Firing Mike Brown not just the right decision, it was the only decision

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When the Lakers relieved head coach Mike Brown of his duties on Friday morning, legitimate questions about the timing of such a major decision were certain to arise.

Why now?

Isn’t the team overreacting a bit after just five games?

The short answers are one, because it was clear that this was going to get worse before it got better, and two, L.A. knew what it had in Brown, and knew even at this early stage of the season that he was not the man for the job.

Firing Brown at this point was not only the right decision, it was the only decision.

The Lakers had an entire season to evaluate Mike Brown as head coach, so if you’re among those pointing to these first five games as too narrow of a window to pass judgment on Brown’s abilities, you’re really only fooling yourself.

L.A. went through a lackluster season a year ago, one filled with as much disappointment or more than there’s been to start things off in 2012. The club wasn’t quite as loaded as it is this year on paper, with new additions Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the fold. But the Lakers had Kobe Bryant playing at a high level and leading the league in scoring for most of the year, and Andrew Bynum finally making the leap on both ends of the floor to vault himself to the level of NBA All-Star.

Let’s also not forget about Pau Gasol, though his season wasn’t as productive as those in his Lakers past. But the way Brown misused Gasol offensively was glaring, and the fact he couldn’t get him comfortable playing alongside a more ball-dominant Bynum who was getting the bulk of the work in the post might give us some insight into the Lakers’ thinking.

The team had an entire season and five games to realize what anyone who watched Brown’s Cleveland teams should already have known — that offensively, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. The Princeton Offense was a crutch, and one that Brown was willing to hand over to assistant coach Eddie Jordan to run so he could displace blame if things didn’t go according to plan.

No, Brown’s strength was always supposed to be his defensive schemes, but again, with the benefit of an entire season in L.A., we could see that he couldn’t produce there, either. Brown could do no better than coach his team to an efficiency ranking of 17th in the league in that category, and the Lakers are even worse there now, currently sitting at 22nd.

If offense isn’t your thing and you can’t get the team on the same page defensively, then what’s left? Obviously, the answer is to part ways — and do so sooner, rather than later.

This season is all about bringing another championship to Los Angeles; the Lakers wasted an opportunity to do that last year with Brown in charge, and they weren’t about to waste any more time watching things fall apart just to hope that they would slowly end up coming back together in time for the playoffs.

The Lakers have had plenty of time to evaluate Brown — there was no overreaction, and the timing was perfect. They made the only decision that made any sense.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.

Marc Gasol makes 3/4-court shot just after buzzer (video)

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When Marc Gasol‘s 3/4-court attempt went through the net, it seemed to barely matter the ball left his hands just after the first-quarter buzzer. After all, the Grizzlies led the Mavericks by 15, anyway.

Turns out, Memphis really needed that basket.

Watch Knicks string together 28-0 run against Raptors

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Toronto has been the second best team in the East this young season. Not that anyone is really convinced they will be called that by the time we get to the playoffs (or even the All-Star break, or even Christmas), but for the first 16-18 games of the season their new move-the-ball offense had them at 11-5 and looking solid.

Wednesday night the Knicks dismantled the Raptors.

Especially in the third quarter when the Knicks went on a 28-0 run to blow the doors off the Raptors (video above). The Knicks dominated the third 41-10, when Toronto shot just 1-of-16 from the floor.

New York is gaining confidence with each win this season, they are a fun team to watch that is starting to find an identity (now that a certain three-sided shaped one is not being forced upon them). Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, and while the Knicks overpaid the market for Tim Hardaway Jr. he has lived up to his contract this season. With rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina showing some nice defense and playmaking skills as a rookie (although he is undoubtedly still a work in progress), you can see a path to a strong future unfolding. There are real reasons for hope in New York. Someone just keep James Dolan distracted and away from the basketball operations side of the building.