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MailTribune.com
  • Brown's job safe with Lakers

  • Everyone from the fans to his star players found it unseemly that Mike Brown was so desperate to protect the winless Lakers' big lead against Detroit by sending the star players back into the game.
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  • Everyone from the fans to his star players found it unseemly that Mike Brown was so desperate to protect the winless Lakers' big lead against Detroit by sending the star players back into the game.
    The idea that Brown would've been on a real hot seat if he had lost that game Sunday night, though, is absurd.
    Here's how Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss, just two-plus weeks ago, put his feelings — and those of general manager Mitch Kupchak and Lakers owner Jerry Buss:
    "I'm a hundred percent behind Mike Brown. Mitch is. My dad is. We as a collective soul are behind him 100 percent."
    Collective soul?
    Brown's not getting fired anytime soon, folks.
    Criticize his inability to develop the bench or wonder why the Lakers don't have the defensive tenacity he predicted he'd bring, but the guy is still getting his chance here. Lakers management basically gave him a pass last season because of how little post-lockout time he had to teach and change. This season, he felt secure enough to change the offense — which is the right decision, by the way, for the greater playoff good — and see where it can take him.
    Sure, everything would feel a little more solid if Phil Jackson was sitting there with a thin little grin even while these pretty pieces remain unassembled. (Just imagine how steadfast fans would've remained if Jackson had gone winless in the preseason: "Man, that Zen Master's just all about championships! He's just waiting until June. Brilliant!")
    The Lakers know that Mike Brown's not Phil Jackson. They actually don't expect Brown to push an array of elaborate buttons here.
    Jim Buss' comments about Brown in a recent chat made clear that ownership's view is that Brown's gift is being "well prepared." That's not very exciting, and it's certainly not particularly fascinating genius, but it's how Brown was for his Lakers job interview, and it's what he's expected to be now.
    "I felt that anybody who works that hard in preparation, if we give him the right players, he'll figure out how to win," Buss said.
    Well, it didn't take long for Brown to make the right players after a whirlwind offseason look like the wrong players once this season started.
    I asked Buss about Brown being frequently criticized by fans, but Buss said: "Laker fans are pretty intelligent when it comes to waiting and analyzing, and I'm sure they have open arms for him."
    Last season, we saw Kobe Bryant backing Brown from the start because he developed quick respect for someone with that kind of work ethic. As the season wore on, questions arose whether Brown — and the staff he had in the office practically around the clock — was working smart or just working long.
    Brown's inability to restrain himself from playing Bryant — last season and again through all except the last 22 second-half seconds Friday night even before the Sunday night incident — is a reflection of Brown's basic inclination to do more, not less, to feel well prepared. The question logically follows when Bryant semi-scoffs at having literally to re-tie his shoes and drag his sore foot back into the game when a lead of 31 points to start the fourth quarter is trimmed to 24 points whether it was weakness or strength that dictated Brown's decision.
    About re-entering the game for Brown, Bryant said he "didn't want him to have an ulcer or have a heart attack over there."
    Bryant certainly remembers that Jackson built part of his legend on not taking timeouts to bail out his team, forcing guys to come up with answers to prepare them for trying times in the playoffs. That patience, intricately tied to player development, was one of Jackson's great strengths.
    Yet Brown did succeed at locking up the victory over Detroit, it should be noted. Bryant, Dwight Howard and shortly after Pau Gasol held the lead. Howard was subbed out with a 25-point lead and 5:33 left, with Bryant and Gasol following a minute later.
    No irrevocable damage was done to have tacked 41/2 minutes on to Bryant's clock, and Brown builds some momentum, no doubt, that helps the Lakers' confidence tonight when Utah will enjoy one of the NBA's most challenging home-court advantages.
    But again, was it strength or weakness that drove Brown's decision, which he explained by saying the 0-3 record made winning more essential?
    It looked weak. It felt weak. And it was weak.
    Being pulled at that moment is not going to help Devin Ebanks trust himself any faster, especially the next time he makes a mistake and needs to push through his adversity. The rush for Bryant and Howard to save the day is not going to make Antawn Jamison come around to the belief that he can produce without being wholly dependent on Bryant or Howard for great looks.
    Brown gains the impression of some dominance.
    He loses some of the trust that the dominance will certainly come on its own.
    This isn't about avoiding losing a first-round playoff series — which, unlike Jackson, Brown has managed to do his entire career.
    This is about winning it all.
    And even in the one strong effort so far in Mike Brown's one real season, the Lakers didn't act like a team expecting to win it all.
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