Culture of Hoops

The Los Angeles Lakers Needed More Than Just a New Coach

While Mike Brown may have been the fall guy recently, you can't overlook how the front office messed up themselves

In case you live under Russell Westbrook’s cardigan collection, allow me to pass some information along to you: The Los Angeles Lakers started the season 1-4, and they’ve fired coach Mike Brown.

The explanation for the firing is no secret. The underachievement (a generous categorization) under the pressure of coaching the league’s sexiest starting five for its winningest franchise, paired with the curious (awful) decision to use an offense traditionally featuring interchangeable positions—in this case, with players designed to play their positions like no other—made the decision easier for the Lakers’ front office. However, the front office’s own failures this offseason may rear an ugly head of their own.

Yes, GM Mitch Kupchak assembled one of the greatest starting lineups of all-time – five All-Stars (33 trips total) and four likely Hall of Famers. But the embarrassment of talent stops there.

Granted, there are worse backup frontcourts than the Jordan Hill-Antawn Jamison combo. Hill can bring energy, and Jamison’s a veteran that knows how it feels to score a bunch of points, inefficient as he’s become at it. Still, they’re not doing much to concern opposing coaches prepping for the Lake Show. And that’s just the front line.

Beyond, in the guard/wing department, who’s left? Jodie Meeks? Dr. Evil’s shaking in his little space boots. It’s not like the Lakers front office didn’t have opportunities to add some teeth to their second-string backcourt, which was their glaring weakness even before their historic acquisitions: seven former Sixth Man Award winners changed teams this offseason. Jamison is one of them, the team wasn’t in a position to acquire James Harden, and no one’s blaming the Lakers for not counting on Lamar Odom.

But that leaves four guards – Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Ben Gordon, and Leandro Barbosa – who’ve made their living pouring in points from the bench. Terry and Crawford are both playing for $5 million this season. But most perplexingly, the Lakers weren’t connected whatsoever to Barbosa, one of the last players signed this offseason, and at a tidy $1,229,255 for one year.

So the Lakers and NBA fans can blame Mike Brown all they want (and really, I encourage you to join me), but even with coaching mess in Los Angeles resolved by Mike D’Antoni’s hiring, it will be evident Brown isn’t the only suit in LA to come up short. The league was deep with options to fill their biggest need before the season kicked off, and they simply didn’t fill it.

Already-potent teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves (before their rash of injuries), and Denver Nuggets took measures to significantly strengthen their benches over the offseason. It’s becoming increasingly clear that a championship goes through multiple playoff series against killer second units this year and for years to come. The Lakers own roommates’ crisis when Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill return will be keeping them, Chris Paul, Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Willie Green happy with playing time in the crowded Clippers backcourt. In a few months, Kupchak might happily smother Darius Morris with a pillow for any two of those guys.

With their splashy offseason, the Lakers scribed an opus outlining a clear path to the NBA promised land. But after their convincing points, the front office seems to have forgotten to dot its i’s and cross its t’s. And unless they find out how to address this crucial detail over the course of the season, the whole plan just won’t make much sense.

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