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Los Angeles Lakers Should Not Have Fired Mike Brown

Max Meyer |
November 9, 2012 | 4:45 p.m. PST

Associate Sports Editor

Mike Brown was fired five games into the season. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Mike Brown was fired five games into the season. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
After a 1-4 start to the season, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown was fired Friday morning. The Lakers had huge expectations to fulfill at the beginning of the season after acquiring stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. However, after a slow start that included losses to the Dallas Mavericks without Dirk Nowitzki and the rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers, Lakers management felt the need to fire Brown. After all, the Lakers 1-4 record was their worst start since the 1993-94 season. But did the Lakers fire Brown too early?

Brown was the third coach ever to get fired within the first five games of a season, and the last time it happened was 40 years ago. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Brown's firing was the equivalent of a baseball manager getting fired in the eighth inning of the 10th game of the season. The NBA world was shocked as well by how quickly the Lakers fired Brown. Former coach Stan Van Gundy called the move "the most ridiculous firing in the history of the NBA."

Brown barely had any time to mesh his new pieces into a formidable starting unit. Remember how the Miami Heat started 9-8 in their first year with LeBron James and Chris Bosh? The big four of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Howard and Nash have played a whopping 45 minutes together this season. Nash, the only effective point guard on their roster, had only 50 minutes under his belt before he suffered his injury. 

But why did Mike Brown get fired? Sources told Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski it was because of the offense. The Lakers plan to get rid of the Princeton offense under their new coach. However, Brown's Princeton Offense wasn't the reason for the Lakers slow start. Despite having the second-worst turnover rate in the NBA (the Lakers turned the ball over close to 18 percent of their possessions), they still have the seventh highest offensive efficiency in the NBA. It is simply remarkable that their offense could be performing so well despite the egregious amount of turnovers. The offense is even improving from last year's 10th-ranked unit. 

The three biggest problems with this Lakers team are defense, their bench, and injuries. Two of those issues weren't even in Brown's control. The lack of bench depth is due in large part to the Lakers having three players (Bryant, Gasol and Howard) taking up close to the entire team's salary cap space. The Lakers have had to let go some of their important role players (like Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown) because they couldn't afford them on the open market. Now the Lakers are dead-last in the NBA in bench points. 

The high salaries of players like Pau Gasol made it tough for the Lakers to sign bench players. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
The high salaries of players like Pau Gasol made it tough for the Lakers to sign bench players. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
The Lakers' shallow bench really hurts when at least one of their star players isn't healthy. This has come into play with Steve Nash's injury. Nash suffered a small left leg fracture, so the Lakers turned to Steve Blake to be their starting point guard. The only problem is, Blake has been atrocious this season and he shouldn't be trusted in the first place to run any offense. The Lakers couldn't afford a better backup point guard because of their salary commitments to their four stars.

The rest of the bench isn't much better. Brown only played four of his bench guys in his last game: Jordan Hill, Antwan Jamison, Darius Morris, and Devin Ebanks. The fact that these guys are part of the Lakers rotation shows that they need to rely on their star power to win games. With Nash out and Howard clearly not 100 percent healthy coming off offseason back surgery, it was going to be tough for Brown to succeed early.

Giving Brown more time and a healthier Nash and Howard would have definitely improved the prospects of the Lakers. The defense was definitely the Lakers' biggest problem this season. After finishing as the 13th-ranked team in defensive efficiency last season, the Lakers are currently 25th. While a healthy Howard can improve their defense, slow and weak defensive players such as Nash and Gasol provide a challenge for any coach to fix the Lakers problems on defense. 

Firing Brown means that the Lakers have a replacement coach in mind and that they are very confident they will get him immediately. Apparently Brown, who has the third-highest career win percentage amongst active coaches at .653, was considered too detrimental towards the Lakers success.

Mike D'Antoni has been brought up as a possible replacement. However, he's not really a good fit because the Lakers players are best suited for a half-court offense. Additionally, how would the Lakers defense possibly improve under D'Antoni? Stan Van Gundy wouldn't want to coach with Dwight Howard on the team. Jerry Sloan's personality would clash with the divas of the Lakers. And do the Lakers really expect Phil Jackson to come back?

The Lakers' firing of Mike Brown all of a sudden turns their dream season into one of panic and desperation. If they were going to fire Brown so early in the season, why not fire him immediately after they were eliminated in the playoffs last year? They wasted an entire training camp running Brown's system, and now will have to learn an entire new scheme in the middle of the season.

Now without a coach, it's difficult to see the Lakers becoming an elite team this season. It's likely they won't advance past the second round, where they were eliminated with Brown last year and with Jackson the year before. 


Reach Associate Sports Editor Max Meyer here. Follow him here.



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