Nearly every Laker expressed remorse about the failure to give Phil Jackson a better send off. Shannon Brown was no exception.
"I apologized to him, face to face, and told him that was a terrible way for possibly his last game or season, to go out that way," Brown said. "I really felt bad about that. I really can't put it into words how disappointing, upset, embarrassed, frustrating, that it really was. It still hurts."
It's easy to understand why an inauspicious finish for Jackson would make Brown in particular feel rotten. The guard was a journeyman before landing with the Lakers, his footing in the NBA was tenuous at best. I've long gotten the impression he considers Jackson the first NBA coach to truly believe in him, and failing to return that favor hurts.
"I try not to," Brown said when asked if he's thought about life under a new coach. "He's taught me so much. He allowed me to showcase my talents to the world. He had that confidence in me. He let me go out there and let me play through mistakes and everything. I just really can't explain what he's done for me in my basketball career."
For those attempting to read the tea leaves on Shannon Brown's player option, little information was provided in his exit interview. Brown responded to inquiries about his future by reiterating his plans for a vacation with his wife before weighing the matter.
Last season, I was convinced he'd opt in after a hand injury derailed a terrific first half, but he proved me wrong. This year, who knows? Should he reenter free agency, however, I'm not certain the Lakers will move heaven and earth to keep him. Between this year's regression and Devin Ebanks being told to work on his guard skills, the parting of ways feels like a possibility. Still, Brown is a hard worker and the Lakers could use athleticism (albeit in a more-refined package), so another go around certainly isn't impossible.
In any event, I asked Shannon if playing behind Kobe is an element he considers in making his decision. His odds of beating out Bryant for the starting gig aren't considerably higher than mine, meaning there's a ceiling to how much his role can be expanded. Brown agreed, but also pointed out the benefits of backing up a future Hall of Famer:
"I get to learn from him. I get to steal a lot of stuff from him about the knowledge of the game and the physical stuff that he goes through. That definitely plays a factor. I hear stuff ... [but] I don't worry about it. I respect the game and I understand what's going on. I just try to take advantage of the opportunities that presented to me."