Did the Lakers overreact in firing Mike Brown?

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The Lakers making a move to fire a head coach this quickly is nearly unprecedented. Back in 1982, they did relieve Paul Westhead of his duties, but that was directly related to an acrimonious relationship with Magic Johnson. Franchise players almost always take priority over the head coach, even ones that have won a championship.

Mike Brown didn’t seem to have these issues. Just yesterday Kobe Bryant spoke of being Brown’s “biggest supporter”. And while there’s frustration from losing, that didn’t necessarily translate to a frustration with Brown as the coach. But he’s been let go all the same.

This would imply that this move was made in haste. Through 5 games the Lakers have dealt with a variety of issues. Steve Nash is injured and Dwight Howard is still not 100% physically. They have a new offense to learn and a new roster to build chemistry with. Lack of continuity and precious few game minutes to find an identity — especially for his top players — has been the norm for a team that needed plenty of both to try and build towards their bigger goals.

That said, there have been some negative trends through those five games that have surely influenced this decision.

Brown hasn’t managed his roster in a way that’s optimized the personnel made available to him. In the off-season the Lakers signed Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks to be key contributors off their bench. Brown, though, has been trotting Jamison out as a small forward in most lineups, a position he’s no longer able to play effectively. Meeks, meanwhile, has been buried on the bench and has only played a total of 22 minutes while appearing in three games.

Furthermore, even when Nash was healthy Brown deployed bench lineups with only one of their big four on the floor at a time to little success. At the same time, he played his starters heavy minutes in the pursuit of wins that were likely not in reach and even brought his starters back into a blowout game against the Pistons in fear his bench might cough up the lead.

These situations don’t scream “putting players in position to succeed.”

Taken individually, these issues seem relatively minor. However, when they’re added up and set up against the backdrop of what was seen from him last season, there were legitimate concerns that Brown would show the flexibility and big picture thinking to turn the team around by season’s end.

Of course, there’s more than just a hint of unfairness to this. Brown likely deserved a chance to show what he could do with a fully healthy roster. Steve Nash is set to return relatively soon and adding him back to the lineup would surely have made a difference. Add that to Dwight Howard’s steadily improving health and overall play, and the odds say that Brown could have made enough progress to justify sticking around for longer.

That said, I think it’s also fair to say that this decision is much less about what type of short term progress could have been made in situations that were inching towards ideal and more about the long term goals and wether he was really the right man to guide this team to them. From the Lakers perspective, and mine, there were serious questions that he was that man.

So the Lakers are now embarking on another path rife with change. Some may question how they got here this soon. That’s a legitimate perspective. But if they were going to get to this point at all, isn’t sooner the better way to go?

Paul George on trade to Thunder: “I took it as it was a kick in the behind”

Associated Press
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Paul George and Russell Westbrook — now with Carmelo Anthony — form one of the more interesting teams in the NBA in Oklahoma City. Deep with quality role players and a defense that should be top 10 (if not top 5) in the league, if the three big names can learn to sacrifice and mesh, the Thunder will be dangerous.

Paul George sounds motivated to take it all on… which he should be the first day of training camp. Still, it’s a good sign for Thunder fans.

George opened up to Sam Amick of the USA Today in a lengthy interview at the start of camp, and among the topics he discussed was the trade to OKC (after George’s camp told Indiana he would test free agency next summer). Did getting sent to the Thunder motivate him?

“I took it as it was a kick in the behind, like, ‘Go ahead and go try to beat the Warriors. Go play alongside Russ and get your butt kicked against the Warriors.’ That’s how I looked at how that trade went down, because honestly we had no idea OKC was even interested or was in the trade until the trade actually happened. But again, I’m not here to trash Indiana. They have some of the best people I’ve ever met in their front office and in that organization. I grew up there. I could go on and on (with) the positives in Indiana, but that’s where my thought process and my – that’s where I, I guess, my opportunity to leave had opened up.”

There was some “go ahead and beat the Warriors” in that trade — it looks, from the outside, like the Pacers did not want George to land anywhere he wanted to go.

Thing is, as human beings, we by our nature try to make the best of situations. Even people who suffer genuine personal tragedies often come out the other side saying that it changed who they were for the better and they are happy with their new life. This is just basketball. George will adapt — and he’s on a very good team. If the bar is “can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a series” then the Thunder will fall short, as will every other team. But the Thunder are on that next tier in the NBA and could be a threat.

Plus, competitors like George always look at a trade as a challenge.

It’s going to be a fascinating season for the Thunder. We’ll see if all that talent is willing to make the sacrifices needed to win at the highest levels of the NBA.

When will Zach LaVine return to court for Bulls? Think Thanksgiving.

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When the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler — finally making a decision on the franchise’s direction — one of the centerpieces they got back from Minnesota was Zach LaVine. The wildly athletic two-guard had evolved into more than just a dunker, averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three — he had become a legitimate scoring threat against any defense.

Then he blew out his ACL.

How that injury impacts his game remains to be seen… so when will the Bulls see him on the court? Coach Fred Hoiberg addressed that as Chicago started training camp, as reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.

That’s just taking contact in practice. The Bulls will be cautious bringing back a guy they see as part of their future, so expect this to be closer to Thanksgiving or the end of the month before he plays. Which is the smart move to make.

Even then, ACL injuries take a long time to overcome, even for young players putting in the recovery work. It may be next season before we know if LaVine will continue on the trajectory he was on in Minnesota.

Magic Johnson shrugs off concern about Lonzo Ball realty series

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play in one NBA game, yet he has his own signature shoe line, and he — along with his father LaVar Ball and the rest of his family — have their own reality show on FaceBook. Lonzo told me he doesn’t foresee this show, nor his bombastic father, being a problem with his teammates or on the court.

Magic Johnson agrees with that. At least for now.

The head of Lakers’ basketball operations said as training camp opened that he’s not worried about the show Ball in the Family being a distraction. If it is, he’ll step in, he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said at the Lakers’ media day when asked about Ball’s reality Facebook series, “Ball in the Family.”

“Right now, I think it is awesome,” Johnson said. “His family is great. They came out Saturday, we had a big Laker picnic. … His dad is wonderful with me, and I am cool with him. … I think [Lonzo] is tired of all this [hype]. He is just like me; I just want to play and I think he wants to play, and then Saturday night [for the Lakers’ preseason opener], sold out, in Anaheim, wow!”

It’s Magic’s job to put a positive spin on things.

That said, he’s right. The Lakers (and every NBA team) have dealt with overinvolved parents before and know how to create some space for the player to focus on the game. Locker rooms have a way of sorting themselves out in these kinds of situations. Plus, the Lakers have been down the reality show road before (when Lamar Odom married Khloe Kardashian), and while that had an ugly ending, it wasn’t for lack of Lakers’ players and others in the organization trying to step in and help. (Odom just wasn’t yet in a place to accept help.)

Soon LaVar will be focused on his other sons and Lonzo, who appears practiced at tuning his father out and focusing on what is in front of him, will have the grind of the NBA schedule to worry about.

Former NBA player Chuck Person named in college basketball bribery scandal

Associated Press
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The recruitment of major college athletes — and then the steering of the handful that get to go pro to shoe companies and agents — is a sleazy business. It makes HBO’s “The Duece” look like Disneyland. It’s something sports fans know but largely turn a blind eye to until it forces its way into the headlines.

It turned up in the headlines Tuesday when four college assistant coaches from major universities were charged by federal prosecutors in a bribery scandal along with a representative of Adidas and others to steer players to specific agents or a financial handler.

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, now an assistant coach at Auburn, was among those named in the scandal.

Person is making headlines because he’s the biggest name in the scandal. He is charged with accepting approximately $91,500 from a business manager, who has flipped and is working with prosecutors. This “business manager, offered bribes to Person to steer players toward his services, as well as another person charged in the scandal.

Person told prosecutors he gave $18,500 of the money he took to two players’ families, according to the filings.

Person was the No. 4 pick in the 1986 NBA draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year, followed by a 13-year NBA career. He made $22.9 million over the course of his career.