NBA PM: Mike Brown On the Hot Seat
The 2012-13 season is only one week old, but Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown is already on the hot seat. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are four of the best players in the NBA, future Hall-of-Famers who complement each other well. This star-studded group shouldn’t lose to depleted Dallas Mavericks or rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers. Wins aren’t celebrated, they’re expected. That’s the downside of coaching a juggernaut, just ask Erik Spoelstra.
When the Lakers lose, the finger of blame will be pointed at Brown. The Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons on Sunday for their first win of the season, snapping a three-game losing streak and ending a five-and-a-half month drought. While the timely win kept Brown from losing his job, it doesn’t change the fact that his days in Los Angeles could be numbered. After the win, the always-blunt Bryant said that the players “were good,” but acknowledged that Brown really needed the win.
“I think it’s more of a relief for Mike than it is for anybody else,” Bryant said.
Fans have already started calling for Brown’s job and many of his players have started wondering if he’s the right person to lead the team. Behind closed doors, they’ve questioned Brown’s rotation and how players have been utilized through four games.
While the three-game losing streak increased the amount of frustration in the locker room, it first surfaced several months ago. After the Lakers acquired Howard and Nash, several veteran free agents wanted to sign for the minimum so that they could compete for a championship in Los Angeles. However, Brown made it clear that he wasn’t going to expand his rotation regardless of who signed. This scared away the free agents and kept the Lakers from further bolstering their roster, which frustrated many players.
Many within NBA circles believe it’s only a matter of time before Brown is fired. Jerry Sloan and Mike D’Antoni are two names that have surfaced as possible replacements for Brown.
“Jerry Sloan to L.A. by December 1,” one league source predicted. “Nash and Howard are the new Stockton and Malone. He wants a ring, not to mention the money. He didn’t seriously consider Orlando, Charlotte or Portland [openings] over the summer because he knew Los Angeles would open up.”
Brown has one of the toughest jobs in basketball. He’ll be blamed when the Lakers lose. His decisions will be second-guessed and he’ll have to answer question after question: Why is Bryant playing so many minutes? Why isn’t Howard getting more touches? Why isn’t Nash handling the ball more? Why did Jodie Meeks fall out of the rotation? Why is this team running the Princeton offense?
Having four future Hall of Famers in your rotation is every head coach’s dream, but only when things are going well. If the team struggles, as the Lakers have through four games, it can be nightmare. Fair or not, Brown will be on the hot seat and under the microscope all season long.
Harden Upset with Thunder Officials
If the Oklahoma City Thunder had given James Harden more time to consider their final offer of a four year, $45 million contract extension, he may have accepted the deal and remained in OKC. Harden says he was only given one hour to make the difficult decision and he felt rushed by Thunder officials.
“After everything we established – everything we had done – you give me an hour?” Harden told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. “This was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I wanted to go home and pray about it. It hurt me. It hurt.”
If given additional time to consider the Thunder’s final offer, would he have accepted?
“Who knows?” Harden said. “Another day, who knows what another day would’ve done?”
Now, that’s in the past and Harden is focusing on the Houston Rockets. He’s really enjoying Houston and he has embraced the opportunity to be a franchise player now that he’s no longer overshadowed by stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
“I was there with talented guys in Oklahoma City, some All-Star guys, and I would’ve been in the back seat there – which I was fine with – but I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to show how talented I really am,” Harden said. “It’s a different opportunity for me here.”
“That’s why they brought me here: to embrace the leadership, to embrace building the camaraderie,” Harden said.
After leaving the Thunder, Harden heard plenty of people criticize him and doubt whether he’d be able to be the ‘the man’ in Houston. So far, he has silenced his critics, averaging 35.3 points, 6.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds through three games.
“I heard a lot of those things,” Harden said. “I heard that I was greedy; that I didn’t care about winning; heard the questioning of my loyalty. And I’m thinking: ‘Of course I want to win. I’ve been winning my entire life.’
“Everybody has their own opinion about me [as a role player and focus of a team]. I can do both: I’m versatile. Growing up in college, in high school, I was the focal point. I was the leader. I was the go-to guy. I was the third overall pick. I took a back seat and did whatever it took for the team to win. Some nights I scored, some nights I passed. Whatever was needed to win.”
He has singlehandedly led the Rockets to two wins, even though he’s only participated in three practices with the team. Entering this season, Houston was projected to be a bottom feeder in the Western Conference, but Harden has given the Rockets life and has Houston thinking about a playoff run. Harden has been everything the Rockets wanted and then some.
“Now, I’m back to my old ways: Needing to be the leader, needing to score,” Harden said. “In any situation, I’m going to be good.”
Stuckey Must Overcome Shooting Slump
Through three games, Rodney Stuckey has been the biggest disappointment in the league. If the Detroit Pistons want to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference this season, they’ll need Stuckey to play at a high level. One week into the season, that’ hasn’t happened. Stuckey has missed 22 of his 23 shot attempts for the winless Pistons. That’s right: Stuckey is shooting 4.3 percent from the field.
“Obviously he’s struggled,” Lawrence Frank said of Stuckey. “We need him to play better. He’s been dealing with some physical problems, but we need better from everyone. Look, in the first two games obviously we did some good things to at least have a lead in those games but tonight it was a TKO.”
Migraines have limited Stuckey’s minutes and production. However, he blames the move to shooting guard for his struggles. Last year, he backed up Brandon Knight and played a lot of minutes at the one. Now, he’s no longer the Pistons’ main ballhandler when he’s on the floor, playing off the ball instead. He hasn’t been able to adjust and hopes to move back to the role he played last year.
“I feel like I’m not in a rhythm at all,” Stuckey told David Mayo of mlive.com. “I just feel like last year, I was having the ball in my hands, being able to create, [and play in] transition. Coming in [during] the second quarter [when Brandon Knight went to the bench last year], being the point guard, and being able to use my post position on smaller guards, I just feel like I’m not using that right now.
“Hopefully, we’ll make some changes and we’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of basketball still to be played. I’ll find my rhythm, though. I know I’m struggling. But I’ll find my rhythm.
“I’m just in the corner a lot more, just watching, instead of out there creating, and stuff like that. But we’ll figure it out. We still have a lot of basketball to be played.”
Tayshaun Prince acknowledged that Stuckey needs to be more aggressive but added that he and his teammates need to do a better job of getting the guard involved.
“Whenever a player is struggling, whether it’s shooting the ball or not doing what they usually do, it’s up to the team and our coaching staff to get involved and try to find a way for him to get out of it,” Prince said. “We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
While it sounds like Stuckey wants to move back to point guard, Frank isn’t sure if that’s the right decision. Rather than making drastic changes after three games, he wants to give Stuckey more time at shooting guard and see if he can be effective after playing his way out of this slump.
“My thing is this, I know Rodney’s going to play a whole lot better,” Frank said. ”I have full confidence that he will. So, to me, it will turn. It’s always easiest to make knee-jerk reactions when either your group or certain individuals are down. It takes courage to stand by your convictions.”
Stuckey has a tough match-up tonight, facing off against Andre Iguodala and the Denver Nuggets at 9 p.m. EST.
Maynor Playing Key Role in OKC
After missing almost all of last season with a torn ACL, Eric Maynor is back and playing a key role for the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the departure of James Harden, it’s on Maynor and Kevin Martin to lead the Thunder’s second unit. HOOPSWORLD caught up with Maynor recently to discuss his health, expectations for Martin, thoughts on the Harden trade and much more.
Week 1 of HOOPSWORLD’s Weekly Pick’em Game is complete, and there were six winners [check the winners here]. A weekly winner gets an Adidias HOOPSWORLD T-Shirt. Week 2 of the Pick’em Game is now open, so log your picks.
NBA Chats: There were two NBA chats scheduled for today, starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Anthony Macri at 10 a.m. Coach Macri works with the ASEAN Basketball League in Southeast Asia and is based in Jakarta. Coach Macri is involved in all aspects of the league’s operation as a consultant and has worked with dozens of NBA players developing their game. Travis Heath will hold down his bi-weekly NBA chat at 4 p.m. EST. Travis is a former consultant for the Minnesota Timberwolves and a long-time contributor to HOOPSWORLD. You can always find the next upcoming NBA chat here. If you are looking for a completed chat, check the chat archive.