Firing a Purple and Gold Blank

Mike Brown isn’t smiling these days after being let go by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Mike Brown had just one year to prove he was the right coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. It wasn’t good enough. So the Lakers decided to let go of their four-year, $18 million commitment to Brown and ruthlessly told him to go take a permanent hike five games into the 2012-13 NBA season.

The path the Lakers chose to take in unloading Brown doesn’t ring too high in the intelligence department. It looks very much like a panic move, a transaction appearing more desperate than rationale. After acquiring both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the offseason, Lakerland has been expecting immediate results since those announcements were made.

Going winless in the preseason, then starting off the season at 1-4 in a 82-game regular season, is not exactly the kind of bang for your buck the Lakers and the their fans were anticipating. But it also isn’t a reason to panic and jump overboard, either. Unless the Lakers win the championship this year, firing Brown in haste is going to look both silly and not very smart.

Now that the Lakers have gotten rid of Brown, what is going to be the next excuse why the team is not performing at a high level? Fans have been clamoring for years that the Lakers to get rid of center Andrew Bynum. They can no longer bang on the 7-foot-1, 285 pound center anymore now that the more athletic and defensive-minded Howard is anchoring the paint area.

Just like Bynum, now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Brown was never really received with open arms by fans and some media members as the right choice to fill the void that Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson left behind. And now that Jackson won’t be walking through the Staples Center doors in a return to the Purple and Gold haze he left behind, Brown’s dismissal is even more puzzling.

Brown took LeBron James and the talentless Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in his short head coaching stint, and led that squad to the Eastern Conference championship round in another season. At least Brown did make it to the NBA Finals, which is something more than reported new Lakers coach Mike D’Atoni can say. Nash has reunited with former D’Antoni, the former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach.

In all the time they shared together working as coach and player for the Phoenix Suns, D’Antoni never did take Nash and his two regular seasons most valuable player awards to the NBA Finals, something glaringly lacking on the future Hall of Fame point guard’s resume.

The move for the Lakers to go with D’Antoni over Jackson and Brown has a lot to do with the history of the team’s success than anything else. Brown and his Princeton offense was too dated, too difficult to understand and too boring. The Hollywood crowd is used to exciting dunks, scintillating plays and an up tempo style of basketball from their Lakers, which makes sense of the D’Antoni hire.

Jackson’s triangle offense, while tried and true, ran its course with five titles in Los Angeles. The type of offense D’Antoni ran in Phoenix and New York is similar to the Lakers’ “Showtime” era in that it is constant movement and is a lot of fun to watch. Being fun to watch, however, does not translate into championship basketball.

Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and their buddies from the “Showtime” Lakers, are the only exceptions. Perhaps this is what the Lakers are trying to re-create with the reunion of D’Antoni and Nash, aligning with Kobe Bryant and Howard, their dominant center. It sounds good. The pieces will look good on the hardwood.

But will it translate into deflating the rising Los Angeles Clippers and dethroning the Oklahoma City Thunder as the Western Conference champions? That’s not a clear cut answer. If it doesn’t, the Lakers will be right back to square one when they brought in Brown to replace Jackson and his 11 NBA championship rings.


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