Before Tuesday's practice, Mike Brown was asked repeatedly about the flagging offense and attempts to create consistent production. He talked about "searching." Searching for good combinations, searching for effective plays, searching for ways to better generate positive momentum.
In the process, he noted one of the major challenges.
"I'm playing a young guy at a pretty important spot, just out of college," Brown said of rookie point guard Darius Morris, taken last summer with the 41st pick in the draft.
"We're relying on him to do a lot out on the floor, as your point guard. Not necessarily to score, but to get guys in the right spot at the right time, and it's not like he can only play five minutes or we can move him along slowly. You've got to play, and you've got to run this team, and you've got to make sure that we're right while you're out there. And then on top of that, I'm trying to figure out the right guys to put around him, and/or put with the second unit, and also what to run," he said.
Quite a laundry list. Thus far Morris has been (understandably) overmatched and the team has suffered with him on the floor.
Brown brought with him concerns about his skill level managing the offensive side of the court, and through 18 games this season it's totally fair to question the inconsistency of his rotations. But Brown's comments also encapsulate the team's talent problem. As in the Lakers don't have enough of it, particularly in key spots like point guard, or on the wing behind Kobe Bryant. A team with L.A.'s stated goals shouldn't have its bench decimated with the loss of Steve Blake, or even consider needing to play Morris together with fellow second rounder Andrew Goudelock outside garbage time, as Brown did against Orlando.
He wasn't ripping Morris. Brown understands the inherent unfairness of expecting Morris to produce at a high level when by all rights he should be playing in the D-League, or perhaps his junior season in Ann Arbor. Nor do I think he was trying to complain. I took it as part of Brown's 'no excuses' mantra, and he made a point of placing blame for the inconsistency on himself.
Brown will bite the bullet, but it's clearly not all his fault. Without question he needs to make more definitive choices in his rotation, but as it relates to the bench Brown is constantly choosing between inadequate options because decisions were made to let Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown go without replacing them.* In Odom's case, his skill set and the flexibility he brought to the bench is sorely missed, and while Brown was a pretty average player overall, he's light years ahead of the guys currently occupying the backup 2 spot.
*Obviously the nixed Chris Paul trade has to be factored in, tempering some of the frustration fans naturally feel about the team and towards management. It's hard to overstate how badly the Lakers were thrown for a loop when David Stern vetoed the deal. Still, in the wake of the debacle, as it pertains to this year's team choices were made that served to weaken the roster, and we're seeing the effects.