Lakers win one for their coach
You can’t lose them all.
Mike Brown made one wonder whether it was possible over the season’s first three games, nobody doing less with more than the Lakers coach.
Four potential Hall of Famers who had never played together meet the Princeton offense.
A defense that was supposed to be the coach’s hallmark yielded triple digits more often than Palm Springs in July.
Kobe Bryant, his foot sore and his career-minutes odometer about to turn over already forced into excessive playing time early in the season.
Brown remained as affable as ever throughout his team’s 0-3 start, though he might have provided a glimpse into the strain he was feeling Sunday evening when he sighed deeply before walking down a hallway to meet with reporters.
He could exhale a few hours later.
The Lakers walloped the pitiful Detroit Pistons, 108-79, at Staples Center for their first victory, sparing further forays into the record books in search of historically bad starts.
The triumph also momentarily ceased the chatter about whether Brown would be history.
“I think it’s more of a relief for Mike than it is for anybody else,” Bryant said. “We’re good.”
Brown was reluctant to use the R-word, at least when it pertained to himself.
“Some people may look at it as a relief,” Brown said, “but I look it as a good win because we needed it, but not a whew, not one of those. I’m excited about the way we played the game and won the game.”
Oh, he needed it all right.
Any question about this game’s meaning to Brown was answered early in the fourth quarter when the coach sent Bryant and Dwight Howard back onto the court with the Lakers holding a 24-point advantage.
“That was more just helping Mike out, man,” Bryant said, “so he wouldn’t have an ulcer over there or a heart attack over there.”
Brown actually spent much of the game cheering.
He leaped off the bench and emphatically pumped his fist in the first quarter after Bryant made a three-pointer. He clapped in the third quarter when Bryant buried another long jumper and put his hands together again in the fourth when the struggling Antawn Jamison made a three-pointer.
This was more like what Brown said he expected his purported super team to look like, tallying 27 assists on 40 made field goals and committing only 15 turnovers.
“You look at the points some of these guys had and I’m sure they’ll tell you they scored probably easier than any other time they’ve played the game because they got it within the system and so it gives us a little relief,” Brown said. “And every win that we get gives us a little bit more relief on both ends of the floor.”
It also presumably provided some respite for Brown in cyberspace.
In the wake of the Lakers’ horrid start, one message board ran a poll asking which coach fans wanted to replace Brown — Phil Jackson, Nate McMillan and Mike D’Antoni were among the options — with Jackson a runaway winner.
On another thread, fans were asked whether they preferred having as their head coach Brown or a raw, uncooked potato. The potato won in a landslide.
Jamison said Brown was not to blame for his team’s shortcomings.
“It hasn’t been his fault, the reason that we started 0-3, but that’s the day and age that we live in,” Jamison said. “If things are going great, it’s the players, but when they’re not, they put it all on the coach. Mike has been upfront with us from Day 1 telling us what he expects out of us on both ends of the floor. We just haven’t done that.”
They did Sunday, though much tougher tests await than the winless Pistons.
And the Lakers will have to take them for a while without point guard Steve Nash, who will be sidelined for up to a month by a broken leg.
But this was a start that the Lakers desperately needed in a season they expect to stretch into June.
“Come February, and you hope it happens before then, when guys really have a grasp of what we’re doing,” Brown said, “I think it’s going to be really, really neat, and it could be something special on that end of the floor. So I’m excited.”
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