Demanding Lakers have little time for coach

PHIL HAMILTON
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2012
Mike Brown
Getty Images
MIKE BROWN: With Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

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OPINION: There's no worse sign for a coach than his boss telling the media he has his confidence.

From there it's just a matter of time until the axe falls. For Mike Brown it was a mere 36 hours.

The former LA Lakers coach has been left wondering where it all went wrong as his former team courts its former coach, Phil Jackson, the so-called Zen Master.

While the firing is understandable on some levels, the timing is bizarre. They had the entire off-season to get rid of him but instead waited until five games into the new season.

It sets a new mark for the fastest NBA firing by one game (the previous record was set when Philadelphia fired Gene Shue in 1977, one season after he led them to the finals).

Once a coach is hired, he's on the road to being fired. For some it's just a faster road.

It just goes to show the sense of urgency at the Lakers. They've compiled something of an ageing Dream Team with the addition of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. But with the clock ticking on the careers of Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol they have only a two-season window to earn another championship. Brown's one and four start was never good enough for a team of this calibre, even allowing for the injury to Nash.

Some All Blacks coaches (Graham Henry and Steve Hansen) talk as if New Zealanders are unusually demanding, critical and reactive fans, but the truth is sports fans are like that the world over. The more success a team has had, the higher the expectations of their supporters. Blind faith is best left to religious zealots.

If the chemistry of team and coach is not working it's always easier to replace a coach than an entire team.

So Brown is just the latest to suffer under the burden of unmet expectations (with Robbie Deans short odds to follow).

Was it the right move? Only time will tell but if 11-time winner Jackson returns then they may have fallen on their feet.

It's the second strange move in a season that is barely under way.

The first was Oklahoma's decision to let James Harden go. It could be the first time that a team has so completely given away a realistic shot at the championship.

Harden was a rarity in the NBA - a shooting guard who was good enough to start but content to lead the second unit for the Thunder. With him on their roster, the Thunder were able to rest stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and not suffer any slowdown in their scoring.

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He was the sixth man of the year last season and was a key in the Thunder's run to the finals. Yet they let him go to save about US$1.5 million (NZ$1.84m) a season.

So they effectively expected him to give up an assured starting position, minutes, points and money to stay with them (and they refused to put a no-trade clause in his contract too).

The happiest team to see the back of Harden might be the Lakers. He was the type of player who gives their slowing defence nightmares - fast guards who attack the rim.

The previous year it was J J Barea who cut them to pieces in the playoffs and last season it was Harden and Westbrook.

Now their main rival for the western conference title has handicapped themselves to save what is the equivalent of a journeyman's salary.

Their better option would have been to pay Harden what he was worth and get another shot at the title this season. If they won then great and if they lost and truly couldn't find an extra US$1.5m then they could have offloaded him to another team.

The Lakers may make mistakes but sacrificing championships to save dollars isn't one of them.

- Canterbury

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