November 10, 2012

Laker fan optimism

One of the more unsettling moments in my tenure as a Laker fan came in May of 2011, for two reasons: 1. The Dallas Mavericks had just swept us in the second round of the playoffs, brutally ceasing our chances of yet another illustrious dynasty. 2. Phil Jackson’s retirement. After the Lakers organization had to beg and plead for him to stay for one last run at a third NBA title, one more shot at a dynasty to conclude his already fulfilled legacy, our beloved Zen master left the game after being swept out of the playoffs. Just like that, Laker nation went into the doldrums.

When Mike Brown was hired, I landed in a stalemate. I didn’t feel happy or sad. I wasn’t disappointed or satisfied. All I knew about Mike Brown was what every one else knew; he worked with Gregg Poppovich early in his career, coached LeBron and the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals once, he’s supposed to be all about defense, and he wears those thick, horn-rimmed glasses. Since I had no reason not to trust Laker management on the hire, I put my optimistic powers to work. I convinced myself that this basketball nerd would be good enough to help Kobe get back to glory. I saw his defensive philosophies working well with our personnel, especially after acquiring Dwight Howard. I saw the Princeton offense coming to fruition in the long run with Steve Nash healthy, and I even rehearsed my argument that he would surprise people with a better team in LA than he ever had in Cleveland. Needless to say, I was not part of the highly critical and often dissatisfied population of Laker fans. Though I had my doubts, I believed it could work out.

Despite my potentially blind optimism, I must confess my initial reaction to Mike Brown being fired was positive. No matter how hard I tried, Brown never looked quite right sitting in that chair. Although, I do believe that would be true of any coach succeeding Phil Jackson. Nevertheless, Mike Brown did not display the authoritative presence to be the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Mike Brown is not a bad coach, but frankly, the situation became dire, and if anything else, Laker management sent a message to their players and the league: we want results, and we want them now.

Bill Plaschke from ESPN touched on the obvious point of critique, being that the Lakers have only played five games into the regular season. A drastic move like this implies sheer panic in Laker land. Did the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak really succumb to the restlessness of their fans and the media? Was the pressure of starting the season 1-4 just too great? It does appear that way. Still, it has to be assumed that this decision was made with some classified knowledge that they could land someone better.

Without a flinch, Laker fans have begun to demand Phil Jackson’s return. I’m not getting my hopes up, but that is clearly the best-case scenario. Mike D’Antoni’s name has been brought up and endorsed because of his familiarity with Kobe from coaching Team USA and Steve Nash from their together days in Phoenix. Previous Laker assistant coach Brian Shaw has been mentioned, but chose to make no comment when addressed by the media. General manager Mitch Kupchak has said the process will take about four to five days, and once again, I am called to rely on my powers of optimism.

Firing a head coach five games into the season might seem drastic, but the Lakers moved just quickly enough to still salvage what’s left of a very long regular season. Call it optimism or blind faith, but as they almost always do, my Lakers will find a way to prevail in a way that no one could see coming.

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