Going into this season, Laker fans expected to see change. After all, the Lakers lost Phil Jackson along with the team’s entire identity due to retirement. The Lakers’ aging players were another year older. Almost the entire bench lineup consisted of new players. Laker fans were unsure of Mike Brown’s coaching style. Then there was the blow of losing Lamar Odom for virtually no return.
As we approach All-Star Weekend, those changes are still in full exposure. There are constant rumors flying around the team. There are stories of dysfunction in the once most effective and professional front offices in the NBA. There are further questions and concerns surrounding Mike Brown and his coaching methods.
This is something the Lakers and Laker fans aren’t used to. The loss of identity both on the court and in the front office is unfamiliar territory for the Lakers. Pressure seems to be affecting the coach, the players and the front office. All are handling the pressure in different ways, which is turning out to be damaging to the entire organization.
First, let’s discuss Mike Brown. Replacing 11-time NBA champion coach, Phil Jackson, offers more than enough pressure for any coach to feel. Add that to the fact that he is coaching one of the most successful professional sports teams in history, which built its tradition around a standard of excellence, you can understand the pressure was building. I haven’t even mentioned the reality that this is a lockout season and Brown only had a two-week training camp to teach his offense and defense to the players.
However, Brown has yet to determine set rotations, which is concerning as we approach the halfway point of the season. Further, multiple players have publicly complained about Brown’s philosophy, which says to me that the players are not comfortable with him as a leader yet. Fans are also questioning Brown for some of his decisions that he has made. For example, fans were left scratching their heads when Andrew Bynum only played three minutes of the fourth quarter and Matt Barnes sat on the bench for the second half during last Sunday’s horrible loss to Phoenix. Pressure to perform and fill Jackson’s shoes are causing Brown to not completely connect with his players. The trust simply isn’t there yet.
Now, let’s turn to the players, whose issues with pressure has been well documented over the past few weeks. Constant trade rumors will affect any player, to say otherwise is false. Before you disagree, I agree that any professional player needs to compete in every game with a clear mind and put personal issues aside. However, professional athletes are human and basketball is a game filled with emotions. Perhaps if Phil Jackson was with the Lakers, he would be able to connect with Pau on this issue through his Zen techniques or one of his other unique methods to clear his mind.
Gasol is one of the most upstanding, professional players in the league. The way he handled the failed trade debacle in December should be applauded. Since then trade rumors surrounding Pau have not ceased, which increased the pressure for Pau to perform at full throttle. Gasol naturally isn’t an aggressive guy and he seems to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Bryant saw how this was affecting Pau’s performance and as a leader, stood up for him. Kobe addressing Laker management wouldn’t change the scenario or process from management and he knew it. Kobe did it to publicly have Pau’s back and show his support.
Next Page: Calling out the Front Office