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Mike Brown vs. Kobe Bryant: Changing of the guard with L.A. Lakers

Listening to Mike Brown, the head coach of the Los Angeles
Lakers, talk about the dynamics of the player/coach
relationship was both amusing and foreboding. Mr. Brown
asserted he was the coach, he made the decisions on the
team, he would bench players that weren’t playing the
right way and that he was in charge. He did bench Kobe for
four minutes and he did bench Andrew Bynum for shooting
threes and then walking down the court, but it doesn’t
mean Mike Brown is calling the shots in L.A.

Although I lament the day it changed, this just isn’t the
case in the association: See Dwight Howard in Orlando.

In the NBA, superstars often times have more authority and
input into the direction of the organization than coaches
or general managers. Kobe Bryant may no longer be the
biggest superstar in the NBA, but he may be the most
respected. His floor-cred is second-to-none; he still
holds the rings, title and heavyweight belt – especially
within the Lakers organization.

Listening to coach Brown made me think of Walt Whitman’s
Leaves of Grass. Mr. Whitman penned a collection of
poems in 1855 that were so beautifully written and
poignant they would be discussed and proclaimed in
academia for centuries, even today.

Walt believed in Utopia. He believed there would be a day
where we evolved to a point of such enlightenment it would
bring peace, love, joy and harmony here on earth. Although
brilliant and talented, Mr. Whitman was not a realist.

Apparently, neither is Mr. Brown.

Kobe runs the show in L.A.; he has for a long time – even
under Phil Jackson. So why would Mike Brown speak so
openly about the control he has over his team? What is he
trying to accomplish? Is this pure bravado coming from a
man that sees his doom written on the wall and wants to go
out his way, or does Mike Brown know something we don’t?

I wonder how much of a drag Kobe – the VP of All Things
Lakers – is on the front-office? It must be difficult to
run an organization and make decisions based on what Kobe
will think. Every strategy session, every high-level
meeting around the big rectangle, every basketball
decision must be weighed against the real question of: how
will Kobe react to this?

This is not the way you run a basketball franchise at the
highest level our species can generate. It’s easy to put
up with this truth when you’re winning NBA championships,
but it must be exhausting when you’re not winning NBA
titles.

Kobe Bryant is going to be 34 this year. He’s been playing
professional basketball since he was 18-years-old and has
logged 15 years in the NBA. Although he is still prolific,
how much more can he possibly have? One, maybe two years?
How long can one reasonably expect Kobe to be Kobe? It is
going to end for Kobe one day. Even now we see Kobe’s
leaves falling onto grass.

Maybe Jim Buss brought in Mike Brown for more nefarious
reasons? Maybe Mike Brown was going to be the coach that
moved the Lakers away from Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson?
Maybe Jim Buss – the son of the good doctor, Jerry Buss –
wishes to assert his own authority over this franchise and
can’t do it with Kobe questioning his every move? Jim
Irsay felt like he needed to take back the Indianapolis
Colts; maybe Jim Buss wants to do the same?

Finally, we all know Dwight Howard thinks he would look
great in a Lakers uniform, and he would be the perfect
piece for Jim Buss and Mike Brown to build around, but
there’s one problem with this possibility: Dwight Howard
wants his next team to be HIS team.

How could Dwight Howard play for the Lakers with Kobe
Bryant and it not be Kobe’s team? As long as Kobe is in
L.A. it will always be Kobe’s team.

I think Mike Brown is speaking from the heart. I think
Mike Brown knows the organization has his back. I think
Mike Brown knows there is a changing of the guard –
literally – on the Lakers’ horizon.

I think Mike Brown may be a realist after all…unlike Walt
Whitman.