Los Angeles Lakers: 2011-12 Lakers Report Card

2011-12 Lakers Report Card: Mike Brown

June, 5, 2012
6/05/12
11:08
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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How does someone replace a legend?

That was the challenge that Mike Brown faced in his inaugural campaign with the purple and gold.

As if the Lakers head coaching job wasn't hard enough under ideal circumstances, Brown was not only stepping in after Phil Jackson, but he was also doing it in a lockout-shortened season that was pressurized from the very beginning by:

I. A shortened training camp
II. The failed Chris Paul trade that eventually led to Lamar Odom being shipped out of town for bupkis and Pau Gasol ultimately distrusting management
III. Finding a balance between earning Kobe Bryant's trust by allowing him to freelance while earning his respect by having him believe that playing within Brown's system actually gives the team a better chance to win.

SportsNation

What grade would you give Mike Brown?

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    14%
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    12%
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    3%
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    31%
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    40%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,084)



At Brown's introductory press conference last May he declared, "We don't play for second here, it's as simple as that," thus setting the championship goal he expected to achieve.

It was toeing the company line for a franchise that hangs up 16 banners up commemorating their titles at Staples Center. But was it fair, or even realistic?

With pretty much the same group, plus the services of the Sixth Man of the Year in Odom and a talented athlete in Shannon Brown, Jackson was only able to get the Lakers as far as a second-round sweep in 2010-11.

With a championship-or-bust decree for his first season with the team, especially considering all the other factors he had to account for, Brown was basically set up for failure.

STATISTICS

The Lakers were 41-25 (.621) in the regular season and won the Pacific Division while earning the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoff standings, before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the second round.

HIGHLIGHTS

First things first, Brown got the Lakers a game further this season did they went last season. That bears mentioning. Even if it's just a dollop of whipped cream on top of a mud sundae.

The real achievement of Brown's first season at the helm was Andrew Bynum's development going from an inconsistent role player to a dominant All-Star in the middle. Bynum put up career-best numbers and Brown didn't hesitate throwing the big man's feet to the fire, allowing Bynum to adapt to double-teams and new defensive schemes on the fly, rather than putting him on the bench whenever the defense seemed to be getting the best of him. That maturation process was something Bynum needed to go through if he was ever to fulfill his promise as a franchise-changing center.

He also got the Lakers to play defense. The Lakers held their opponents under 90 points on 19 occasions, including going 3-0 while keeping their opponents in the 70s. There was even a stretch early on in the season when the Lakers routinely limited the teams they were facing to a sub-40 percent shooting clip from the field, which is no easy feat.

And for all the the discussion about his difficulty getting the Lakers' offense in order, L.A. finished the season right in the middle of the league in points per game (15th - 97.3 ppg) while being one of the better teams when it comes to field goal percentage (8th - 45.7 percent).

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2011-12 Lakers Report Card: Kobe Bryant

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
10:06
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The paradox that is Kobe Bryant was on full display during the 2011-12 season.

Should he be celebrated for the second-highest scoring average in the league as a 33-year-old playing in his 16th NBA season?

Or should he be criticized for shooting 43 percent (his lowest since his second year in the league) and averaging 4.6 assists per game (his lowest since 2005-06) while posting the highest usage rate (35.7) in the league?

SportsNation

What grade would you give Kobe Bryant?

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    58%
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    32%
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    7%
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Discuss (Total votes: 8,276)



As Kobe often says when asked whether a low-scoring Lakers night is the fault of the Lakers' offense or a credit to the opponent's defense, "Probably a little bit of both."

Were the Lakers empowered by having Bryant push them to the third-best record in the West despite coach Mike Brown being in his first season with L.A., the team trading its longtime point guard at the deadline, and the season seeming to never escape the shadow of the failed Chris Paul deal?

Or were the Lakers sometimes hampered by Bryant trying to hold on to the player he once was, instead of evolving to fit the roster that surrounded him at this point in his career?

Probably a little bit of both.

Was Kobe all about No. 24 instead of about the other 13 guys on the roster when he was scoring 40-plus points in four straight games in January?

Or was he just doing what one of the top five scorers in NBA history is supposed to do, helping along an anemic offense by putting the team on his back until it found its offensive stride under Brown?

Probably a little bit of both.

Should fans be impressed that Bryant’s six 40-point games (between the regular season and playoffs) in 2011-12 were twice as many as league MVP LeBron James’ three and two more than NBA scoring title winner Kevin Durant’s four?

Or should fans point to the Lakers’ 3-3 record in those six games and say that when Bryant plays "hero ball," the team isn't as efficient as when he dials it back a bit?

Probably a little bit of both.

And that’s the tension that runs through any thoughts about the Lakers’ future championship chances, too.

Does the logical person observing this team believe that Bryant’s salary next season ($27.8 million) will make him grossly overpaid and hinder the Lakers’ chances of reaching the title?

Can the romantic person -- who has observed Bryant’s drive, will and work ethic over the course of his career -- have any doubt that Kobe will figure out somehow, some way, to tie Michael Jordan with six rings before he retires?

You’d have to say that both the logical one and the romantic would admit they feel a little bit of what the other feels.

STATISTICS

27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals on 43.0 percent shooting from the field and 30.3 percent on 3-pointers in 38.5 minutes over 58 games played.

HIGHLIGHTS

In the grand scheme of things, Bryant’s biggest accomplishment undoubtedly was passing former teammate Shaquille O’Neal for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The rest of the top five? Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. Karl Malone. Jordan. Wilt Chamberlain. Pretty heady stuff.

The fact that he passed O’Neal back in his old stomping grounds of Philadelphia made for a “This is your life”-type moment for Bryant.

That’s the big-picture stuff.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0