip of the iceberg for Mike Brown.  Earlier this week, the head coach publicly benched Bryant, only with ESPN cameras this time, for playing exactly the way Kobe’s played his entire career.  Brown’s explanation? 

"I felt I wanted to make a sub at the time."  

Here’s an idea, Coach Brown: instead of punishing both men in front of the cameras, talk to each behind them.  Give those players the respect a man, and multi-million dollar, championship athlete deserves.  And when you get frustrated again, Coach Brown, please remember: these Lakers’ go as far as Bryant and Bynum drag them.

This road will never be easy for the new coach.  Brown is replacing Phil Jackson, a man who is not only world-famous for dealing with team strife, but could earn the respect of his players simply by flashing his golden knuckles.  On the other hand, Brown’s résumé shows a history of weakness.  In his only other head coaching job in the NBA, Brown let LeBron James ran roughshod over Cleveland.  Could Mike now be over-compensating to avoid the same criticism?

This NBA season is different than any before it, with compressed schedules, accelerated travel, and no practice time, now more than ever head coaches need to be pillars of support and models of consistency for their players.  The only thing Mike Brown has done consistently is tinker with his lineups.  Two weeks ago, Josh McRoberts couldn’t get off the bench, and rookie shooting guard Andrew Goudelock was playing 15-20 minutes per game.  Now, it’s completely reversed.  A certain level of experimentation is expected for a new coaching staff and new offensive and defensive systems, but somebody remind the head coach there are only 16 games left.  NBA teams like to find a groove just before the Playoffs.  The Lakers will be lucky to have a locked rotation.

This core has won titles together, and it’s clear Mike Brown does not have their respect.  Bynum said he’d shoot more from distance.  Bryant called the coaching staff’s “experience” into question.  Steve Blake was the starter “for the remainder of the season,” but Brown has changed course, and is still searching for the right mix off the bench.  To top it off, are the players now worried if they make a mistake they’ll be punished on cable television?  

Cats and dogs, living together…  All in a day’s work for Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown.

Think Derek Fisher could have helped with this mess?

@gotem_coach

MUST WATCHKobe vs. LeBron

Our opportunities to watch Kobe and LeBron go head-to-head are few and far between, and dwindling by the second. 

Admittedly, at this point in their careers, the battle effectively would prove nothing - LeBron is at his peak, while Kobe is fighting against the dying of the light - yet I don’t know a basketball fan who doesn’t want to see it. 

Like Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, the wait has made us clamor.

Unfortunately, the game seemed to be in the can.  Kobe’s side was up 12 points, with 4:30 minutes left in the game, when LeBron put in the first of his two deep, 4th quarter 3-pointers.  When James made his second, LeBron’s side was only down three, with three minutes remaining.

With only 20 seconds left, Bryant went to the foul line with the opportunity to keep the same lead, but after uncharacteristically missing the freebie (although, in this day and age, that miss felt ever so symbolic, and increasingly more characteristic of Kobe’s trajectory) LeBron’s Eastern Conference All-Stars had the opportunity to tie or beat Kobe’s Western Conference foes with a last-second, clutch shot.

LeBron took the ball.  Kobe matched up with him.  Finally, we would have our moment, however small.  We would all happily settle for this one-on-one moment to decide the All-Star game, on national television, in front of millions of viewers.

LeBron had the right side of the court.  Only Bryant in front of him.  But the play was run for Deron Williams, who missed a 3-pointer.

Robbed again.  The moment had been taken from us.  Basketball fans deflated.  First, the Orlando Magic knocked off the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers in the Summer of 2009.  Then the Celtics dismissed LeBron’s Cavs in 2010, and sent James packing for the South.  Spring, 2011, it was the Mavericks turn to crush our roundball dreams, sweeping Kobe away, as the Phil Jackson Lakers dismantled.

But just wait. 

As fate would have it, Deron’s miss was tipped back out, and into the hands of the would-be King.  This time, the clock read 5.5 seconds.  Kobe still guarding him, and the entire right side of the court still open for his game-winning drive. 

A scant two seconds later, LeBron would pass the ball again, this time cross-court, to his Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade.  But the ball never got there.  Blake Griffin would intercept it, and be fouled.

The only thing worse than watching your hopes dashed once, is watching them die a fifth death.  This just isn’t fair.  All we’ve done is support this league through a pointless, greedy lockout, forced to endure the reign of a tyrannical, out-of-touch commissioner.  We deserve to watch Kobe and LeBron, two All-Time greats, decide it on the court. 

Blake Griffin must have felt the same way.  He would miss one of his two free throws, no doubt just to please us as a spectators, leaving the opportunity for LeBron’s East to tie Kobe’s West, and send the game to overtime.

Timeout.  1.1 seconds left.  The ball is at half court.

The teams take the court, and LeBron walks to the sidelines, out of bounds, ready to throw the ball in.  King James wasn’t even in the field of play.  Wade would miss.  The West won.

Once more we would go without our answer.  Once more, the viewers would leave angry, and no one more so than Kobe Bryant.  At :20 seconds in the video above, Kobe is downright perplexed.  Confounded.  Angry.  He’s interrogating LeBron.  Kobe, it seems, feels he was robbed of his moment too. 

And that seems to be the perfect manifestation of what separates these two men. 

Kobe vs. LeBron.

@gotem_coach

(video via @jose3030)