Superstars are used to being consulted.
So the report of Kobe Bryant’s reaction to the Lakers being on the verge of hiring former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, from Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated, says a lot about how this decision was made. And maybe about how it will be received in the locker room.
The source close to the Lakers told SI.com that Lakers star Kobe Bryant was “surprised” by the news, and that he was not a part of the decision-making process. Bryant had been a staunch supporter of Lakers assistant Brian Shaw for the position and remains as such.
We should note that saying Kobe is surprised is different than saying he is unhappy with the decision. It also doesn’t mean he will not be spoken to before ink hits paper on the deal. Still, he was not in the loop on the process. How he buys in will go a long way to determining Brown’s success.
Shaw represented the Lakers continuing with a similar style — of offense, of coaching — that they had under Phil Jackson.
Jim Buss and the Lakers brass clearly wanted a change in that. Brown is a big shift, an attempt to change the direction of the ship.
The question is how well that will work.
The Lakers don’t really need an Xs and Os guru — they have a lot of high basketball IQ players with Kobe, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Derrick Fisher, Andrew Bynum and on down the line. They have guys who know how to play, whatever the system.
What Jackson was able to do brilliantly was get those guys to play as a unit, to sacrifice, to win together. (Up until this season, when fatigue of mind, body and the message wore them down.) Can Mike Brown do that? He can bring in energy and push a defense-first agenda, but can he get them to bond and play as a unit the way Jackson has done (and did in Chicago before)?
That is the real question and the real risk with this hire.