Mike Brown will join Kobe Bryant and the Lakers as their new head coach, and the surprising heir to Phil Jackson's gigantic throne. There's genius at work here. It's a strange choice at first glance, but take a step back.
First of all, Mike Brown's a really talented coach. His offensive instincts have always been a little shaky, but as far as defensive masterminds go, he's on par with any coach in the league. And ultimately, that's always been L.A.'s biggest problem. The offense alternates between "totally unstoppable" and "very good", but they sink or swim on the other end. When the Lakers defend, they can't be beaten. If not? Kobe's too old to carry them himself, Pau's not dependable as a first option, and the whole thing falls apart. So from a schematic standpoint, Mike Brown makes more sense than you think.
Tom Ziller echoed this sentiment earlier today, writing "the [L.A.] defense crumbled in the NBA Playoffs. diced through the Lakers' defenses in the first round; a combination of and the ' shooters was just deadly in L.A.'s four-game second-round exit. The Lakers lacked commitment, organization and the right tactics against Dallas. That comes down on the players for not figuring it out, yes; this is a veteran team who knows what it takes to win in the postseason. But from my vantage point, it looked like the Lakers weren't prepared to deal with the Mavericks' attack. Under Brown, they'll be prepared."
But there's another side to this coin, and it gets even better. Mike Brown may well be the guy who's best equipped to fix what's wrong with the Lakers, but at this point, the Lakers might be beyond saving. You can talk about fixing L.A.'s defense, and on paper, that's the biggest problem the Lakers have right now. Of course, there's still the elephant in the room. You know, the elephant that's nursing sore joints all over, demanding the ball, and taking subliminal shots at everyone else in the room.
L.A.'s biggest problem has nothing to do with defense. Kobe Bryant's not the same player he once was, and in that case, this spring's disaster against Dallas could be remember less as an aberration than as the beginning of the end for Kobe and the Lakers as we know them.
We don't really know how far along we are with Kobe, but the end is a lot closer than the beginning or even the middle. And in that case? The Mike Brown Era should be absolutely hilarious. We're talking about a coach who's most famous for getting pushed around by a superstar trying to coach a the most infamous, stubborn superstar since Michael Jordan. That'll end well.
Because even as Kobe's skills deteriorate, he'll still be the most stubborn player in the NBA, and if anything, he'll begin to shoot more, just to try and hang onto control as things start slipping away. And the guy that'll try to control him is Mike Brown? Come on. Seriously?
It's not necessarily a win-win, but no matter who wins, we should all love this hire.
If Kobe's got a few more years of elite basketball in him, then Mike Brown's probably the best candidate to coach him. He can re-work the defense, he's great at gameplanning for guys like Dirk Nowitzki, and the Lakers offense has so much talent that even he can't screw it up.
On the other hand, if Kobe's going to start fading away soon, then it's only appropriate he'd leave the NBA shooting 30-times-a-game and openly mocking some hapless coach's authority. It can't end any other way, really. And in either scenario, what candidate's better than this guy?
With that, let's get into more Talking Points...
Checking In With Tiki Barber. Whenever the NFL Lockout finally gets settled, one of the more interesting football storylines will be the return of Tiki Barber. It's the poor man's answer to the question "What if Barry Sanders had ever come out of retirement?" Tiki was never that great, obviously, but still. It'll be interesting to see whether he has anything left after stepping away for a few years. It'll also be interesting to see if anyone wants him at all.
Why's he doing it? Sports Illustrated sheds some light in this week's issue:
...Barber's marriage was unraveling. This is hardly uncommon for ex-jocks, a subset with an exceptionally high divorce rate. There's philandering, sure. But when an athlete retires, the dynamics, rhythms and finances of the marriage also undergo an abrupt change. In Barber's case it was all of the above. He and Ginny (who declined to comment for this story) spent 2½ years in counseling, then separated in late 2009. Barber says he spent the first two nights of the estrangement sleeping in his NBC office. Then he moved in with Johnson, a 23-year-old intern at the network.
In New York there was only one place this narrative was headed. The confluence of sex, sports, money, media and race was irresistible. On April 7, 2010, the New York Post's back page blared: tiki barber dumps pregnant wife for hot blonde, accompanied by a salacious story. It was Barber's 35th birthday. "That's the day I stopped believing in coincidences," says Barber, implying that the story was leaked by someone with a vendetta. The same New York media and buzz generators that had helped him ascend—that had made him so different from his twin in sleepy Florida—were now going to accelerate his fall.
I've never really liked Tiki, but his story's probably a microcosm of what faces a lot of guys that leave the game behind. They don't quite fit off the field, and they wind up missing the game more than they'd ever imagined. That's Tiki. He just happened to have his struggles play in public, and he's (apparently) still good enough to come back to the game. What happens next should be interesting.
Next Week's Sports Illustrated Will Be Even Better Though. Tresselgate goes mainstream!
Thoughts And Prayers Go Out To The Midwest. I've spent my entire life on the East Coast, so I've never experienced a tornado in all its glory. Nevertheless, what's happening in the midwest seems pretty insane. Here's some gut wrenching photos of Joplin, Missouri, and video where a telephone pole nearly takes out a storm chaser during yesterday's madness in Oklahoma City. Let's hope the worst is behind us.
This Show Will Be Awesome. From SB Nation's outstanding boxing blog, Bad Left Hook:
HBO has announced that they will be producing a six-episode reality series featuring Manny Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach. Peter Berg will direct the series, called "On Freddie Roach," which will debut in early 2012.
From the press release:
The cameras will follow Roach as he works with future stars, engages the continuous stream of celebrity visitors to his gym, finds time to sort through and balance his myriad of outside interests, and manages his new role with USA Boxing, all while fighting Parkinson’s disease, an ailment very likely linked to his own boxing past.
Freddy Roach is one of the coolest people in boxing, and a perfect candidate for a reality series like this. And if Peter Berg (of Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, etc) is directing things, then you're pretty guaranteed at least one Explosions in the Sky montage per episode. All in all, I don't want to jinx it, but there's a lot of potential for awesomeness here.
OMG KRIS HUMPHRIES IS GETTING MARRIED! On newsstands now!
He proposed with a 20-karat ring, at that. By comparison, the Saints' Super Bowl ring was only 14 karats, and still weighed a solid 2 ounces. And those are football players wearing that thing. Imagine a woman walking around with a three ounce monstrosity on your finger every day.
I'm just sayin... I'm sure the ring is amazing, but if you're marrying Kim Kardashian, you probably don't want to give her a built-in excuse to take off her wedding ring... Now I feel bad, though.
Congrats to the happy couple!
TNT's Cameraman Probably Got A Stern Lecture Last Night. During halftime, TNT came back a few seconds too early from commercial break, and America got to see their cameraman creepin on the Miami fans. Awwwwwwwkkkkkkkkkkwarrrrrrrrrd:
LeBron Is Best Friends With Drake. Because some things just make too much sense:
James saw something special in Drake and his music, and became a big fan, long before Drake’s debut studio album “Thank Me Later” went platinum last year. The Heat star said the two now have grown to share a familial bond.
“What we have is real family,” James said. “It’s not just because we are successful at what we do. We really care about one another on a day-to-day basis."
Pause? More like PAWS, amirite? A lion mated with a tiger, the mother deserted the cubs, and the cubs are now nursing with a black lab. Pretty goddamn adorable, you guys.
Finally, From The Mike Brown Greatest Hits... Come on, admit it. It'll be good to have this goofy bastard back in the NBA. And whatever happens with Kobe, at least he'll get along with Lamar.