(Yes, the Lakers are 0-2. The chatter about firing Mike Brown and dumping the Princeton offense drowns out just about everything else in Lakerland. Silver Screen & Roll writers couldn't help but take the time to discuss this over e-mail throughout the day, and this is what unfolded. Ben R. (Ben), The Great Mambino (Blake), and Basketball Reasons (Drew) lay it out.)
Drew: Alright. The Los Angeles Lakers are 0 for whatever at this point through preseason, regular season, and imaginary season, and this has been a wild ride to say the least. The Lakers have an off night Thursday, and then have to go against the city sharing Los Angeles Clippers which is not going to be an easy match-up. Especially if Steve Nash is going to have to take time away from the court to nurse that leg contusion he suffered against the Portland Trail Blazers. The losses have been ugly, frustrating, and disappointing without question. The turnovers the Lakers are piling up shamelessly are exposing them, and that isn't a Princeton flaw. The Princeton offense doesn't send Metta World Peace stumbling like a drunken fan into defenders, pulling charges. But the focus from every talking television head, and in general, is the Princeton offense not being a "fit". Two games into an 82 game season! Oh, and firing Mike Brown so the front office can replace him with... -crickets-. Where do we even begin here...
Ben: With the defense? Both the Mavs and the Blazers hit some ridiculous shots over the course of their respective games, but clearly, a defense that relies on hard hedges on the pick-and-roll and Dwight Howard covering vast amounts of ground on the interior is not working. Both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol aren't quick enough to recover and this extends to Howard on the interior, as he obviously has not been his dominant self on that end either. Still, it is incumbent on Brown to plan around this and he has definitely not. That this is a supposed strength of his is especially damning, even if we are to believe that installing the offense took priority during training camp. And on the subject of that offense, anyone complaining about anything other than turnovers, something you can assign to the team simply not having a chance to play with each other enough is barking up the wrong tree. The Lakers have made half their shots in both games and practically lived at the line. Whether via an epic case of Shaq-itis in the first game or a spree of turnovers in the second, you can identify problems that prevented the offense from being enough to blow opponents apart, but people claiming that it isn't working for the Lakers right now are clearly mistaken.
Drew: The turnovers are compounding the problems at hand, no doubt. For one, that shaky defense is being exposed in transition. Dwight Howard is FAR from fully healthy, and isn't going to be able to fix EVERYTHING (read: young, fast, athletic wing men getting out in said transition). Secondly, giving teams extra possessions against a defense that is still porous as they learn to play together isn't how a Lakers team trying to piece things together is going to find their way to the elusive W. The offense, looks average to above average at times, and shouldn't be the scapegoat to these losses. They've done a good job of cutting to the rim and getting to the paint overall, which is translating into a high amount of free throws to start the season. There still hasn't been the same floor spreading many envisioned with this group, but overall the offense itself doesn't appear to be holding the team back.
Blake: The biggest problem over these two games, and even in the eight preceding preseason games, is a very disturbing lack of energy. I didn't expect the Lakers to come out of the gate firing, but I certainly didn't expect to see such lackadaisical defensive effort. Especially in the Portland game, where the Lakers only induced a scant 12 turnovers from a young Portland team (especially point guard Lillard) who should have been losing the ball left and right. What's scariest is that the team seems to be resting on their heels while guarding oppositions--it's almost like they're waiting for the other team to come into their traps rather than to be aggressive, challenge offenses, and allow Dwight to safeguard the rim. The offense has sputtered, sure, but you guys nailed it--the team's lack of fire has been flummoxing to me. So much so that I used the word "flummoxed". I don't know how else to describe it.
Ben: On the subject of Brown, however, the rotation issues are getting ridiculous. Gasol, Howard, and Kobe have now been taxed with 40 minute workloads on a back-to-back when they all have clear backups ready to go and should those not perform well, backups behind those backups. Jordan Hill has been chronically underutilized even though we thought that Brown would be tripping over himself trying to find minutes for him, which makes it all the more unconscionable that he didn't even crack the ten minute mark against Portland. We haven't seen the lineup staggering we believed would be present to maximize the amount of time Nash spends with Howard and Kobe with Gasol, something that would improve the efficacy of the reserves by putting them in situations in which they can succeed. Not only that, he's frequently put them out there as a standalone unit with one starter, which is something he claimed he'd rarely do in the preseason and the team suffered accordingly for it.
Drew: Agreed. The rotations have been poor, and this isn't a "one year" kind of issue. This has been a bone to pick with Mike Brown since he became the Lakers head coach. Already he has put his starters on an island with a shredded white flag, partnering both Pau and Dwight with 4 reserves at any moment. I can only imagine Dwight must have flashbacks of his time with the Orlando Magic when he's running up the court alongside Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks, and Antawn Jamison. There seems to be no method to the madness with the rotations, Mike Brown might as well roll a set of 5 dice to put together his lineup changes. If there is one place to legitimately challenge Mike Brown, it has to be his lineup management. The sample size for his ability to handle this facet of the game is large enough to say, hey, enough is enough.
Ben: There are some mitigating factors in both games, but the lifelessness and lack of organization and fire the team is displaying is truly aggravating. They haven't kept their composure in either game and let small mistakes compound upon each other, resulting in opponents getting ballooning leads. Whenever these issues are at fault, you go straight to the top to see the figure controlling the overall team culture. Now, firing a coach after two games is pretty ridiculous. It won't and shouldn't happen right now. Nearly everything mentioned above is fixable, from turnovers to the structure of the rotation. The defense will improve as those things are tightened up and Howard returns to his usual DPOY self. This noted, we can't exactly ignore what is in front of us either. There are a list of more than serviceable replacements available at HC -- Jerry Sloan, Stan and Jeff Van Gundy, Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan -- and while Brown will have his shot to turn the ship around, whatever our collective confidence in him is at the moment, to say he is on thin ice is a massive understatement.
Drew: The Stan Van. That would be something, let me tell ya'. Nothing more Hollywood than reuniting Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard after the bridges they burnt to get as far away from one another as they possibly could. I'll take a sip of Diet Pepsi to that. In all reality, it's hard to imagine a coach being fired 2 games into the season, or 22 games into the season, but with the amount of resources the Buss family is pumping into the roster, and the talent Mitch Kupchak has brought together, there's going to be a tipping point unless there is dramatic improvement shown in the next 25 games. If the team isn't working, there is no way the Lakers front office sits on their hands. What stands out to me is something mentioned earlier - the fact that the defense isn't showing up is DAMNING for a coach like Mike Brown, who has been heavily touted as a defensive guru. The NBA should fine Brown for the way he's flopping with the defense. It looks horrid now, was horrid last year, and will most likely be horrid the next time they take the floor. When I look at the list of head coaches Ben just strung together... I mean... if the Lakers aren't executing a formidable defense anyway....
Blake: My key concern with the "ship be sinking" outcry I've heard from the scores and scores of fans is that the alternative situations are even more unpalatable to be honest. Mike Brown wouldn't be fired after two games, 10 games or even 20 games, unless the team goes a very unlikely 0-20 (or more realistically, even 6-14). However, let's say after between 30 to 35 games the Lakers are well under .500. At that point, Brown is the likely fall guy and his firing wouldn't be particularly surprising. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak have a bevy of choices as you two mentioned, but installing guys with a very specific system (D'Antoni) or those who've been out of the game a while (Jeff Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan) might be an even bigger catastrophe than an extremely underperforming team. I think the logical choice would be to promote Eddie Jordan or Bernie Bickerstaff, which in my opinion aren't better options in the least. If the Lakers were going to go in another direction from Mike Brown, they should have done it in July, not anytime during the season. This isn't baseball where a new manager can come in with a different way of communicating with players or a batting coach can tweak a guy's individual game. This is chess, not checkers, and the complications of the game of basketball aren't going to make the team any more successful at THIS POINT with a new coach. That's the reality of the situation.
Drew: You've just now made it unbelievably difficult not to name this column "The Situation", seriously.
Blake: You would...
So tell us, Silver Screen & Roll, where is the needle on the panic meter for you after the 0-2 start?