Mike Brown has been a man under fire to start the season. His team has underperformed to the tune of a 1-3 start which has led to speculation that his job is in jeopardy.
One of the key complaints levied against Brown has been his lack of consistency with his rotations and how he’s managed personnel groupings once his starters go to the bench. Apparently, Brown is trying to rectify that according the Eric Pincus of the LA Times:
Metta World Peace will get minutes at shooting guard, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.
“That’s going to be my second unit,” said Brown. “Metta will be the two, [Antawn] Jamison is the three, [Jordan] Hill is the four and [Dwight] Howard or Pau [Gasol] is going to be the five.”
Playing World Peace at shooting guard with the second unit comes with its advantages. Even though he’s lost a half-step (or more) on defense, he’s still the Lakers’ best wing stopper. While the sample size is small, the Lakers’ post a defensive efficiency of 97.0 when World Peace is on the floor, the best number on the team according the NBA.com.
Offensively, there are also ways this can be successful. While World Peace is struggling with his long distance shot (6-19 from thee point range), he’s made 66% of his two point field goals so far this year and is still a threat in the post and cutting to the rim. Plus, in recent seasons, he’s performed relatively well when he’s not shared the court with Kobe and can be more of an offensive focal point.
All that said, there are also some issues that could easily crop up by moving in this direction.
First off, the Lakers have a serious issue with how many minutes their key players are racking up early in the season. Kobe, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and World Peace all average over 34 minutes a game, with Pau and Kobe again near the top of the league in minutes played. For a team whose health and relative freshness come playoff time will be a key factor to their success, playing bench players less doesn’t seem to be the best solution.
Second, the Lakers signed Jodie Meeks in the off-season specifically to play as Kobe’s back up. His shooting can be a key ingredient in helping to provide much needed offensive spacing and his defense grades out as better than he’s given credit for. Not to mention how moving away from Meeks this early in the season without giving him much of an opportunity to succeed can potentially hurt his confidence and how he feels about his role.
These are big picture issues that can’t be ignored in the pursuit of more short term success. The best coaches are able to walk that line between managing for the present and long haul better than others and there are still questions about whether Brown is up to that balancing act.
Where Brown deserves credit is in realizing he needs to settle on a rotation, following through and making a decision. A fact he points out when saying:
“I’ve got to give my bench a chance, because right now I really haven’t. I’ve been messing around with it too much trying to search for combinations. Now that I’ve found a combination that I think I want to roll with it a little bit, let’s give them a chance to see how they play before making another change.”
That said, even if he’s being decisive it still seems short sighted and a path with several potential pitfalls. I guess this is why those reports about his job being in jeopardy exist in the first place.