In Defense Of Mike Brown

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the guy actually seems to have the right idea.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

I have a tumultuous relationship with Mike Brown. For five years I watched as my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers ran an offense under the Stay-Puft marshmallow man that could best be described as a highway car wreck. Mind you, I don’t just mean that it was bad like a car wreck. I mean that it operated under the same basic philosophy as a high-speed automobile accident. Everyone would slow down to look at the perpetrator and sometimes someone would catch on fire. To say that I hated Mike Brown during his time in Cleveland would be like saying male Republicans seem to be having some slight issues addressing the issue of rape. It’s true, but it doesn’t even begin to describe the severity of the situation. I give you this context so you’ll trust me when I say this to Laker fans: Leave Mike Brown alone.

After an off-season that was an orgy of joy, the Lakers have struggled so far this year. Despite adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to a starting lineup that already included Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the God-Mode Lakers have gone 0-8 in preseason and now lost their first three real-live basketball games (though a bounce-back game against the Pistons seems likely). This has many in Lakerland (a country with temperate weather, beautiful women, and a strange theocracy built around the The Order of St. Kobe of Lower Merion or Italy) already clamoring for Brown’s job. These people are stupid.

First off, Brown is attempting to implement the Princeton offense in L.A. The Princeton offense is built around players constantly passing the ball, players constantly moving without the ball, and players constantly knowing where their teammates are going to run, so that they can pass them the ball. It’s a system that thrives on familiarity, which is pretty much the only thing this Lakers team does not yet have going for it, with all of the new players that have been brought in. And though some would argue that it’s an offense that works against Steve Nash’s skills, that’s not really true. Passing is at a premium in this system; it’s just that the whole offense doesn’t have to run through one guy. It’s an offensive philosophy that allows multiple players to share the scoring burden. It’s an offensive philosophy that seeks to create scoring angles for every player on the court — which doesn’t seem like such a terrible idea when you’ve got four of the most dangerous scorers in the world playing together.

But most importantly, it’s an honest-to-god offensive philosophy. Look back at that first paragraph. Why did Clevelanders so resent the bespectacled Grimace-looking monster that was patrolling our sidelines for half a decade? Because we had the best player in the world and our offensive philosophy was a guy making fart noises with his mouth. That’s not what’s happening here. Brown brought in former Wizards head coach, reputable offensive mind, and once upon a time cool dude Eddie Jordan to help teach and run this system. This isn’t the Mike Brown I knew and loathed, and Lakers fans should stop treating him like he’s the same guy who once inspired this cartoon.

Mike Brown has always been an excellent defensive-minded coach, and now he has (with some help) an idea of what to do on offense. So why aren’t the Lakers winning yet? It seems both obvious and dumb to have to tell people that you have to give teams time to jell. That this isn’t the equivalent of playing NBA 2K13. That these are people who have to get used to each other’s styles of play within the rules of the offense. But that’s apparently necessary. Hell, even Kobe “I not only love throwing people under the bus, I will literally drive a bus while I do it to really make my point clear” Bryant came out and defended Brown.

Said Bryant: “For Mike it might be a little tough to say that so I’ll say it for him: ‘Everybody shut up. Let us work. At the end of the day, you’ll be happy with the result as you normally are.’”

If Kobe’s willing to give not only the benefit of the doubt, but pretty full-throated support to a guy that was pretty clearly his second choice for the job, shouldn’t Lakers fans and the talking heads on NBA broadcasts be willing to do the same?

Mike Brown, as of this writing, has a career winning percentage of .655. That’s good for sixth in NBA history ahead of legends such as Pat Riley, Tommy Heinsohn, and Jerry Sloan. Not to mention dangerously close to Red Auerbach, who sits in fifth place with .662. He’s never had a below-.500 record. He’s made the playoffs in every season he’s ever coached. He’s won at least a first-round playoff series in every season he’s ever coached. Yes, he’s always had at least one great player (and in Cleveland it was just one. Let’s not forget the revolving door of shit that played alongside LeBron), but in Cleveland he built some great defensive teams that, the last LeBron squad excluded, seemed to really like playing with each other. He’s trying to get better. Give the guy a break.

If things ever get really dire, I’m sure Kobe will tell us.

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