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.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.

Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

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The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.